The late Sister Thea Bowman, known locally for having a school named after her but more widely for her work to break down racial and cultural barriers within the Catholic Church, has been endorsed on a step toward sainthood.
Bishops in the United States unanimously endorsed the “cause for canonization” for Bowman at their fall assembly in Baltimore, the same assembly at which they were asked to delay the vote on sexual abuse reform.
According to the Conference of Catholic Bishops statement, Bowman exemplified what it meant to be African-American and Catholic. She urged the Church evangelize the African-American community, and to “understand the necessity and value of Catholic schools in the African-American community.”
The Sister Thea Bowman Catholic School in East St. Louis started in 1989 after four Catholic elementary schools were consolidated. According to the kindergarten through eighth grade school, 95 percent of its graduates move onto a college or university.
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Sister Thea Bowman, the granddaughter of slaves, was born Dec. 29, 1937, in Yazoo, Mississippi. She died March 30, 1990, in Canton, Mississippi, at age 52. She is known as a teacher, and scholar who worked toward the betterment of her fellow African Americans. She was a member of the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration.
The petition for sainthood from submitted by Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz of the Diocese of Jackson, Mississippi.
The Rev. Edward K. Braxton, bishop of the Belleville Diocese, said, “As you know, we have an excellent school in our Diocese named in honor of this heroic woman of faith. I knew her personally throughout an impressive 25 years of her brief life. I had the privilege to speak to her by phone the day before she died.”
Bowman has been designated a “Servant of God,” the first step in the road to canonization. Her case will now go before the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints in the Vatican. If that body finds that she exercised to a heroic degree the theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity, she can be declared “Venerable.” However, before she can be declared a saint, two miracles must be attributed to her.