Sunday, June 5, 2016

Sr. Thea Bowman, FSPA: "What does it mean to be Black and Catholic?", Faith-filled and Joy-filled!

Sister Thea Bowman FSPA

Published on Mar 2, 2015

In 1989, a year before her death from cancer, the U.S. bishops invited Sr Thea Bowman, to be a key speaker at their conference on Black Catholics. In her prophetic call for the members of the Church to be "fully-functioning", "holistic", and "Spirit-filled", Sr. Thea is a pioneer of what would later emerge the evangelical movement in the Catholic Church.

"What does it mean to be black and Catholic? It means that I come to my Church fully functioning. That doesn’t frighten you, dudes, does it? I come to my Church fully functioning. I bring myself, my black self, all that I am, all that I have, all that I hope to become, I bring my whole history, my traditions, my experience, my culture, my African-American song and dance and gesture and movement and teaching and preaching and healing and responsibility as gift to the Church.

I bring a spirituality that our black American bishops told us — they just told us what everybody who knew, knew: that spirituality is contemplative and biblical and holistic, bringing to religion a totality of minds and imagination, of memory, of feeling and passion and emotion and intensity, of faith that is embodied, incarnate praise, a spirituality that knows how to find joy even in the time of sorrow, that steps out on faith, that leans on the Lord, a spirituality that is communal, that tries to walk and talk and work and pray and play together — even with the bishops.

You know, when our bishop is around, we want him to be where we can find him, where we can reach out and touch him, where we can talk to him. Don’t be too busy, y’all.

A spirituality that in the middle of your Mass or in the middle of your sermon just might have to shout out and say, “Amen, Hallelujah, thank you Jesus!” A faith that attempts to be Spirit-filled. The old ladies say that, “If you love the Lord your God with your whole heart, then your whole soul and your whole mind and all your strength, then you praise the Lord with your whole heart and soul and mind and strength and you don’t bring him any feeble service.”

If you get enough fully functioning black Catholics in your diocese, they are going to hold up the priest and they are going to hold up the bishop. We love our bishops, you-all. We love y’all, too. But see, these bishops are our own, ordained for the Church Universal, ordained for the service of God’s people, but they are ours; we raised them, they came from our community and in a unique way they can speak for us and to us.

And that’s what the Church is talking about. Indigenous leadership. The leaders are supposed to look like their folks, ain’t that what the Church says?

To be black and Catholic means to realize that the work of the ordained ministers (priests and bishops) is not a threat to me and I’m no threat to that. The work of the ordained minister, of the professional minister, is to enable the people of God to do the work of the Church. To feed us sacramentally, to enable us to preach and to teach, and I ain’t necessarily talking about preaching in the pulpit.

You know as well as I do that some of the best preaching does not go on in the pulpit, but as a Catholic Christian I have a responsibility to preach and to teach, to worship and to pray. Black folks can’t just come into Church and depend on the preacher and say, “Let Father do it.” And if Father doesn’t do it right, then they walk out and they complain, you know, “That Liturgy didn’t do anything for me.“

The question that we raise is, “What did you do for the Liturgy?” And the Church is calling us to be participatory and to be involved. The Church is calling us to feed and to clothe and to shelter and to teach. Your job is to enable me, to enable God’s people, black people, white people, brown people, all the people, to do the work of the Church in the modern world."

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