This interview is part of the Black Catholic Oral History Project.

Sr. Jamie Phelps, O.P., Ph. D., is one of the most significant shapers of and contributors to Black Catholic Theology. A charter member of two seminal organizations for the field, The Institute for Black Catholic Studies (IBCS) and the Black Catholic Theological Symposium (BCTS), her tenacity and passion helped pave the way for Black Catholic studies.

At the IBCS, she served as Director and as Katherine Drexel Professor of Systematic Theology for eight years. After the first two meetings of the BCTS in 1978 and 1980, the organization became inactive for more than a decade. It was Sr. Jamie, along with Dr. Shawn Copeland, who reinvigorated it in 1991, serving as convenor and associate convenor, respectively, for the next decade. Sr. Jamie’s work with the IBCS and the BCTS created space both to educate and support pastoral ministers in Black Catholic history and spirituality, and to foster scholars of Black Catholic theology, providing regular forums to convene, share ideas and ultimately publish their work. Her books Black and Catholic: The Challenge and Gift of Black Folk and Stamped in the Image of God are foundational to the field. Additionally, Sr. Jamie has published more than fifty articles and chapters that have appeared in some of the most prominent scholarly books and journals in the field, and she has taught and lectured extensively. For her incredible contributions, she has been recognized by the Catholic Theological Society of America and Cambridge’s Who’s Who for demonstrating dedication, leadership, and excellence in Religious Studies. She was also awarded an honorary doctoral degree from Aquinas Institute in 2016.

On a hot July day in 2011 at the IBCS in New Orleans, the four of us — Kimberly Flint-Hamilton, Cecilia Moore, Steve Hamilton, and Sr. Jamie — had the pleasure of sitting down to talk about Sr. Jamie’s life and contributions. She focused on family, education, and vocation. Though we were interrupted by a fire alarm not quite halfway into our conversation, we still had a delightful conversation filled with fond memories and laughter. A decade later, we had a follow-up conversation with her, and you can read about it here.


In 2023, all issues of the Journal of the Black Catholic Theological Symposium became available electronically on this site with the permission of the original publisher, Fortuity Press/Hamilton Publishing. All articles now carry the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-NoDerivatives License (CC-BY-NC-ND).