Bishop Joseph Oliver Bowers, SVD
Dominica-born Bishop Emeritus Joseph Oliver Bowers, the fourth oldest Catholic bishop in the world and the oldest Caribbean bishop, died last Tuesday, November 6 at the age of 102 years in Ghana, Africa.
According to the Ghanian news website, myjoyonline.com, Fr Francis Adoboli, Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Accra, Ghana said Bishop Bowers died at Agomanya, east Ghana, where he resided.
News of Bishop Bowers’ death has been reported not only in Ghana but in Dominica and Antigua. The dominicanewsonline website has reported the Catholic community is in mourning at his death. News of the funeral arrangements came from Fr Pierre Tevi-Benissan, Vicar General of the St John’s-Basseterre diocese.
Archbishop Charles Palmer-Buckle of Accra was to preside at the funeral Mass expected to be held Friday, November 9, at the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit in Accra. Bishops attending the Catholic Bishops Conference in Koforidua visited him
A vigil Mass was to be held the day before. Bishop Bowers was to be laid in a crypt at the cathedral.
Bishop Bowers was born March 28, 1910 in Massacre, Dominica the son of Antigua-born Sheriff Montague Bowers – head teacher at the nearby primary school and the St Ann’s Church organist - and his wife Mary, a young Joseph completed secondary education at the Dominica Grammar School, then went to the United States to study for the priesthood, joining the Society of the Divine Word, a Catholic missionary congregation.
He was ordained January 22, 1939 and initially served in the Mississippi area from 1939 to 1952. He was then posted to Ghana, then known as the Gold Coast. Fr Bowers
was made auxiliary bishop of Ghana, and titular bishop of Cyparissia. On January 13, 1953 he was transferred to Accra, Ghana’s capital, as its new bishop. In 1957, he founded the congregation of the Sisters of the Handmaids of the Divine Redeemer (HDR) in Accra. During his tenure, he increased the number of Catholic priests and religious laity in the diocese, and also the number of parishes; the Catholic population almost tripled. He remained bishop of Accra until 1971.
When the diocese of St John’s-Basseterre (Antigua-Barbuda, St Kitts-Nevis, Montserrat, Anguilla and the British Virgin Islands) was created Bishop Bowers was appointed its first bishop.
On July 17, 1981, Bishop Bowers retired and returned to his homeland. He lived in the town of Mahaut, Dominica in the care of his sister, Blossom Ann Reid. He later returned to Agomanya to be cared for by the HDR Sisters.