Progress and prayers: Sister Thea Bowman’s cause update

By Mary Woodward
This past April, Holy Child Jesus Parish in Canton hosted a beautiful memorial celebration for Servant of God Sister Thea Bowman. The celebration is normally held close to Sister Thea’s anniversary of her death on March 30, but this year that fell during Holy Week and Easter liturgies.

In light of this celebration, it is a good time to give an update on Sister Thea’s cause for canonization process. Currently the diocesan phase is underway. The historical commission is delving into the writing of Sister Thea and compiling a highly structured document that will profile her piety and include a biography. This commission meets monthly with our postulator in Rome via Zoom to address any technical questions involved in the research.

The Cause for Sister Thea Bowman continues to advance. After the historial commission’s work is complete it will be sealed and presented to the postulator to deliver to the dicastery. (Photo from archives)

As part of the historical commission’s work, all of Sister Thea’s handwritten notes and outlines must be transcribed into a typed document. This process is being coordinated by the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration’s archives. Dozens of student volunteers are participating in this task.

I have seen Sister Thea’s writing files, and she certainly had a unique way of recording her thoughts. Therefore, this is quite an undertaking to get all this typeset. We are most grateful to the FSPA archivist, Meg Paulino, for tackling this required part of the canonical process.

Two theological experts are reviewing her work for doctrinal surety. This will require an extensive bibliography of her works.

Witness testimonies have been taken and are being transcribed and processed. A few more witnesses will be interviewed sometime later this summer or early fall.

When all is ready, Bishop Joseph Kopacz will lead a special liturgy in which the documents in triplicate, will be sealed and presented to the postulator to deliver to the Dicastery. Once that is completed, the postulator will work with the dicastery to move the cause forward.

At a certain point, once the cause is in Rome, the Holy Father may declare the Servant of God as Venerable – showing heroic virtue. After Venerable, the next step is beatification and in order to be beatified there must be a miracle. Examination of the miracle goes through a similar canonical process as the diocesan phase. If a miracle is proven and accepted, the Servant of God is put on the schedule for an official liturgy of beatification.

The next step would be canonization and that requires a second miracle. That miracle would have to happen after the beatification. All in all, the Roman side of the process takes a long time.

During the Roman Phase, we hope to begin to create local guilds in our diocese and around the region. These guilds will help promote Sister Thea’s cause through prayer for the cause and by hosting various spiritual and educational events designed to raise awareness about the cause.

As for now, we need many prayers for the cause, especially for those involved in working through the fine details of the diocesan phase.

We also can use donations to the cause as it does have several financial costs for travel, translations, experts and administration.

Donations may be made out to the Diocese of Jackson and sent to the Chancellor’s Office, 237 E. Amite Street, Jackson, MS 39201. Make sure you mark the donation for Sister Thea’s Cause.

Or to donate online and learn more about the Servant of God Sister Thea Bowman, FSPA, visit our website at: From this site you also may watch the wonderful documentary on her life “Going Home Like a Shooting Star” and find a link to the cause’s official site with photos and tributes to her.

Presenting a cause for canonization is one of the noblest things a diocese can undertake as an official act of the church. It is exciting to know that over the next several months we are participating in this ancient tradition and moving forward in completing the diocesan phase of this esteemed process.

(Mary Woodward is Chancellor and Archivist for the Diocese of Jackson.)