The Daughters of St Paul are re-releasing two albums sung by Sister Thea Bowman, FSPA. Songs of My People: The Complete Collection is being made digitally available to a new generation.
Fr Maurice Nutt, C.Ss.R., who was Sr Thea's student and "spiritual son" and who is working for the advancement of Thea's cause for canonization in the diocese of Jackson, Mississippi, likes to think of it as a revival.
"Sr Thea preached the good news of a Church revived, and with the release of her albums at a time in which everyone is struggling to achieve racial justice and harmony, Sister Thea's voice is a powerful message."
The re-release was intended to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Sister Thea's death. Because of Covid-19 the project was delayed and the music is available now on iTunes, Amazon Music and Google Play.
Sr Anne Joan reflected, "It is as if Sister Thea wants her voice to speak to the hearts of people in these difficult times of unrest, which would never have happened if the album had come out before March."
It was early 1988 when the Daughters of St. Paul first reached out to Sister Thea Bowman. The Franciscan sister, a nationally recognized advocate for Black Catholic culture, was addressing a conference of religious sisters in Boston. The Pauline sisters had just established a professional-level recording studio at their motherhouse in that city. Bowman, weakened by the cancer that had been diagnosed five years earlier, listened from her hotel room bed as two Daughters of St. Paul proposed creating an album to make the sacred spirituals available across cultures.
“When I was a child my people sang the songs of faith. The songs of faith were passed on, taught, learned, and prayed in an environment of love and celebration. Sharing the songs of faith bonded us in family and church. Sharing the songs brought hope and consolation and joy.”
Born in Canton, Mississippi, the granddaughter of slaves, the Servant of God, Sister Thea Bowman, FSPA (1937-1990) inspired millions through the gift of Black sacred song, delivered in an unforgettable mezzo-soprano. She witnessed to Jesus with her loving attentiveness to each person she was with, and sought racial justice and racial harmony by promoting cultural awareness and the sharing of cultural gifts in the Church and beyond.
Listen to Songs of My People by Sr Thea Bowman
Sister Thea’s cause for canonization was begun in 2018 and she is now a Servant of God. For her, singing was never just about music. “It’s the whole spirituality, the whole prayer life that the music expresses. It’s culture, Church, ways of thinking and perceiving, hearing, seeing and feeling, ways of walking, talking, working, playing, praying, sitting, standing, even sleeping, celebrating, ways of living and laughing and being and giving that are culturally linked.”
After thirty years, with this release of Songs of My People made digitally available, Sister Thea’s voice and soul is back and speaks to us at a time when we most need to hear the message of this apostle of love.
I remember when Sr Thea came to our studios to record in the late 80s, but it is when I listened to her music this past week that I felt the magic and the healing of the love that fills her renditions of the Spirituals that had been sung by her ancestors as they worked, prayed, suffered, and loved in Mississippi. They aren't just songs to her. Thea's music is the way she helps us experience God's love for all of us. It was a lesson she learned from her mother in the segregated South and that gift still touches hearts in her music today. Fr. Maurice said that if Thea were alive today she would be everywhere, praying with people, speaking with people, encouraging us to love one another.
“The gift that has been given to me is the gift I share with you.”
The keyboard is played by Leon C. Roberts (†1999), music director of St Augustine’s Church in Washington D.C., and she is accompanied by hand-picked vocalists from New Orleans, the District of Columbia, and Cincinnati.
Old Time Religion – Dem Bones – Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Chile – Jonah – Go Down Moses – O Mary, Don’t You Weep – Deep River – Joshua Fit De Battle of Jericho – Lit’le David – Po’ Li’l Jesus – De Blin’ Man Stood on De Road An’ Cried – Jesus Met the Woman at the Well – Were You There? – Done Made My Vow to the Lord – Go Where I Send Thee
Go Tell it On the Mountain – Mary Had a Baby – Oh, Po’ Little Jesus – Round the Glory Manger – What a Wonderful Child – Rise Up Shepherd An’ Follow – What You Gonna Call That Pretty Little Baby? – Rockin’ – Last Month of the Year – De Virgin Mary Had a Baby Boy
Number of Discs: 2
Total Length: 1:30:38
Sr Kathryn J. Hermes, FSP
Interview with Fr Maurice Nutt, C.Ss.R., who is promoting the cause for Sr Thea's canonization in the diocese of Jackson, Mississippi