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March 12, 2003


LA CROSSE, Wis.— Author and famed artist Michael O’Neill McGrath will honor the late Thea Bowman, FSPA in talk during "An Evening with Thea," part of the third annual "Flavor of Soul" commemoration, at Viterbo University on Wednesday, April 2.

Held at 7 p.m. in the Fine Arts Center Main Theatre, the event celebrates what would have been the 65th year of Sr. Thea—a scholar, teacher, singer, and storyteller who was the granddaughter of a slave. McGrath, who never knew Thea, cites her as the inspiration behind his artistic career, which started with a series of Thea portraits. During the evening, he will present a slide show about Thea’s life and his artwork. Spirited gospel music by the Viterbo Concert Choir, under the direction of Viterbo’s Dan Johnson-Wilmot, will be interspersed throughout the talk. A book-signing and art-signing session will follow.

An Oblate of St. Francis deSales, Michael "Mickey" McGrath lives in Washington, DC, and creates art for churches and other groups nationwide. He has written and illustrated articles for publication and is the author of "Journey with Therese of Lisieux: Celebrating the Artist in Us All," the three-volume series on patron saints, and more. A national speaker, McGrath frequently lectures on the healing power of art. For 13 years he has taught at the Grunewald Guild in Leavenworth, Washington and was co-director there in the summer of 2002. He has been featured in USA Today, America Magazine, and St. Anthony Messenger.

A free will offering will be accepted at the door and will be applied to a Thea Bowman Scholarship fund at Viterbo University.

In conjunction with the event, a "Flavor of Soul" lunch will be held on campus in the Marian Hall Dining Room earlier that day. Featuring a Southern cuisine, the "Flavor of Soul" lunch will be served from 11 a.m.-1:15 p.m. and include praline chicken, baked cornmeal catfish, sweet potato fries, collard greens, pecan pie, and much more. Tickets are $6.25 per person and must be purchased by March 28.

For more information on the artwork of McGrath, explore his Web site at information on ordering tickets for the luncheon, contact Beth Erickson, Viterbo University, 608-796-3042.

Who was Sr. Thea?
Born Bertha Bowman, Sister Thea was a native of Canton, Miss. and the granddaughter of a slave. At age 9, she chose to become Catholic and attended a new mission school taught by the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration. At 15, she went to La Crosse to become a Franciscan Sister. Sister Thea is known for helping bring the richness of black culture and spirituality, as well as the message of community and equality to the Catholic Church and to the world. A scholar, teacher, singer, poet, storyteller, preacher, and performer, Thea traveled the country, spreading her message in hundreds of venues. She developed breast cancer at 46, but continued her public appearances—choosing, as she said, "to live until I die." She died in 1990 at 52.

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