Catholic University names a street in honor of Sister Thea Bowman


Students from St. Anthony’s Catholic School in Washington attend the dedication and blessing of Sister Thea Bowman Drive at the Catholic University of America on April 29, 2022. Sister Bowman, who died in 1990, is one of six black Catholic candidates for sainthood. Her cause for holiness was opened in 2018 and she bears the title of “Servant of God”. SNC Photo/Tyler Orsburn

Catholic University of America officials dedicated and blessed a street on campus on April 29 named in honor of the late Sister Thea Bowman, a noted educator and evangelist who studied at Catholic University and whose cause of canonization was opened in 2018.

“During her life, Sister Thea was a shining example of religious life, and she worked for social justice, racial equality and harmony among all peoples, especially in the Catholic Church,” said said Washington Cardinal Wilton D. Gregory who blessed new sister Thea. Bowman Drive. “We are pleased to dedicate this street in his honor to remind him that his life’s work continues today in the church and on this campus.”

Sister Thea died in 1990 of bone cancer at the age of 52. At age 15, she entered the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, becoming the first and only African-American member of her order. When she took her vows as a nun, she changed her name from Bertha Bowman to Mary Thea Bowman and went on to study at Catholic University where she earned an MA and Ph.D. in English.

For more than 15 years, Sister Thea has been a high school and college educator. She then began her ministry as an evangelist, traveling across the United States urging priests, bishops, and fellow Catholics to accept her and other African Americans as “fully black and fully Catholic.”

In addition to her evangelistic work, Sister Thea helped found the National Black Sisters Conference to provide support for African American women in religious life. In 1987, she also helped produce “Lead Me, Guide Me: The African American Catholic Hymnal”, the first such hymn for African American Catholics.

“While she returned to God over 30 years ago, the impact of Sister Thea Bowman’s life is still felt in our time,” Cardinal Gregory said as he blessed the street next to the Columbus University School of Law. “Through her words and her example, she challenged everyone to follow the command of the Lord Jesus to love God with all our heart and our neighbors as ourselves.”

Among those present at the dedication ceremony was DC Mayor Muriel Bowser, who called the late nun an “extraordinary woman of faith.”

Mayor Bowser, who grew up and continues to frequent the nearby parish of St. Anthony of Padua, said every time someone sees the newly named street, “they will be inspired to do more and be better”.

The street dedication was recommended by the university’s Sister Thea Bowman Committee, which was formed to promote racial diversity on campus and in the wider community.

“In recognition of Sister Thea’s contributions and her lasting impact as a religious sister, as an educator, and as a conscience of the Church, the university has deemed it important to honor her permanently and visibly by naming a street after him,” Regina said. Jefferson, a law professor at the university’s Columbus School of Law and chairman of the Sister Thea Bowman committee.

“We hope that the Sister Thea Bowman Drive will serve not only as a visible tribute to Sister Thea, but also as a constant reminder to each of us to…work together to bring about positive and meaningful change in our lives, our communities and the world. ,” she says.

Aaron Dominguez, the college provost, praised Sister Thea as “our virtuous inspiration.”

“We celebrate Sister Thea by dedicating this route to her, a strong Black Catholic woman who is navigating the path of holiness in the Catholic Church and whose legacy continues to call us to walk a route of solidarity and of unity as a human family,” said Dominguez.

Kelly Woodson, a senior citizen who spoke at the inauguration, noted that “the display of street names reflects the identification and location of the property. Many are aware that black people were considered property. She said Sister Thea’s message was contrary to this, emphasizing that no one should be considered a thing, but rather “the image and likeness of God’s love”.

“It is imperative that we look to people like Sister Thea Bowman to understand that our brothers and sisters – regardless of race, creed, religion, ethnicity, etc. — are part of our lives,” Woodson said.

The Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration Motherhouse in La Crosse, Wisconsin, sent a letter that was read at the dedication ceremony, which said they hoped that when people “move along Sister Thea Bowman Drive, you will move with love and joy.”

“May the love and joy you bring here today in dedicating this street to Sister Thea flow down the next street and the next street and the next,” the sisters wrote. “May the blessing of the Lord be upon you and upon all who travel this road and the path of righteousness.”

Szczepanowski is editor of the Catholic Standard, the newspaper of the Archdiocese of Washington.

Keywords: Catholic University, Catholic University of America, Sister Thea Bowman

Category: Featured, US & World News


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