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The Life of Thea Bowman
by Charlene Smith and John Feister
Publisher:Orbis Books from Alban Books
Published:03 March 2010
Now available as paperback, ISBN 978-1-570-75962-8, £11.99
Thea Bowman was born and grew up in Mississippi during the civil rights era. She joined a convent of white Catholic Sisters in Wisconsin and, in confronting racism, became the most significant woman on the campus of Viterbo College. She engaged in a ministry of music and song which became an inspiration to millions, encouraging them to walk in the love of God rather than the fear of men. Her motto was, “Let me live until I die!” and, sadly, she died in 1990 after a long battle with cancer. This is the story of a Christian lady who fought prejudice, exemplified Christian values and was a radiant example of what can happen to anyone who is willing to let the joy of God lead their life.
Reviewer: Graham Wise (11/09/10)
|Reader review: - Ruthie Thomas, TGBS Reviewer 2.8.12
This award winning bumper sized biography brings the intriguing life journey of Thea Bowman, Catholic Franciscan Sister, PhD, as well as a gifted operatic singer and speaker, to a wider attention.
Born in Canton, Mississippi in 1937 of African American heritage Thea was named Bertha by her parents Mary and Dr Theon Bowman. She was assigned the name Thea in 1956 while in training as a novice nun. It struck me that out of all the denominations in Canton including Baptists, Adventists Methodists and Zion churches, the young Bertha chose the Catholic Church. She later wrote that this choice was due to the love shown by the Catholic Missionary Sisters.
Through insight and personal change Thea emerges an inspiring figure for black identity within the Catholic Community and further afield. The position of Diocesan Consultant for Intercultural Awareness was created for her by Bishop Brunni. She brought an Educator’s capacity to her many talks and workshops often introducing the traditional gospel songs learnt from the women of her childhood influence - Mother Ricker who gathered children in her home to teach them gospel songs and the next door neighbor Mrs Ward who would be heard singing her heart out in gospel song while doing housework.
The biography also offers insightful humour and none so much as when Thea attending a Catholic Charismatic Retreat where freedom of worship was supposedly encouraged, shouts out ‘hallelujah’ – only to receive a frozen reception.