A Prophetic Spirit

Sister Thea Bowman


The plaza between Copley Library and the Learning Commons will henceforth be known as Sister Thea Bowman Plaza. The plaza was formally named in honor of Bowman during a naming ceremony held in the Learning Commons Town Square in November. 

Bowman (pictured), a member of the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, was a prominent Black Catholic teacher, musician, liturgist and scholar who made major contributions to the Catholic Church on behalf of African Americans. During her life, she challenged the church to accept her as fully Black and fully Catholic.

The naming ceremony featured several speakers and was emceed by Kaia Morrison, a fourth-year computer science major and president of the USD Black Student Union. 

“I can’t think of any other word to say about her story than ‘amazing,’” said Morrison. “The work that she did within her own community and the advocacy that she had within the Catholic church throughout her life was absolutely amazing.”

Bowman called for reconciliation and full inclusion of African Americans within the Catholic Church, said Rev. Michele Watkins, PhD, assistant professor of Theology and Religious Studies. 

“Sister Thea Bowman was a prophetic spirit — she walked as a companion with Christ. She was a freedom fighter,” said Watkins. 

Sister Bowman was the best kind of teacher — one who teaches out of love for her students, meets them where they’re at, and pushes them to grow, said Professor of Theology and Religious Studies Karen Teel, PhD. 

“She saw the Church with total clarity, both as it was, and as it should be. She related to everyone she met as though they already were what we should be — even though she was constantly reminding us of how much further we still needed to go,” said Teel. “I think that’s a really beautiful vision for our community here at USD, to see things as they are, to love the people in front of us right now and to joyfully move forward together building our churches, communities and world as we know they should be — as Sister Thea saw them.” 

Bowman is one of six Black saints-in-waiting in the United States.

“Having her name on this plaza, a place where students and faculty will know that they are gathering in her name, will keep her life, her legacy, her inspiration alive for generations to come,” said Vice President of Mission Integration Michael Lovette-Colyer.

The naming of the plaza was first announced by USD President James T. Harris III, DEd, during the 2022 Black Catholic Theological Symposium held on campus in October. Bowman was a member of the organization and was present at the first symposium in Baltimore in 1978. “When I made the announcement, I don’t think I’ve heard such a joyful response in my career — there were tears of joy that we were going to make this step as a university,” recalled Harris, while speaking at the naming ceremony. “It’s such a beautiful and peaceful gathering place. This is a day we will all remember.”Matthew Piechalak

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *