Celebrating Selma: 80th Anniversary of the SSJ Mission

September 15, 2020

Eighty years ago, on September 15, 1940, five Sisters received mission crosses in a Departure Ceremony at our East Avenue Motherhouse. Sisters Anastasia McCormick, Catherine Charlotte Hyland, Frances Marie Kehoe, Francis de Sales Murphy, and Mary Ellen Dundon took to heart the words of Reverend Martin Watley of the Diocese of Syracuse, who gave the homily: “It does not take long to discover when we look into our own lives that we owe a debt of love to God…The true Christian pays it back to the poor, the miserable, the outcast…pays it back with determination to wipe out social injustice.”


Sister James Eileen Kavanaugh with students in Selma in the 1940s

During the civil rights era of the 1960s, our Sisters played a significant role of support. Marchers demonstrating for voting rights who were beaten by state troopers on Bloody Sunday received care at Good Samaritan Hospital, and our Sisters provided shelter to clergy and women religious from around the country who joined in the march from Selma to Montgomery. Speaking on the floor of Congress, Senator Thomas Dodd noted that the staff of Good Samaritan had been “the only white group in Selma to take a stand on the civil rights demonstrations.”

Beginning in the 1970s, our Sisters moved out into rural areas to open health clinics and learning centers and to connect people with social services. The SSJ presence in Alabama continues today in the ministries of Sisters Pat Flass and Kathy Navarra who offer outreach and assistance to families in the Selma region.


Left photo: Sister Kathy Navarra with her karate students in Selma 

Right photo: Sister Pat Flass on a home visit

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