Thea Bowman was born in Yazoo City, Mississippi in 1937. She was born into a Methodist family. Her father was a doctor and her mother was a teacher. She asked her parents if she could become Catholic when she was 9 years old. She went to college in Wisconsin and received a degree in English. She went on to study her masters and PHD from Catholic University of America. She decided she wanted to follow God’s call and be a nun and Thea became the first African American to join the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration in Wisconsin.
She taught for 16 years in elementary schools, high schools, and college levels. Gifted with a brilliant mind, beautiful voice and a dynamic personality, Sister Thea shared the message of God’s love through a teaching career. The bishop in Mississippi invited her to give presentations around the country aimed at bridging racial and cultural divisions.
She travelled making over 100 presentations a year where she combined her gifts of singing and gospel preaching, with prayers and storytelling. Sister Thea Bowman was the first African-American woman to receive a Doctorate in Theology from Boston College. Thea lived a full life. She fought evil, especially prejudice, suspicion, hatred and things that drive people apart.
She appeared on the news show 60 Minutes with Mike Wallace where she told him, “I think the difference between me and some people is that I’m content to do my little bit. Sometimes people think they have to do big things in order to make change. But if each one would light a candle we’d have a tremendous light.”
Sister Thea Bowman was diagnosed with cancer in 1984. Yet, she continued her work from her wheel chair, until her death at age 53 in 1990. Her prayer every day was “to live until I die – to live fully.” She is remembered now as a servant of God and her process of canonization has started.