“Catholic Christans came into my community and they helped us with education, they helped us with healthcare, they helped us to find our self-respect and to realize our capabilities when the world had told us for so long that we were nothing and would amount to nothing. And I wanted to be part of that effort. That’s radical Christianity, that’s radical Catholicism. How do we find the needs of God’s people? How do we as a Catholic Christian community of believers say that we believe that God is active in our lives, and we want to share the Good News with you?”
These are the words of Servant of God, Sr. Thea Bowman. She encountered the Gospel not just in the words but also in the actions of the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration who came from Wisconsin down to Thea’s hometown of Canton, Mississippi and created new opportunities for education, for healthcare, for respect and dignity for Thea and other young black people like her in the segregated south of the early 20th Century. She was so attracted to the Gospel she found in these sisters that she joined them. The Word of God took root in the heart and mind, the imagination and the cultural history of Thea Bowman. Now, more than 30 years after her death, her cause for canonization is underway, and she shows a new generation of Catholics and Americans what it means to be fully alive in the Gospel.
As part of the annual Saturdays with the Saints lecture series through the McGrath Institute for Church Life at Notre Dame, Kayla August presented on the life and witness of Sr. Thea. Today, Kayla joins me to talk about this remarkable woman, this servant of God, this witness to Christ’s life in an especially American context. Kayla herself is a doctoral student in theology and ministry at Boston College. Prior to beginning her doctoral studies, she served in Campus Ministry here at the University of Notre Dame, and also as a rector for one of or woman’s residence halls. Kayla is a native of New Orleans, Louisiana. You can find the video of her lecture on Sr. Thea on the McGrath Institute for Church Life’s Youtube page, or simply by googling “Saturday with the Saints, Thea Bowman.