Sister Thea Bowman Do You Hear Me, Church?
by Peggy A. Sklar
Sister Thea Bowman (1939 –1990), a native of a small town in central Mississippi, was a well-known educator, evangelist, gifted singer, scholar, and advocate for diversity and the inclusion of African Americans and African American culture in the Catholic Church. Sister Thea faced many obstacles as a young girl growing up in the segregated South. Her story is intertwined with the disparities and injustices experienced by African Americans in Mississippi.
Through the efforts of the missionary sisters, brothers, and priests who served in Canton, Mississippi, Sister Thea and other African American children in her community were able to obtain an education and experience the love, generosity, faith, and commitment to social justice of those who ministered in the African American church. During her time in school, she felt called to enter religious life. She chose to join the order of the sisters who staffed her school. Sister Thea was the only black sister in her order.
Sister Thea made unique contributions to the Catholic Church. In November, 2018, her cause for sainthood is expected to be approved by the U.S. bishops. Her story is unique and one that needs to be told. Many institutions bear her name.