Play at Dominican shines light on Sister Thea Bowman
On Sister Thea Bowman’s tombstone is the inscription: “She tried.” In my opinion, it should say: “She did.”
The life of this fearless, African-American nun was brought to life recently through the play, “Thea’s Turn,” performed at St. Mary’s Dominican High School.
Mary Donnelly, a former Dominican teacher and alumna, wrote the play and debuted it at our school. I was fortunate enough to be selected as a cast member.
Donnelly and Sister Thea both grew up in Canton, Miss., and her inspiration to write the play came from their shared friendship.
I was unfamiliar with Sister Thea until I read the script. It intrigued me enough to watch a video of Sister Thea’s powerful speech at the U.S. bishops’ annual conference in 1989 that brought me to tears.
My classmate, Jessica Borne, also learned of her life by participating in the play. Through our experiences, both of us learned to always stand up for our beliefs.
“She is an amazing role model,” Borne said. “I especially admire how she fought for her beliefs. She made sure her voice was heard, which impacted the people’s views of unity and African-American culture.”
When I saw the audience’s reaction after the play, I realized that we, the cast, had been performing with Sister Thea beside us every step of the way.
One of her dear friends who attended the play told me, “I wish you could have met Thea – she was all that and then some.”
Sister Thea’s close friend, Franciscan Sister of Perpetual Adoration Dorothy (Dort) Kundinger, who encouraged Donnelly to write the play, also thanked us for the production. It brought great satisfaction to know that I have pleased and served people who knew Sister Thea.
I don’t think there will be another Sister Thea. As she said, “One is plenty,” but everyone should work to keep her spirit alive and work to end racism that is still prevalent in our world.
I agree with Sister Thea when she says the Catholic Church opened many doors for her. She is an inspiration to me, and I will never forget what a rewarding and learning experience it was to be a part of “Thea’s Turn.” In love and hope, let us all join together by faith and continue her mission.
Sister Thea showed what it is to be fearless and to never give up. She motivates me to make a positive difference in my community and the world. Even though Sister Thea died at age 52 in 1990, I believe she lived a full life in terms of doing God’s will. She instilled the values and teachings of the Catholic Church in her life, but not once did she stray from praising the Lord in her unique way, combining African heritage in her faith.
“Sister Thea taught me the importance of being myself and embracing my traditions,” Borne said. “I learned that in order to be a voice for people, I cannot be afraid to speak out against what is wrong. I cannot fear rejection. The play strengthened my views on unity.”
Darian Ganier and Jessica Borne are Dominican students.