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Sister Marie Clare is recognized for marching in 1965 for civil rights
March 10, 2018 8:12 PM

Earlier today, The Springfield and Central Illinois African American History Museum commemorated the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and recognized his contributions for civil rights. They also observed National Women’s History Month with recognizing women who made sacrifices during the Civil Rights Movement or who have been an activist to end segregation and discrimination. Sister Marie Clare Scheible, OSF (pictured left) received the award posthumously along with six other women.

Sister Marie Clare participated in the Freedom March in Montgomery, Alabama on March 25, 1965 and was present when Dr. King said “And so I plead with you this afternoon as we go ahead: remain committed to nonviolence. Our aim must never be to defeat or humiliate the white man, but to win his friendship and understanding. We must come to see that the end we seek is a society at peace with itself, a society that can live with its conscience. And that will be a day not of the white man, not of the black man. That will be the day of man as man.” 

Following the speech, Sister Marie Clare (pictured right in a circa 1960 photo) experienced discrimination. Dressed in a black religious habit, she and another Sister approached a gas station with a Coca Cola machine and a tall, white southern man put his arms across the machine and said, “We only sell to whites and aren’t you ashamed of yourself for participating here?” Following the March in 1965, Sister Marie Clare wrote, “I looked at my hands to see if they were black and this made me realize that I am a human being with a soul and color is not the important thing. As individuals we must try to get rid of our own deep seated prejudiced feelings - empty them from our hearts so that there can be room for love to enter.”

In accepting the award today on Sister Marie Clare’s behalf, Sister Maureen O’Connor, OSF, Provincial Superior, stated “While Sister Marie Clare’s professional life encompassed several healthcare professions, her Christian and Franciscan spirituality was her source of strength; she believed that God created all things and always saw the face of Jesus in her brothers and sisters. While our nation found ways to support Dr. King, Sister Marie Clare was also inspired by the teachings of St. Francis of Assisi who was an instrument of peace. This Franciscan spirituality motivated her to step forward with others and march for freedom. Her risk was not done alone for she knew in her heart that God walked with her. If Sister Marie Clare was with us today, she would encourage us to be mindful that we stand on the shoulders of those who came before us. She would remind us to be peacemakers in these challenging times. Mostly I believe she would be somewhat embarrassed at having been singled out for her participation in the Freedom March in Montgomery and tell us that our work is not complete. She would encourage us to continue our work for peace, justice and equality for all persons.”

Sister Marie Clare (June 27, 1924-June 12, 2016) was born and raised in Rochester, NY, the daughter of Anthony and Florence (Servatius) Scheible. She Professed First Vows with the Hospital Sisters of St. Francis on June 13, 1950 and was a graduate of St. John’s Hospital School of Nursing. She earned a bachelor’s degree in nursing from St. Louis University, an MBA with an emphasis in hospital administration from Xavier University, and a certificate from the Chicago School of Massage Therapy. Sister Marie Clare served as a registered nurse, clinical nursing instructor, chaplain, and massage therapist. She served as administrator of St. Joseph’s Hospital (Highland, IL) from 1968-77 and as assistant administrator of St. Mary’s Hospital Medical Center (Green Bay, WI) from 1977-1986. 

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