Tuesday, October 4, 2016


Bro. Mickey McGrath
Some of the Franciscan sisters who were on Shaw Island with us for 28 years, were in the novitiate with this next saint to be, whom they all loved.

SERVANT of GOD SISTER THEA BOWMAN F.S.P.A., was a  teacher, and scholar, who made a major contribution to the ministry of the Blacks in the Catholic Church.

She was born Bertha Bowman in Yazoo City, Mississippi in 1937. Her grandfather had been born a slave, but her father was a physician and her mother a teacher. She was raised in a Methodist home but, with her parents' permission, converted to the Roman Catholic faith at the age of nine, and later joined the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration at La Crosse, Wisconsin. There she attended Viterbo University, run by her congregation.
She later attended The Catholic University of America for advanced studies, where she wrote her doctoral thesis on the American writer, William Faulkner.

She taught at an elementary school in La Crosse, Wisconsin and then at a high school in Canton, Mississippi. She later taught at her alma matersViterbo College in La Crosse and the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., as well as at Xavier University in New OrleansLouisiana.

She had a big impact upon Catholic liturgical music by providing intellectual, spiritual, historical, and cultural foundation for developing and legitimizing a distinct worship form for black Catholics. She explained: “When we understand our history and culture, then we can develop the ritual, the music and the devotional expression that satisfy us in the Church.”

She was instrumental in the publication in 1987 of a new Catholic hymnal, Lead Me, Guide Me: The African American Catholic Hymnal, the first such work directed to the Black community. 

After a career of 16 years in education, the Bishop of Jackson, Mississippi, invited Sister Thea to become a consultant for intercultural awareness for his diocese. She then became more directly involved with ministry to her fellow African-Americans. She began to give inspirational talks to Black congregations and found a tremendous response by the people to whom she spoke.

 Even after she developed cancer and her health began a steady decline, she continued to speak to religious groups, becoming a model of hope and faith. “Remember who you are and whose you are”, she said.

In 1989, shortly before her death, in recognition of her contributions to the service of the Church, she was awarded an honorary Doctorate in Religion by Boston College in Massachusetts.

She died of cancer in 1990, aged 52, in Canton, Mississippi, and was buried with her parents in Memphis, Tennessee. Sister Thea lived a full life. She fought evil, especially prejudice, suspicion, hatred and things that drive people apart. She fought for God and God's people until her death.

I find that when I am involved in the business of life, when I'm working with people, particularly with children, I feel better. A kind of strength and energy comes with that.

The Diocese of Youngstown as well as the Diocese of Jackson held a proposal towards the Canonization cause for Sister Thea , through the decree of Heroic Virtues for her untiring efforts of evangelization and Catholic missions. 
"Brother Sun -Sister Thea"  (Bro. Mickey McGrath)

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