Thea Bowman, F.S.P.A.

Thea Bowman, F.S.P.A. – December 29, 1937 to March 30, 1990 (Adapted from Black Catholics on the Road to Sainthood, Michael R. Heinlen, editor)

Two miracles are required for a candidate for Sainthood can be declared a Saint within the Catholic church. It has been said that Thea Bowman’s “first” miracle was performed in 1989, when from her wheelchair, Bowman was able to convince the United States Council of Catholic Bishops to stand, link arms and hands, and sing “We Shall Overcome.”


Thea Bowman was born in Yazoo, Mississippi to physician Theon Edward Bowman and Mary Esther Coleman, a teacher. Bowman’s paternal grandfather was a slave.


Inspired by the actions of the women religious and priests at her school, Bowman became a Catholic at nine years old. When she was 15 years old, Thea joined the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, becoming the order’s first Black member. In 1965, Bowman earned a B.A. in English from Viterbo University and then went on to earn an M.A. and a Ph.D in English from The Catholic University of America. She went on to be a founding member of the Institute for Black Catholic Studies at Xavier University in New Orleans.


Bowman was a teacher, singer, writer, and evangelizer. She also delivered public lectures across the United States as a sharp critic of racism.


Thea Bowman died in 1990 of complications from bone and breast cancer.


A cause for Canonization has been opened for Bowman, and in 2018, she was designated a Servant of God.


To learn more about Thea Bowman’s life of ministry, please visit:


Beatification Prayer for Servant of God, Thea Bowman:


Ever loving God, who by your infinite goodness inflamed the heart of your servant and religious, Sister Thea Bowman with an ardent love for you and the People of God; a love expressed through her indomitable spirit, deep and abiding faith, dedicated teaching, exuberant singing, and unwavering witnessing of the joy of the Gospel.


Her prophetic witness continues to inspire us to share the Good News with those whom we encounter; most especially the poor, oppressed, and marginalized. May Sister Thea’s life and legacy compel us to walk together, to pray together, and to remain together as missionary disciples ushering in the new evangelization for the Church we love.


Gracious God imbue us with the grace and perseverance that you gave your servant, Sister Thea. For in turbulent times of racial injustice, she sought equity, peace, and reconciliation. In times of intolerance and ignorance, she brought wisdom, awareness, unity, and charity. In times of pain, sickness, and suffering, she taught us how to live fully until called home to the land of promise. If it be your Will, O God, glorify our beloved Sister Thea, by granting the favor I now request through her intercession (mention your request), so that all may know of her goodness and holiness and may imitate her love for You and Your Church. We ask this through Your Son and our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.


Image: Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration/