History of the Foundation
For more than 28 years, the Sister Thea Bowman Foundation has placed and graduated students in Catholic higher education at partner institutions across the country. While we are a national foundation, the efforts of the Foundation have been centered in and around Pennsylvania with Pittsburgh being our home. Within the last year, however, our ministry has begun to embrace young African-Americans living in and around Chicago. With the help of Fr. Dennis Holtschneider, CM, President of DePaul University, and many other individuals, the Foundation now finds itself with a second home. Presently, we have one student at Loyola University of Chicago and another student beginning her studies at DePaul University in January. Yet another student living in Chicago has decided to attend Duquesne University in Pittsburgh.
The Foundation is focused upon the intellectual formation of its students and their spiritual formation. To strengthen the latter, we are beginning a Catholic African-American spiritual formation program in January 2017 under the guidance of Teri and Andrew Lyke, two prominent Catholic teachers and authors who knew Sr. Thea. Their focus will center on helping our students discern their vocation through marriage by teaching them about relationships, love, commitment, and the beauty of matrimony. Those who learn from them develop a new understanding of self and the gift of self as it is applied to marriage. This was something important to Sister Thea Bowman, who taught me this lesson many years ago.
In the summer of 1984, Sr. Thea and I discussed the mission and ministry of a Foundation that would bear her name and carry forward her legacy. Sr. Thea was not only a brilliant woman, but also a woman of wisdom, which was expressed clearly in the mission she envisioned for the students who would be served by the Foundation. She articulated this mission simply, yet profoundly in these words to me, and in her wisdom she expressed to me her thesis of mission for our students: “Walk with us. Don’t walk behind us and don’t walk in front of us; walk with us.”
Her words inspired me to reflect deeply on the beauty, on the genius and on the culture of each African- American young person we are asked to inspire. It called for a deep understanding of each student with the development of an attitude to listen. With every passing day it is my hope that all of us working within this Foundation will always make an attempt to take each student where they are and to listen to them so that we can walk with them and understand their God-given genius.
-From the desk of Mary Lou Jennings, Executive Director, Sister Thea Bowman Foundation.