Sister Thea Bowman, FSPA Servant of God “We unite ourselves with Christ’s redemptive work when we reconcile, when we make peace, when we share the good news that God is in our lives, when we reflect to our brothers and sisters God’s healing, God’s forgiveness, God’s unconditional love.” These would be the final public words of a religious woman who dedicated her life to spreading the joy of the Gospel and promoting cultural awareness and racial reconciliation. Thea Bowman was born in Canton, Mississippi, in 1937 to middle-aged parents, Dr. Theon Bowman, a physician, and Mary Esther Bowman, a teacher. Thea was their only child and they gave her the name Bertha Elizabeth. Thea converted to Catholicism through the inspiration of the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration and the Missionary Servants of the Most Holy Trinity who were her teachers and pastors at Holy Child Jesus Church and School in Canton. These religious communities nurtured her faith and greatly influenced her religious vocation. Gifted with a brilliant mind, beautiful voice, and a dynamic personality, Sister Thea shared the message of God's love through a teaching career. After 16 years of teaching at the elementary, secondary, and university levels, the bishop of Jackson, Mississippi, invited her to become the consultant for intercultural awareness. In her role as consultant Sister Thea, an African American, gave presentations across the country – lively gatherings that combined singing, gospel preaching, prayer, and storytelling. Her programs were directed to break down racial and cultural barriers. She encouraged people to communicate with one another so that they could understand other cultures and races. In 1984, Sr. Thea was diagnosed with breast cancer. She prayed "to live until I die." Her prayer was answered and Sister Thea continued her gatherings seated in a wheelchair. She died on March 30, 1990. (Diocese of Jackson, MS; Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration) Resources Videos The Amazing Light of Sister Thea Bowman Father Maurice Nutt, dear friend and biographer of Sister Thea, shares his recollections. An amazing speech that is still so relevant to today. On June 2, 1989, Sister Thea addressed the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Thea Bowman and Sister Jamie Phelps, OP Adrian Dominican Sister Jamie Phelps speaks of her friendship with Sister Thea. Articles and Quotes Are We There Yet: Sr. Thea & Mike Wallace Father Tom Lindner shares a few observations, ideas, encouragement and challenges. The Witness of Sister Thea Bowman Christopher Pramuk, an Associate Professor of Theology at Xavier University in Cincinnati, wrote this essay for America magazine, June 24, 2014. It is adapted from his book, Hope Sings, So Beautiful: Graced Encounters Across the Color Line (Liturgical Press, 2013). The Making of a Saint The Canonization Process, explained on the sistertheabowman.com website. In Her Own Words Quotes from Sister Thea from the AZQuotes website. Reflection Questions 1. “The history of Black Catholics presents us with a wondrous but too often forgotten cloud of witnesses. Could it be that the lives of these saints challenge many of us in ways that strike too uncomfortably close to home?” (Christopher Pramuk, “The Witness of Sister Thea Bowman,” America magazine, June 24, 2014) 2. Sister Thea believed that we all must work to tear down the walls of racial division in our segregated and polarized society and church by making the effort to truly be in contact with one another – to get to know another’s story, their joys, sorrows, hopes, and dreams. How are you able to tear down the walls of racial, gender, and socio-economic separations and divisions in your family, faith community, neighborhood, city/town, and nation? Prayer Ever loving God, who by your infinite goodness inflamed the heart of your servant and religious, Sister Thea Bowman with an ardent love for you and the People of God; a love expressed through her indomitable spirit, deep and abiding faith, dedicated teaching, exuberant singing, and unwavering witnessing of the joy of the Gospel. Her prophetic witness continues to inspire us to share the Good News with those whom we encounter; most especially the poor, oppressed, and marginalized. May Sister Thea’s life and legacy compel us to walk together, to pray together, and to remain together as missionary disciples ushering in the new evangelization for the Church we love. Gracious God imbue us with the grace and perseverance that you gave your servant, Sister Thea. For in turbulent times of racial injustice, she sought equity, peace, and reconciliation. In times of intolerance and ignorance, she brought wisdom, awareness, unity, and charity. In times of pain, sickness, and suffering, she taught us how to live fully until called home to the land of promise. If it be your Will, O God, glorify our beloved Sister Thea, by granting the favor I now request through her intercession (mention your request), so that all may know of her goodness and holiness and may imitate her love for You and Your Church. We ask this through Your Son and our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen. © 2018 Catholic Diocese of Jackson, MS. Imprimatur: Most Rev. Joseph R. Kopacz, Bishop of Jackson.