Faith, Justice, Joy- The Spirituality of Sister Thea Bowman
Week 5: Holy Week
- Read: Sister Thea Bowman dictated this Holy Week reflection to her companion about three weeks before her death in 1990.
- Questions for Reflection:
- What words or phrases stick out for you from Sr. Thea's reflection regarding Holy Week?
- What do her words, focused so deeply on being in community with one another, mean as we celebrate another Holy Week physically separated from one another?
- What significance does this reflection hold for you within the context of the two pandemics: the pandemic of COVID-19 and the pandemic of institutional and interpersonal racism within our country?
Reflection and image source: Dominican Sisters of Peace
Week 4: Joy, Part 2
- Read: "Sister Thea Bowman on Dying with Dignity"- U.S. Catholic
- Questions for Reflection:
- As we find ourselves this March at this one-year mark of the pandemic changing life as we knew it, and as we face immeasurable suffering in the face of racist violence, what do Sr. Thea's words mean for where I find myself in this moment?
- How do I still feel a sense of suffering as we continue on into the second year of this COVID-19 pandemic? How have I seen suffering in other areas of our lives this year- including acts of violence due to racism?
- What do Sr. Thea's words about dying with dignity mean for those of us seeking to live with a sense of joy and gratitude?
- Listen: "Go Tell It on the Mountain" -Sr. Thea Bowman
- As you listen to Sr. Thea's rendition of "Go Tell It on the Mountain," think about what lessons you can learn from her deep sense of joy, and how you might seek out the joy present in your own life.
Week 3: Joy, Part 1
Image by Bro. Mickey McGrath, OSFS
1. Take a few moments to observe and reflect upon the image "Rise Up Shepherds" by Bro. Mickey McGrath, OSFS and read the following caption given to the image by the artist:
"There's a star in the east on Christmas morn.
Rise up, shepherd, and follow.
It will lead to the place where the Savior's born.
Rise up, shepherd, and follow."
2. Questions for reflection:
- What do I see in this image? What emotions does it invoke within me? Take a moment to sit quietly with yourself to truly feel what emotions surface.
- What do these emotions reveal about my response to this artwork? Do I see myself in this image in some way?
- While the title and caption may initially feel a little out of season with the Christmas reference, what does this quote mean to you in the context of this image? Who is/are the shepherds in this image? Who is following whom?
- How can I begin to seek out the wisdom from those in my faith community who do not hold traditional positions of authority? How can I make a conscious intention to find wisdom within a larger community of believers?
Week 2: Justice
Image provided by Education for Justice, a project of Ignatian Solidarity Network
Take a few moments to look at the mural depicted here: Love Requires Justice- Art as a Medium to Address Systemic Racism and read “About the Mural” section (page 3). If you have time, read the entire document to understand the full scope of this mural project.
Questions for Reflection:
In her speech to the USCCB we watched in our Week 1 reflection, Sr. Thea Bowman says "If you get enough fully functioning Black Catholics in your diocese they’re going to hold up the priest and they’re going to hold up the bishop. We love our bishops y’all. We love y’all too but see these bishops are our own – ordained for the Church universal, ordained for the service of God’s people. But they ours - we raised them. They came from our community and in a unique way they can speak for us and to us. That’s what the Church is talkin’ about with indigenous leadership – the leaders are supposed to look like their folks.”
Considering the identities I hold, do I see myself represented in my faith tradition? In what ways, perhaps, am I not represented? (For those who see themselves fully represented in your faith tradition, take a moment to acknowledge the significance of that fact, and consider how your experience of your faith might be different if you were not represented in leadership.)
Who are other folks who may not feel represented within my own faith community? How are they erased from the stories, images, and leadership of my faith tradition?
The artist recognizes and calls out her own white privilege and stresses the importance of white people educating themselves on racial injustices.
If you are a beneficiary of white privilege, what steps can you take to begin to educate yourself and your community and spark dialogue around systemic racism in your own community?
If you do not benefit from white privilege, how have you seen, experienced, or been affected by white privilege? Are there other ways in which you have encountered privilege in your own life, be it based on socio-economic status, gender, sexual orientation, or any other forms you can name?
Prayer for Racial Justice
We pray for a world filled with racial justice
(Source: Education for Justice)
Week 1: Faith
Art from Br. Mickey McGrath, OSFS
- Watch this clip of Sister Thea Bowman's 1989 address to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) or read page 3 of the transcript here.
- Questions for reflection:
Sr. Thea says,“What does it mean to be Black and Catholic? It means that I come to my Church fully functioning. That doesn’t frighten you, does it? I come to my Church fully functioning. I bring myself; my Black self, all that I am, all that I have, all that I hope to become. I bring my whole history, my traditions, my experience, my culture, my African-American song and dance and gesture and movement and teaching and preaching and healing and responsibility - as gifts to the Church."
Do I feel as though I can bring my whole self to my Church? (Please note: Church here can be replaced with any concept of a spiritual home) Are there parts of myself that I feel don’t belong? Parts of myself that I feel I must hide? How can Sister Thea's quote provide new insight into those feelings?
If Sr. Thea sees each part of ourselves as a gift to be brought forward to our church: what specific gifts do I bring to my spiritual community? How do those gift(s) enrich both my relationship with and experience of God?
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 our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
©2018 Catholic Diocese of Jackson
Our Commitment to Social Justice
In his Spiritual Exercises, St. Ignatius identifies the pursuit of holiness, wholeness, and right relationships as the purpose of human existence. Guided by Catholic Social Teaching, this purpose finds expression in Campus Ministry’s commitment to fostering and promoting a more just community. Called to be people for and with others, we are challenged to respond to all forms of individual and systemic injustice in our local, national and global communities. Following the examples of Jesus, St. Ignatius, and other figures in faith and history, Campus Ministry strives to enact a faith that does justice in solidarity with the underrepresented and oppressed. In the spirit of the Ignatian principle of ‘contemplation in action,’ Campus Ministry provides opportunities for students to learn, reflect, pray, dialogue and act.
Social Justice Programs
On Campus Clubs and Groups