Sister Thea, pray for us!

In the midst of the beautiful snow and invigorating cold weather that Mother Winter offers us, (perhaps this is not quite the image that  is coming to you, but rather too much snow and too much cold!), it is wonderful to celebrate special occasions. This month we are blessed to celebrate Black History month. Since September of 2020 I have been living and ministering in Pembroke Township (also know as Hopkins Park) at the Sacred Heart Mission Church. This is truly a home mission and one that I am easily growing attached to as my relationship with the parishioners here continues to deepen even though we are hindered by the pandemic. Our population here is predominantly African-American but there is also a growing Latino community, too. This is why celebrating this month is special here.

Recently Keenager News, a publication of Catholic Charities of Chicago published a wonderful article, “On Their Journey to Sainthood” by Mary Ellen Kastenholz which features six black holy women and men who are being considered for sainthood by the Catholic Church. One of them was a Sister of Perpetual Adoration, Sister Thea Bowman from Wisconsin who died in 1990 from breast cancer. (Please read below to learn about the other five people.)

Sister Thea taught school for about 16 years before she became involved in racial and cultural issues. She was frequently sought out by groups and seekers of the truth to discover and act upon concrete action for bringing racial harmony to all peoples. In June of 2020 Fr. Maurice Nutt posted the following about Sr. Thea:

“We have a Mississippian who was a national witness to the possibility of racial healing and reconciliation. Sister Thea believed that we all must work to tear down the walls of racial division in our segregated and polarized society and church by making the effort to truly be in contact with one another: to get to know another’s story, their joys, sorrows, hopes and dreams. She was emphatic that the church as the Body of Christ must first confess her sin of racism, make amends and come to a place of healing and reconciliation. Then and only then can the church be a leader in racial healing globally. Sister Thea said: ‘May the Spirit within us and among us inspire us to keep on keeping on, in our homes and families, in our communities and in our church. May the Spirit inspire us, and may we share our spiritual and cultural gifts with the church and with the world. We’ve come this far by faith. Can’t turn around.’
Sister Thea, pray for us!”

There is a key phrase in Sr. Thea’s ideas as explained by Fr. Maurice: the church, as the Body of Christ must confess her sin. Yes, all of us must confess the sin of racism, exclusion and hate. Then we need to publicly and privately make amends which is a clear admittance of one’s sins, so that healing and reconciliation can be a reality. Then and only then can the church be a leader in racial healing globally.” Let us remember that we are church, too. We are not the official spokespeople for the institutional church, but our lives do speak a lot to the world about who we are and what we believe in. Every single act of confessing, amending and embracing will continue the process of healing no matter how small it is.

To see more about Sr. Thea look for: “Sister Thea: Ole-Time Religion” consists of 4 videos, each with two 15-min programs: “Our Calling, Our Conversion, Our Covenant, and OurSalvation.” Treehaus Communications, Inc. Contact 800-638-4287 or e-mail

There are also many You Tube videos of Sr. Thea. One in particular that is worth seeing is Sr. Thea addressing the American Bishops annual meeting in 1989.

Sister Nancy is a Franciscan of the Sacred Heart and Formation Director for the Joliet Diocese Missions.

Now we invite your thoughts. Please share in the comments section below. And while you’re here, continue on a virtual mission by reading more of our stories and reflections as we discover together how “We are Mission”.

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