Bishop Bowers

The Catholic community in Dominica is now in mourning following the passing of Bishop Joseph Oliver Bowers.

He died on Monday in Accra, Ghana at the age of 102.

Bishop Bowers is from humble beginnings. He was born in Massacre, on March 28, 1910 to Sheriff Montague Bowers (originally from Antigua) and his wife Mary Bowers.

He went to the Dominica Grammar School before he moved to the United States to attend St. Augustine Seminary, in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi where he studied for the priesthood.

He was ordained a priest on January 22, 1939 and bishop in 1953. He was  the first black person in the United States to be ordained bishop. After ordination he went to Ghana where he did most of his ministry.

Bishop Bowers founded the congregation of the Sisters of the Handmaids of the Divine Redeemer (HDR) in Accra in 1957, which was dedicated to caring and comforting the poor. He also started a school, which is named after him to this day.

He is also the founder of St John College and Seminary presently known as Pope John Senior High School and Minor Seminary, one of the best high schools in Ghana.

In recognition and acknowledgement of his pioneering work in Ghana, when the diocese of St. John’s-Basseterre in the West Indies was created in 1971 – comprising the islands of Antigua-Barbuda, St. Kitts and Nevis, Montserrat, Anguilla and the British Virgin Islands – Bowers was appointed its first bishop on January 16, 1971, becoming the chief pastor in Antigua.

On July 17, 1981, he retired and after spending some time in Charlestown, Nevis, returned to Dominica, where he lived in Mahaut in the care of his sister, Blossom Ann Reid.

In the 1990’s the HDR Sisters, some of whom had periodically visited him in Dominica, invited him back to Ghana where he lived with them until he died on Monday.