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Sister Mary Antona Ebo, pioneer of Civil Rights, dies at 93

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BRIDGETON, MO - Sister Mary Antona Ebo, a Franciscan Sister of Mary, who fought for civil rights in Selma, AL,  died Saturday at The Sarah Community in Bridgeton at the age of 93. She was a Franciscan Sister of Mary for 71 years.

Sister Ebo was one of the first African-American women to join what was then the Sisters of St. Mary.

She and more than 50 St. Louisans flew to Selma three days after the infamous Bloody Sunday, when voting rights marchers were attacked on the Edmund Pettus Bridge on March 7, 1965. She was one of six St. Louis nuns who would march in protest against the brutality of Bloody Sunday, but as the only African-American she was nervous.

In 2015, she told FOX 2, "When I responded to that call I knew there were things that could happen to me that would not happen to the other sisters,” she said.

Sister Ebo had wanted only to be counted among the many, but when protest leaders realized they had an African-American nun among them, they told her they needed to her to speak.

"I was pushing back from the podium because I really didn't feel like I had anything to say,” she said.

But she spoke the following words: "I am here because I am a Negro, a nun, a Catholic, and because I want to bear witness."

Fifty years later, on March 10, 2015, Sister Ebo led a prayer vigil for peace in Ferguson.

Sister Ebo earned a bachelor's degree in medical records and a master's in hospital executive development, both at Saint Louis University.  She spent much of her life working in hospital administration. She went on to be awarded six honorary doctorates.

A funeral Mass will be celebrated at 11:00am, Monday, November 20,  2017, at St. Alphonsus "Rock" Church, on N. Grand Blvd. in north St. Louis. Archbishop Robert J. Carlson will preside. Visitation will take place at 9:00am before the Mass.

Most Reverend Robert J. Carlson, Archbishop of St. Louis, released the following statement:

I am saddened to hear of the passing of renowned civil rights leader Sister Antona Ebo. We will miss her living example of working for justice in the context of our Catholic faith.

I ask that the faithful of the Archdiocese of St. Louis join me in praying for the repose of the soul of Sister Ebo. Her family, friends, and her religious community will continue to be in our thoughts and prayers.

May her soul, and the souls of all the faithful departed, rest in peace.

For more on the life of Sister Ebo: