Civil Rights Leader Sr. Antona Ebo, FSM, to speak on March 13

Wed, 02/27/2008 (All day)

Mobile, AL - Sister Antona Ebo, FSM, will present “The Sisters of Selma – Memories & Challenges” at the monthly lecture of the Christus Theological Institute at 7 p.m. Thursday, March 13 in Byrne Memorial Hall on the campus of Spring Hill College.

Her return to Alabama comes 43 years after the famous march from Selma to Montgomery on March 10, 1965.

“I am here because I am a Negro, a nun, a Catholic, and because I want to bear witness.”  With these simple words, Sr. Antona Ebo, FSM, faced armed opposition to the civil rights march. She was the only black woman among the six religious sisters and more than 30 Jewish and Christian religious leaders who arrived that morning from St. Louis. They came in response to the call of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference when their first attempt to begin the march was halted by the bloodshed of the previous “bloody” Sunday. 

Under presidentially mandated protection from the National Guard, that march would eventually succeed. Played out on national television, it brought much-needed attention to the injustices perpetrated against American citizens of African descent. 

In her lecture, Ebo will speak about the experiences of a group of Catholic sisters who risked their lives to demonstrate for civil rights and work for societal change. "I was just doing what needed to be done at the moment," Ebo said.  At a previous lecture, she challenged the audience with the question "Why are people waiting for another 40 years to be excited about this and wondering whether the up-and-coming generation is sincere about doing something to seek justice? We can legislate all the laws we want to, but laws don't change hearts."

Ebo, originally a Baptist, joined the Sisters of St. Mary (now the Franciscan Sisters of Mary) in St. Louis in 1947. She was among the first three women of African descent to be admitted as candidates to the order. Her ministry includes many years in hospital lhughesistration, along with her ongoing advocacy for justice. Ebo earned degrees in medical records lhughesistration, hospital executive development, and theology of health care ministry. She is a certified (emeritus) member of the National Association of Catholic Chaplains and served as executive director of St. Claire Hospital in Baraboo, Wis. Ebo is a founder of the National Black Sisters’ Conference, served as its president, and received its 1989 Harriet Tubman Award. She has also served on the Human Rights Commission of the Archdiocese of St. Louis and received the commission’s Martin Luther King Award in 1994. Ebo also holds an honorary doctorate from Loyola University in Chicago and was awarded the 2006 Heschel-King Award from St. Louis Jews United for Justice. 

Alabama Public Television commissioned a documentary for PBS, “Sisters of Selma:  Bearing Witness for Change,” which features Ebo. The film was produced and directed by Jayasri Majumdar Hart, a Hindu filmmaker living in Los Angeles. In an interview at the University of Dayton, where the film was screened, Hart said, "Real change happens at the grassroots level and requires the contribution of a variety of foot soldiers. Some of the most essential foot soldiers in health care and education were Catholic sisters, and I always wondered about the long-term effects of their missions. The story of Selma shows that their service to God and God's children had consequences beyond what we or even they ever imagined."

Spring Hill College, the third oldest Jesuit College in the United States, is Alabama’s oldest institution of higher education, and was the first college in the State to embrace racial integration. In 1963 the College’s pioneering role was singled out by King in his “Letter From Birmingham Jail.” 

Christus Theological Institute is a grass-roots consortium of bay area churches joined in the quest to promote a deeper understanding of our Christian faith and is housed at the college.

Byrne Memorial Hall is easily accessible through the Old Shell Road entrance to the College. Admission is free for Christus members and $2 for guests.  For more information on this and upcoming Christus events, please contact the Department of Theology at (251) 380-4660 or christus@shc.edu.