Sister Thea Bowman's Story
Cause for Canonization
The U.S. bishops endorsed the sainthood cause of Sister Thea Bowman on Nov. 14, 2018, during their fall assembly in Baltimore. The granddaughter of slaves, she was the only African-American member of the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, and she transcended racism to leave a lasting mark on U.S. Catholic life in the late 20th century. Read U.S. Bishops Conduct Canonical Consultation on Cause for Canonization of Thea Bowman, FSPA
Now, Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration will follow Diocese of Jackson’s lead as the process moves forward. With the bishops’ vote, the case will go to Rome to be opened. “Sister Mary Ann Gschwind, as FSPA archivist, serves on the Historical Commission for the Cause of Beatification and Canonization of Servant of God, Sister Thea Bowman,” explains Sister Eileen McKenzie, president. “When representatives from the Diocese of Jackson are ready to visit La Crosse, Wisconsin, our archives and heritage areas will be open to them. We’ve added an intention in our Adoration Chapel for everyone involved.”
The process has been documented in numerous news media articles, as featured below and on our Thea In The News page.
In August 2018, Global Catholic Sisters Report shared that "Sister Thea Bowman could start on the path toward becoming a saint in November, when the U.S. bishops are expected to approve her cause for sainthood at their biannual meeting, officials announced July 31." The story continues, "Four major black clergy and religious groups — the National Black Sisters Conference, the National Black Catholic Clergy Caucus, the National Association of Black Catholic Deacons and Spouses, and the National Black Catholic Seminarians Association — made the announcement July 31 along with the news that they will unite to advance the causes for sainthood for five African-American Catholics, with Bowman's expected to be added once the bishops approve.
Approval would allow the Vatican to officially begin the sainthood process and Bishop Joseph Kopacz of Jackson, Mississippi, Bowman's home diocese, to appoint a tribunal to investigate whether Bowman lived a life of 'heroic virtue.'"
In February 2018, the Diocese of Jackson in Mississippi announced that it will begin researching the life, writings and works of Franciscan Sister of Perpetual Adoration Thea Bowman. This is the preliminary step to opening her cause for canonization but does not officially open her cause.
Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration provides images for download and public use (see link below). Please credit Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, www.fspa.org.
Born December 29, 1937, in Yazoo City, Mississippi, Thea was reared as a Protestant until at age nine when she asked her parents if she could become a Catholic.
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 level, 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 Thea continued her gatherings seated in a wheelchair. In 1989, the U.S. bishops invited her to be a key speaker at their conference on Black Catholics. At the end of the meeting, at Thea's invitation, the bishops stood and sang "We Shall Overcome" with gusto.
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 in 1990.
Thea Prayer Card (pdf file)