Father Joseph D. Bowen, 83, pastor emeritus of Our Lady Help of Christians Parish in Abington, died Nov. 17.
Born in Philadelphia, the son of the late Joseph D. and Mary F. (Devine) Bowen, he was the eldest of six children.
“He was devoted to our family; his brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews,” said his youngest brother, Paul. “He did all of our weddings and baptisms and funerals; he enjoyed being with us. He loved to travel, loved to read, loved the Jersey Shore and had a good sense of humor.”
Father Bowen attended Immaculate Conception (Germantown) and Our Lady of Angels Schools in Philadelphia, Seven Dolors School in Wyndmoor and Roman Catholic High School before entering St. Charles Borromeo Seminary.
“We were at the same table at St. Charles and I enjoyed his company,” said Msgr. James McDonough. “He was always joyful and a good talker.”
Later Msgr. McDonough was assigned to St. Laurence, Upper Darby, where Father Bowen had preceded him. “They really appreciated him there and the pastor would speak of what a hard worker Joe was,” Msgr. McDonough said.
Msgr. Francis Schmidt, another classmate, remembers Father Bowen as “really dedicated to the priesthood, a man who did things through faith and perseverance. He took his relationship with God and his people seriously.”
Ordained May 11, 1957 by Archbishop John F. O’Hara at Immaculate Conception Church, Philadelphia, and his first assignment was as parochial vicar at St. Elizabeth Parish, Pen Argyl. He also served at St. Nicholas, Weatherly; St. Catherine of Siena, Reading; Resurrection of Our Lord, Chester; Epiphany of Our Lord, Plymouth Meeting; St. Albert the Great, Huntingdon Valley; St. Laurence, Upper Darby; Our Lady of Good Counsel, Southampton and St. Anselm, Philadelphia.
He served as chaplain at Archbishop Wood and Archbishop Ryan High Schools.
In 1985 Father Bowen was appointed pastor of St. Michael the Archangel Parish in Levittown and pastor of Our Lady Help of Christians in 1989. He was named pastor emeritus in 2005.
Nancy Moser, a parishioner at Our Lady Help of Christians, recalls Father Bowen as “a much loved pastor, a great administrator, arriving here at OLHC to a parish in great disrepair because of water damage in our church hall and school gym,” she said. “It took him his first several months to restore our gym and convert our church hall from the dungeon-like space it was into a warm and welcoming meeting place for the parishioners and into a school cafeteria. As a social being Father Bowen had a great sense of humor, especially if the joke were on him!
“As a man of charity, his works were often unheralded. I worked as a volunteer at the rectory for many years, and witnessed Father Bowen admit students from the inner city to our parish school, answering the pleas of mothers wanting to get their children off the street. He was welcomed into our homes, and indeed into our hearts,” Moser said.
Father Bowen’s funeral Mass was celebrated by Archbishop Charles J. Chaput at Our Lady Help of Christians Church, Abington on Friday, Nov. 22. Scheduled concelebrants included Msgr. McDonough, Msgrs. Stephen P. McHenry and Daniel J. Sullivan, Father Anthony W. Janton and Msgr. Paul A. DiGirolamo, who was the homilist.
Father Bowen is survived by his sister Rosemary Wachinski his brothers Donald, John and Paul, nieces, nephews, grandnieces and grandnephews.
Interment was at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery, Philadelphia.
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He was a priest’s priest. Wonderful pastor and a good person. A very humorous man. An intricate part of the Duff family, and one of our great friends. We grew up together in Wyndmoor and sailed the seven seas later in life.