Thea’s Song

We have completed the reading of a biography of a most remarkable woman, Sr. Thea Bowman, FSPA. ( Thea’s Song: The Life of Thea Bowman by Charlene Smith and John Felster . Orbis, 2009.) Her cause for beatification and canonization is being promoted at present, and this book makes a convincing case for the Church’s official recognition of her life.  The book follows the chronology of her life, from her birth in 1937 in Yazoo City, Mississippi to her death  from breast cancer in 1990.  Converting to Catholicism at the age of nine and being educated by the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration,  she joined that community in La Crosse WI in 1953.  This stark transition from a Black Southern culture to the white culture of a northern city was only the beginning of the transitions and barriers that she would pass through in the course of her life.  Through the strength of her indomitable character, she flourished in situations which would have overwhelmed lesser mortals.  Her own life passed through the tumultuous racial conflicts that rose in the 60’s and continue to trouble our society today.  She persistently advocated the values of the Black culture which she embodied in her own person and life.  A highly educated woman, she insisted on the indispensable importance of education for fostering the self worth and potential contribution of every individual.  She was acutely aware of the adverse effects of racial discrimination in the Church, as well as in society as a whole. She could chide a white audience by saying, They think they’re being erudite when they’re only being quiet.   She was actively involved in confronting the barriers that had been placed on the Black population and was in demand because of her own skills in communication and drawing people together.  Her own life was deeply embedded and instrumental in the cultural changes that marked the mature years of her life. Her last years were spent in a wheel chair because of the cancer, but she continued to participate in speaking engagements until her last breath.  Her mantra was: Let me live, until I die.  And she meant to live fully in a way that only death itself could stop.  She was a living force who moved to bring people together and a revelation of what personal courage and self-sacrifice can realize in changing the world.  Knowing her could well change you.  Her question: Are you with us?