On Wednesday, Russ and I had the privilege of gathering with new FutureChurch board member Sr. Anita Baird, DHM and Catholics from around the world to view Like A Shooting Star: Sr. Thea Bowman’s Journey to Sainthood. Sr. Anita shared some beautiful insights and humorous stories about her experience with Sr. Thea personally.
As many of you know, Sr. Thea Bowman was a trailblazing, prophetic African-American sister, who – despite barriers – was the first black sister in her white congregation, the first black woman to address the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and an inspiration to thousands and thousands of people around the world. A Franciscan Sister of Perpetual Adoration, she was declared a Servant of God on May 15, 2018 and will continue the journey toward sainthood.
If you haven’t already, this documentary is a “must see!” You will fall in love with Sr. Thea as you learn more about her luminous, gifted life and her courageous, faith-filled death.
There are many powerful moments in the movie that demonstrate Sr. Thea’s powerful effect on those whose lives she touched. Here are just a few:
As part of the graduating class at the Institute for Black Catholic Studies where Sr. Thea taught, one priest, Rev. Maurice Nutt, CSsR, who had been a student of Sr. Thea summed up the power of her spirit in his life. At that first commencement, “She spoke words of freedom. You can be your beautiful Black Catholic self and you have gifts to share. And you must bring them as gifts to the church. I thought about all the assimilation I had to do to be a Black priest, and tears ran down my face.”
In speaking about her influence on Black Catholics today, especially as we face unprecedented levels of violence against Black Americans, several of her friends in the film ventured to imagine what she would do today in the face of racist violence. All believed she would be a model peacemaker. Jesuit priest Joseph Brown offered, “She’d probably get the microphone and sing a song because her gift was to take the oldest sounds of black liberation and invest those sounds in the generation in front of her.”
And in contrast to Archbishop José H. Gomez who called social justice movements like Black Lives Matter, “pseudo religions,” in the documentary, Cardinal Wilton Gregory puts Sr. Thea at the front of the movement saying, “I think if Thea were alive, she’d say, ‘I’m one of the mothers of Black Lives Matter.’”
Like Sr. Anita, some who gathered with us also knew Sr. Thea personally and were transformed by her holy, joyful spirit. Still, all gathered felt we had a privileged look into the life and character of Sr. Thea. Here are some of the comments we received.
“I loved Thea. We share a lot as members of the National Black Sisters Conference. She lived a life full of joy and dedication committed to the Gospel.”
“Thank y'all at FutureChurch for yet another fine presentation. I have seen the film on Sister Thea before but it never gets old for me. She was incredible: vivacious in the fullest sense of the word. We will continue our efforts to get her and the other five officially canonized. The public has already acclaimed her sainthood. Rome must catch up...LOL.”
“Thank you so much for sharing this film. I am originally from Mississippi and know some people I saw in the film. I've been gone from there for 44 years but those are my roots.
What a precious daughter of Mississippi she was. Thanks for introducing her to me!”
It was so good to spend time with our friends on Wednesday evening learning from Sr. Thea how to live and love more fully in Christ. I am grateful for the people who created the documentary and all those who are committed to making her sainthood a reality in the universal Church.
“Is Sr. Thea a saint?” Rev. Maurice Nutt responded to that question most beautifully, “She’s been canonized in my heart since the day she died.”