Mission & Vision

Mission Statement

Centering our lives in Jesus Christ, the Sister Thea Bowman Society works towards racial solidarity to bring God’s reign amongst all peoples.

“While just about everything can be about race, almost nothing is completely about race.” – Ijeoma Oluo, So You Want to Talk About Race, p.21

Vision

  • Inspired by the witness of Sister Thea Bowman, we carry on her joyful, determined, and hopeful ministry.
  • We are ambassadors of solidarity and channels of prophetic imagination in our efforts at anti-racism.
  • We build mutual respect and shared responsibility while valuing and celebrating the diversity of gifts evident in persons from a variety of ethnicities, cultures, and backgrounds.
  • We cultivate an inclusive community of disciples where relationships are characterized by love and equity.
  • Recognizing our fundamental interdependence, we seek collaborative relationships among Catholic parishes, faith traditions, and organizations.
  • Our work operates out of a framework of intersectionality.  Racism is a complex reality, relating to many other critical issues facing contemporary society (poverty, sexism, violence, criminal justice, sexuality, healthcare, disability, education, ageism, immigration, etc.).

“…if we do stay together, if we walk and talk, work and play. and stand together in Jesus’ name, we’ll be who we say we are, truly Catholic; and we shall overcome – overcome the poverty, overcome the loneliness, overcome the alienation, and build together a holy city, a new Jerusalem, a city set apart where they’ll know we are his because we love one another.” – Sister Thea Bowman, 1989 address to the U.S. Catholic Bishops

Essential Terms Related to our Mission

Anti-Racism

Actions challenging the policies, behaviors, and beliefs that perpetuate racist ideas and actions. – Imbram Kendi, How to be an Anti-racist

Prophetic Imagination

…calls us to be Gospel-inspired persons who lead the way to the development of an alternative vision of life by imagining a new normal in which justice and equity, peace, and community are the norm rather than the struggle. – Sister Joan Chittister, The Time is Now: The Call to Uncommon Courage

Intersectionality

…is “the interconnected nature of social categorizations such as race, class, and gender, regarded as creating overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage.” – The Oxford Dictionary

Racism

…arises when – either consciously or unconsciously – a person holds that his or her own race or ethnicity is superior, and therefore judges persons of other races or ethnicities as inferior and unworthy of equal regard.  When this conviction or attitude leads individuals or groups to exclude, ridicule, mistreat, or unjustly discriminate against persons on the basis of their race or ethnicity, it is sinful.  Racist acts are sinful because they violate justice.  They reveal a failure to acknowledge the human dignity of the persons offended, to recognize them as the neighbors Christ calls us to love (Matthew 22:29). – USCCB, Open Wide Our Hearts

Solidarity

is a firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good. That is to say to the good of all and of each individual, because we are all really responsible for all…(It) is found in a commitment to the good of one’s neighbor with the readiness, in the Gospel sense, to “lose oneself” for the sake of the “other” instead of exploiting (her or) him, and to “serve (her or) him” instead of oppressing (her or) him for one’s own advantage. – Compendium of Catholic Doctrine of the Church, #193

The Sister Thea Bowman Society for Racial Solidarity

Following the murders of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd and unrest during the summer of 2020, members and some staff at Saint Agnes began meeting to discuss how to begin having conversations and promote awareness of the issues of racism within our church and community.  From this came bi-weekly resources to the community on various topics ranging from racism in our church, the topic of racial solidarity, and individual reflections from members of the community.  Additionally, an Advent resource featuring reflections from parish members, school students and staff, and parish staff was created and distributed as well.  After months of planning and discussion, a formalization of this group took place with the agreement of a name:

The Sister Thea Bowman Society for Racial Solidarity

Through discussions and prayer, two pieces continued coming up.  First, there was a desire for the name and mission to focus on the goal of Racial Solidarity.  From the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, solidarity is seen as:

Solidarity highlights in a particular way the intrinsic social nature of the human person, the equality of all in dignity and rights, and the common path of individuals and peoples towards an ever more committed unity.

Second, the idea of choosing a patron figure to serve as the inspiration for the mission moving forward came up.  On this, the group chose Sister Thea Bowman, a prominent figure in lifting up the importance of African American Catholics and the gifts they bring to the Church.  It is our hope that Saint Agnes is only one of numerous chapters striving to build solidarity with our black brothers and sisters in our church and community.

This page will serve as a hub for resources put forward from the Saint Agnes chapter.  Here you can learn more about our patron, Sister Thea Bowman, as well as access the multiple other resources being put out to the parish.

Contact Us

Do you have a question about our mission?  Would you like to recommend a resource?  Are you interested in joining?  Please click here to contact us.

Born December 29, 1937, in Yazoo City, Mississippi, Thea was reared as a Protestant until at age nine when she asked her parents if she could become a Catholic.

Gifted with a brilliant mind, beautiful voice and a dynamic personality, Sister Thea shared the message of God’s love through a teaching career. After 16 years of teaching, at the elementary, secondary and university level, the bishop of Jackson, Mississippi, invited her to become the consultant for intercultural awareness.

In her role as consultant Sister Thea, an African American, gave presentations across the country; lively gatherings that combined singing, gospel preaching, prayer and storytelling. Her programs were directed to break down racial and cultural barriers. She encouraged people to communicate with one another so that they could understand other cultures and races.

In 1984, Sr. Thea was diagnosed with breast cancer. She prayed “to live until I die.” Her prayer was answered, and Thea continued her gatherings seated in a wheelchair. In 1989, the U.S. bishops invited her to be a key speaker at their conference on Black Catholics. At the end of the meeting, at Thea’s invitation, the bishops stood and sang “We Shall Overcome” with gusto.

Thea lived a full life. She fought evil, especially prejudice, suspicion, hatred and things that drive people apart. She fought for God and God’s people until her death in 1990.

Taken from the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration here.

Archdiocesan/USCCB Resources

Resource Link
Walking in My Shoes: Challenge to Eradicate Racism (Contains pages of many resources) https://www.archlou.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/Walking-in-My-Shoes-Challenge-to-Eradicate-Racism.pdf

Podcasts

Podcast Title Link
Commonweal Magazine – A Response to Racism w/ Fr. Bryan Massingale, SJ https://www.commonwealmagazine.org/podcast/response-racism
The Reckoning https://reckoningradio.org/

Parish Reflections

Reflection Title Link
Deacon Ned Berghausen – A Reflection on Kentucky Catholicism and the Sins of Slavery & Racism http://bit.ly/SrTBSReflectiononKY
Will Ousley – Having the Uncomfortable Conversations http://bit.ly/SrTBSUncomfortableConversations
Racial Justice Advent Reflection Book http://bit.ly/SrTBSAdventReflectionBook

Documentaries

Documentary Title Link
KET – Facing an Uncomfortable Truth https://www.ket.org/program/facing-an-uncomfortable-truth/

Articles

Article Headline Link
Archbishop Lori – How church teaching can help explain why ‘Black Lives Matter’ https://www.americamagazine.org/faith/2020/07/27/archbishop-lori-how-church-teaching-can-help-explain-why-black-lives-matter
Br. Ken Homan, S.J. – Four Ways for White People to Challenge White Apathy https://ignatiansolidarity.net/blog/2020/06/01/white-people-challenge-white-apathy/
Dr. Aisha White – What is Race? Having the Conversation With Young Children https://www.pbs.org/parents/thrive/what-is-race-having-the-conversation-with-young-children
Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church – The Principle of Solidarity http://bit.ly/CatholicSolidarity
  • “Who Is Sister Thea Bowman?” – On Sunday, November 7th, you are invited to learn a little more about Sister Thea Bowman at an event taking place in the Parish Center from 5:00 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. You will get the chance to hear her inspiring message to the bishops at their conference in 1989. Light refreshments will be served.

The Record (Archdiocese of Louisville): Reflection on racism takes shape at parish –  https://therecordnewspaper.org/reflection-on-racism-takes-shape-at-parish/