Sister Thea, the granddaughter of slaves, was born in Yazoo City, Mississippi on December 29, 1937. Soon after she was born the family moved to Canton, Mississippi.
When very young this child impressed by the “old Folks”, began a spiritual quest that, at age 9, led her to become a Catholic. The next year her parents enrolled her at Holy Child Jesus School staffed by the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration. The life and work of the sisters so impressed her that at 15 she joined them by entering St. Rose Convent, La Crosse, Wisconsin.
After progressing successfully through the formative years of religious life and the academic world, Thea received a doctorate in English literature and linguistics from Catholic University of America. During these years she developed a deep appreciation for her identity as both an African American and a Catholic. As her mission unfolded, she celebrated the gifts of all people and encouraged Black Americans to proudly celebrate their own identity
Blessed with extraordinary talent, she became a poet, a preacher, a master teacher, a vocalist, an evangelist and an African American catalyst. Thea eventually returned to Canton and served as Director of Intercultural Awareness for the Diocese of Jackson. She was particularly successful with children and continued working and teaching in the Diocese even after being seriously impaired by cancer. After regaining a modicum of strength, she was able to travel to distant cities, reviving congregations, both large and small, with her “God-gilded voice sent dancing swaying sashaying into our lives. She Was song. She was the joyous Franciscan always.” One who knew her well referred to Thea as the “springtime in everyone’s life.”
Exhausted by illness and service to others, Sister Thea died in Canton on March 30, 1990