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In response to the proposal from the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) that congregations focus on the dismantling of racism, the Adrian Dominican Sisters begin by identifying resources that can assist us in raising our consciousness of white privilege and white supremacy, both personally and systematically.
Our Toward Communion: Undoing Racism and Embracing Diversity Committee and our Justice Promoters are collaborating on a Black Catholic Project that began on January 18, 2021, Martin Luther King Jr. Day. This project provides information on prominent Black Catholics who have made significant contributions to the church and society, along with reflection questions and a prayer.
Now named the Equity and Inclusion Project, it continues in partnership with creators of the 2020 Black Catholic Heroes Project. Many images used this year were painted by students employed by the College for Creative Studies’ Detroit Neighborhood Arts Corps. These images are used with permission.
Photo above courtesy of the Franciscan Sisters of Mary
According to an online article from St. Louis University, Sister Marie Antona Ebo cringed as she watched television coverage of Alabama state troopers and police beating voting-rights demonstrators in Selma in March of 1965. When Sister Antona’s superior asked her if she wanted to join an interfaith group traveling to Selma for a second march, Sister Antona said it was time for her to "put up or shut up," so she went.
She was the only African-American woman religious in the group of 48 priests, rabbis, Protestant clergy, and six Catholic nuns. When her group gathered at a church in Selma, Sister Antona was thrust to the front of the march and in front of a bank of microphones.
She spoke words that were heard worldwide: "I am here because I am a Negro, a nun, a Catholic and because I want to bear witness." Those words marked the beginning of Sister Antona’s career as a civil rights advocate.
Her presence, along with that of other sisters, was deeply encouraging to the marchers. Andrew Young, a civil-rights leader who would one day be famous in public service, told the marchers upon the sisters' arrival at the staging spot of Brown A.M.E. Chapel, in Selma, "Ladies and gentlemen, one of the great moral forces of the world has just walked in the door."
One highlight of the event for her was at Brown Chapel when a young black girl ran up and embraced her. "She said she knew sisters, but never had seen one like herself." That was blessing enough for Sister Antona: "There are times when you know God is in charge."
Sister Antona helped found and served as President of the National Black Sisters Conference and was featured in the 2007 PBS documentary “Sisters of Selma.”
In a 2011 interview with Catholic News Service about the new memorial to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Washington, D.C., she said she hoped the 30-foot likeness of the civil rights leader would prompt soul-searching.
"If we have to keep talking about keeping the dream alive, then what have we been doing for it still to be a dream?" she said. "Martin was our dreamer; his dream was for his time. Who are our dreamers today? You have to search kind of hard to find people with new dreams appropriate for our time."
Sister Antona was among the first representatives of the church to go to the streets of Ferguson, Missouri, in support of its protesting citizens following the murder of Michael Brown Jr., in 2014.
Sister Antona passed to her eternal reward on Nov. 11, 2017.
Sister Marie Antona Ebo, FSM
Painting by Nevah Nesbit, Age 14
Part of the 2020 Black Catholic Heroes Project
Images of Black Catholics painted by students employed by the
College for Creative Studies’ Detroit Neighborhood Arts Corps
(used with permission)
America Magazine, 2017, "Sister Antona Ebo’s lifelong struggle against white supremacy, inside and outside the Catholic Church," by Shannen Dee Williams.
NCR, Global Sisters Report, Nov. 2017, "Franciscan Sr. Mary Antona Ebo, civil rights leader, dies at 93," by Catholic News Service.
St. Louis University, 2017 - "Antona Ebo, F.S.M.: 1924-2017."
St. Anthony Messenger, May 2020, "Antona Ebo, FSM: Brave Sister of Selma" by John Feister.
YouTube video - News Channel 5 KSDK segment "Sisters of Selma," posted January 8, 2014.
If you were participating in a Black Lives Matter march and were "thrust in front of a bank of microphones," what would you say if asked, "Why are you here?"
A Non-Traditional Blessing
May God bless you with discontent with easy answers, half-truths, superficial relationships, so that you will live from deep within your heart.
May God bless you with anger at injustice, oppression, abuse, and exploitation of people, so that you will work for justice, equality, and peace.
May God bless you with tears to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation and war, so that you will reach out your hand to comfort them and to change their pain to joy.
May God bless you with the foolishness to think you can make a difference in this world, so that you will do the things which others tell you cannot be done.
If you have the courage to accept these blessings, then God will also bless you with:
- happiness—because you will know that you have made life better for others
- inner peace—because you will have worked to secure an outer peace for others
- laughter—because your heart will be light
- faithful friends—because they will recognize your worth as a person.
These blessings are yours—not for the asking, but for the giving—from One who wants to be your companion, our God, who lives and reigns, forever and ever.
Written in 1985 by Sister Ruth Fox, OSB - http://sacredheartmonastery.com/our-community/meet-the-sisters
Black Catholic History page by Seattle University
Timeline from the National Black Catholic Congress
Sister Jamie T. Phelps, OP, discusses Black Catholics in America with Dr. Paul Lakeland for Fairfield University's "Voices of Others" video series
News report on one of the oldest Black Catholic parishes in the U.S., St. Elizabeth Catholic Church (formerly St. Monica) in Chicago, Illinois