May 03, 2022
Mayor Muriel Bowser, Provost Aaron Dominguez, Cardinal Wilton Gregory, and some members of the university community pose with the street sign for Thea Bowman drive

On Friday, April 29, Cardinal Wilton D. Gregory, archbishop of Washington and chancellor of The Catholic University of America, and Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser unveiled a sign for the University’s newly named Thea Bowman Drive. The dedication ceremony, which further demonstrated the University’s commitment to racial solidarity, was attended by University leadership and students, clergy and religious, city officials, and fifth-grade students from St. Anthony Catholic School, as well as numerous media outlets. 

Sr. Thea Bowman, FSPA, the nationally renowned champion for social justice and interracial solidarity is an alumna of the University - she received an M.A. in 1969 and a Ph.D. in 1972 - and the inspiration for the University’s response to addressing racism, the Sr. Thea Bowman Committee.

Addressing an overflow crowd gathered just north of the Columbus School of Law, Kelly Woodson, graduating senior, discussed the significance of naming a street, whose purpose is to identify and locate property, after Sr. Thea. 

She noted that Black people once were seen as property, “as a piece of something or anything,” and said that “Sr. Thea Bowman, being a Black woman who was such an astounding figure in the Black Catholic community, fosters this notion that we shall never be seen as a thing but the image and likeness of God’s love.”

The descendant of slaves, Sr. Thea became Catholic and then a religious sister. She taught at the elementary, secondary and university level, and advocated nationally for interreligious solidarity and promoted the gifts of Black Catholics within the Church. She is currently a candidate for sainthood.

Professor Regina Jefferson, chair of the Sr. Thea Bowman Committee, said, “We hope that Sister Thea Bowman Drive will serve not only as a visible tribute to Sr. Thea but also as a constant reminder to each of us to ‘light a candle’ and work together to make positive and meaningful change in our lives, our communities and the world.”

“Racism isn’t wrong just because parts of the current culture tell us it is; it’s wrong because God Himself made us all in His image and likeness and racism therefore goes against the very fabric of creation,” Provost Aaron Dominguez told those gathered for the dedication.

University-City Partnership

Before unveiling the Thea Bowman Drive sign with Cardinal Wilton D. Gregory, Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said, “I am heartened to hear about the work that is happening right here at The Catholic University. Catholic plays an important role in our city.” 

The city recently selected the University - one of only three chosen citywide - as its partner for a new scholarship program, DC Futures, that provides significant financial support for city residents to obtain a higher education degree in high demand fields. 

Sr. Thea’s Religious Community: Move with Love and Joy

The dedication ended with a blessing by Cardinal Gregory and a message from Sr. Thea’s religious community, the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration. Read by Elvira Wise Smith, B.A. 1973, the letter read in part, “We are inspired by The Catholic University of America’s efforts to not only keep Thea’s legacy alive, but to declare that ‘we are one human family, united in our humanity and enriched by our diversity.’

“Your commitment to providing fair access, opportunity and advancement for all members of your community is cause for celebration. Your commitment to eliminating barriers that may have prevented the full participation of some individuals or groups is cause for celebration…

“Our hope for your university—its students and faculty—is that when you move along Sister Thea Bowman Drive, you move with love and joy. As Sister Thea said, ‘...any way that I can share love and joy with you will help you to share love and joy with other people.’

“We are one human family. May the love and joy you bring here today by dedicating this street to Sister Thea spread to the next street and the next street and the next. May the blessing of the Lord be upon you and all who journey on this road and the path to justice.”

Watch the dedication video here from the Archdiocese of Washington.