In Memory of Sr. Thea Bowman
March 31, 2010
Sr. Thea was a well-known educator, evangelist, and gospel singer. Born in Canton, MS, she converted to Catholicism as a child and was later ordained as a Franciscan Sister of Perpetual Adoration. As the only African-American member of the order, she incorporated traditional African rituals and dances as well as African-American folk songs into the traditional Mass.
"The heck with melting pot," she once wrote. "If you want to melt and fit into my mold, if you want to adopt my values and way of life, go right ahead, but don't expect me to melt to fit into yours."
Sr. Thea helped to found and served on the faculty of Xavier University in New Orleans, the only black Catholic university in the Western hemisphere. She also served as the director of the Office of Intercultural Affairs of the Diocese of Jackson, MS in addition to recording two albums of spirituals. Shortly before her death, she was interviewed by Mike Wallace on "60 Minutes."
Sr. Thea passed away on March 30, 1990 at the age of 52. She was eulogized as a poet, preacher and master teacher blessed with an extraordinary voice. Today, Sr. Thea is recognized for her work to build bridges between the races. A number of schools across the country are named in her honor. She is remembered each year on March 30th with a graveside Mass at Elmwood Cemetery.