She came from a long line of great and extraordinary women who, like herself, bore the name Mary. These included two saints—Mary, Mother of Jesus and Mary Magdalene, sister of Martha and Lazarus, and the first person to learn of Jesus’ resurrection.
No wonder Ma Mary was such a devout Christian—and not only that: she portrayed this in her faithfulness to her God, to her church on Camp Johnson Road, St. Thomas Episcopal, and the larger Episcopal and Christian family, and in her ordinary interaction with her fellow human beings.
She was caring and kind to all who came her way, and to others, too, like the many children whom she did not know but sent to school anyway, and educated them. That was in addition to her own children, among whom are some of Liberia’s outstanding sons and daughters. They include the beloved Liberian and African singer Miata Fahnbulleh and her brother Dr. Boima Fahnbulleh, the eminent African intellectual and orator, whose pristine talents have over many decades wowed Liberian youth from all over the country.
A tribute to Mother Brownell, written by one of her fellow St. Thomas parishioners and published in yesterday’s Daily Observer, referred to her as “the spiritual mother of St. Thomas” and underscored her lifelong commitment to the parish, where she served on the Vestry for over 30 years.
Said the writer, Rufus Berry, II: “Sis Mary was a faithful servant of God in her work at St. Thomas Parish, as a faithful member of the Vestry with her unselfish, tireless and devoutly caring manner. She won our love, respect, friendship and admiration and she was truly our beloved Sister Brownell.”
The church was one of the four pillars to which Mother Brownell devoted her life. She began with the first, her family—her children, her many siblings and other members of the vast Brownell clan who treated her with deference and whom she treated with love, caring, sharing and respect; the second, the church; the third, the education of Liberian children, to whom she devoted her entire professional life. Many of her students became outstanding citizens of the republic.
All of these vocations made Ma Mary loved, respected and famous. But there was one thing more that was closest to her heart, mind, body and spirit: her beloved Liberia!
She avidly followed developments in the nation and world by reading daily all the newspapers and listening to radio and television. Nor was she a passive reader or listener. She frequently engaged her pen to express openly and frankly her views on national affairs. For this, among many other things, she will be dearly missed.
But she was more than a commentator on national affairs. She was also a passionate activist and this is what inspired her to take great initiatives to help end the deadly and devastating Liberian civil conflict. She joined many women, and men, too, in playing an active role to end the war, founding her own organization, the Liberian Women’s Network, whose initiatives led her and other Liberian women to several peace talks in various countries, culminating in the Accra Peace Conference that laid the groundwork for the final end to the war. Mother Brownell and several other women, including Theresa Leigh Sherman and Leyma Gbowee, worked around the clock during that conference to force the warlords successfully to negotiate and sign the Accra Peace Accord that led to the formation of the National Transitional Government of Liberia (NTGL) and the election of Charles Gyude Bryant as Chair.
Mother Brownell’s relentless crusade for peace was acknowledged when she was appointed Commissioner of the National Elections Commission that organized and successfully steered the 2005 elections, leading to the election of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf as Africa’s first woman President.
It was in recognition of these great accomplishments of Liberia’s beloved and highly respected Ma Mary that President Sirleaf herself yesterday found her way to the Brownells’ Ashmun Street, Snapper Hill, home to extend her condolences to the Bereaved Family.
Rest in Peace, Ma Mary! You played well your part, and that is why the entire Liberian nation is assured that God Almighty will grant you a triumphant entry into His land of eternal bliss.