March 25 is the traditional day for Daughters of Charity around the world to renew their vows. March 25, 1965, was not an ordinary vow day for Daughter of Charity Sr. Beatrice Brown, who participated in Martin Luther King’s march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, as part of a delegation sent by the Archbishop of St. Louis. Below are passages from two news stories written at the time.
(St. Louis Review, March 26, 1965)
Among the thousands of white and Negro marchers who rallied at the Alabama State Capitol at Montgomery yesterday were more than 400 weary St. Louisans who were there because they “wanted to be counted.”
They included Presbyterians and Jews, students and housewives, Catholic priests, nuns, seminarians, and lay people. They included people who paid $45 to $65 each for seats on six chartered airplanes and some who scraped together $17 for the round trip charter bus fare from St. Louis to Montgomery.
They arrived in Montgomery Thursday in time enough to make the last five miles along Highway 80 with Dr. Martin Luther King and the hardy band who had walked five days from Selma.
The huge delegation was organized by the St. Louis Conference on Religion and Race with the blessings of Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish leadership and with a lot of help from church and student groups and many individuals.
Catholic participation alone numbered at least 100 persons, including more than 40 priests, 13 sisters, and several seminarians … At least eight communities were represented in the St. Louis group … [There] were two Religious of the Sacred Heart from Maryville College, a Helper of the Holy Souls, a sister of the Society of St. Joseph of Watertown, NY, a Sister of St. Francis, two Mercy sisters, a School Sister of Notre Dame, and two Precious Blood sisters. There was even a Daughter of Charity who was spending her renewal of vows day marching in Alabama.
Sister Mary Beatrice Brown, of Marillac College, was to have participated in her community’s renewal of vows at a ceremony at Marillac yesterday. To allow her to renew vows and still catch the early plane to Montgomery, the Archdiocesan Human Rights Commission office arranged for Father Norman H. Christian of St. Peter Parish to celebrate a special pre-dawn Mass at the college, where Sister Beatrice renewed her vows. Then the nun and the priest hurried to the plane for Alabama …
(Daughter of Charity Magazine, 1965)
Twenty-five thousand pairs of feet marched the streets of Montgomery, Ala., March 25 in support of the Negro cause for civil rights. Invited as a member of the St. Louis Commission on Human Rights under the direction of Joseph Cardinal Ritter, Sister Beatrice Brown, D.C. participated in this march to the Alabama state capital.
A native southerner herself, Sister Beatrice possesses a personal understanding of both sides of this question. “I went to Montgomery because I am an American … and for all the things I believe in as an American, but still more as a Christian.” …
The primary aim of the demonstration was to show the Negroes in Alabama that they have the support of other Americans, other Christians, other believers in God. Sister believes this is especially important “since these people have Christ as their idea, as their example of non-violence …”
Recounting the day’s events, Sister told of splashing through muddy fields, sometimes at a run, the next minute crawling; sometimes singing, sometimes praying. The crowd was diverse: men and women, young and old, religious and lay. “They were serious minded” was her impression, “and wanted to help the Negroes in their struggle for human rights.” …