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Black Catholic woman religious and civil rights leader dies at 93

Franciscan Sister Antona Ebo, right, speaks with a student at a St. Louis high school in 2013. Ebo, who risked her well-being to participate in the legendary 1965 civil rights protest in Selma, Ala., died at age 93 Nov. 11 at the Sarah Community in Bridgeton, Mo. (Credit: CNS photo/Lisa Johnston, St. Louis Review.)

ST. LOUIS, Missouri – Sister Mary Antona Ebo, a Franciscan Sister of Mary whose courageous words during the 1965 march in Selma, Alabama, became a rallying cry for many in the civil rights movement, died Nov. 11 at a retirement community outside St. Louis. She was 93.

St. Louis Archbishop Robert J. Carlson will celebrate her funeral Mass Nov. 20 at St. Alphonsus Liguori Church in St. Louis. A private burial will take place in Resurrection Cemetery in St. Louis.

“We will miss her living example of working for justice in the context of our Catholic faith,” the archbishop said in a statement.

The archdiocesan Peace and Justice Commission said in a statement that Ebo’s “courage and work to end the injustice of racism provided the inspiration and guidance” the commission’s members needed in their work.

Ebo was the only African-American sister to march with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., in the legendary protest for voting rights in Selma, Alabama March 10, 1965. The march took place just days after what has been called “Bloody Sunday” when state troopers assaulted demonstrators with clubs and tear gas.

She told the crowd: “I’m here because I’m a Negro, a nun, a Catholic, and because I want to bear witness.”

In 2007, a PBS documentary chronicled the march and the group of women religious who participated. It was called “Sisters of Selma: Bearing Witness for Change.”

Ebo continued to take a stand for justice throughout her life. Even in her 90s, she offered a reflection at a St. Louis archdiocesan prayer service in Ferguson, the scene of protests after an unarmed black teenager was shot and killed in an altercation with police in 2014.

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