In honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth are sharing excerpts from writings by Mary Ellen Doyle, SCN. Sister Mary Ellen has a long history of working for civil rights that continues to this day. Here are excerpts of her reflections of marching during the Civil Rights Movement.
- “When Governor George Wallace of Alabama was invited to campus by a student group, I finally got the nerve to take part, in full habit, in a campus protest march. That led to my participation in the last phase of the Selma-to-Montgomery march, along with other priests and religious from Notre Dame.
- “Perhaps ten of us, mostly Sisters and priests, as I remember, met the larger group in Chicago and flew to Montgomery. In Montgomery, a bus transferred us to join the march. The first strong emotions of joy at being there came to me as we walked past small homes in the black section of the city and exchanged waves and smiles with the people who filled the porches.
- “Most of the Sisters were to be house that night in the convent*
- “We sang with the gusto of a naïve belief that we had already overcome a separating barrier so immense that we could complete the task once for all, NOW rather than “someday.”
- “The experience of the Selma-to Montgomery March and marchers was central to a permanent change in my awareness of the reality of racism and all later involvements. I came to see that, though I would gladly take part in any future marches or other brief actions, I needed to find a lasting way to make a difference.”
Sister Mary Ellen went on to work for racial justice in many various and powerful ways throughout her life. She continues her work today.
She writes, “I have been able to embody one piece of the SCN’s commitment to justice and compassion for marginalized persons. I have every reason to be thankful for all gifts.”
*At that time, the school and hospital were served by the Vincentian Sisters of Charity (VSC) The VSCs have a long history of working with impoverished African Americans in Alabama. The VSCs merged with the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth in 2008. Former VSC, Barbara Ann Lengvarsky, SCN, has been in ministry at the City of St. Jude in Montgomery for many years and is still serving there today. See her video here.
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