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March 22, 2024 – Fr. James M. Bowler, SJ, was born in Holyoke, Mass., on Feb. 28, 1940. He first met the Society of Jesus at Cranwell Prep, in Lenox, Mass., which he attended from 1954 to 1958. Intending to be a diocesan priest, he enrolled at St. John’s Seminary in Boston (1960-62) where he earned a B.A. in philosophy. Realizing it was not his vocation, he transferred to Boston College, and in 1965 applied to the Society of Jesus.

From 1965-67 he lived at Shadowbrook while studying at Boston College. It was here where he earned an M.A. in history, and a Ph.L. in philosophy. He did his regency teaching history at Fairfield Prep (1967-69), following it up with a master’s degree in education from Boston University in 1969-71. After completing his masters, he went on a year’s leave of absence from the Society of Jesus. In 1972, he returned to the Society to begin his studies for the priesthood at Weston School of Theology. Completing the M.Div. requirements, he was ordained a priest by Cardinal Medeiros at St. Ignatius Church in Chestnut Hill, Mass., on June 8, 1974.

Not long after his ordination, he became Director of Province Planning and Director of Secondary Schools for the New England Province (1974-77) and then served as principal of Fairfield College Prep for six years. His tertianship took place at Los Gatos, Calif., followed by a two-year Presidency of Cheverus High School in Portland, Maine. He was assigned to Fordham University to become Assistant Director of the Jesuit Secondary Education Association’s Commission on Research Development (CORD). CORD’s principal mandates from the U.S. provincials were to develop training programs for leaders of Jesuit secondary schools and to help the schools develop curriculum that reflected Jesuits’ concern for faith and justice.

Eventually, Fr. Bowler began to steer his critical attention to the Spiritual Exercises. During the period 1987-92, he was the Director of the Retreat Center at Campion Center in Weston, Mass. After a one-year fellowship at the Center for Research in Faith and Moral Development at the Candler School of Theology, Emory University in Atlanta (1992-93), Fr. Bowler journeyed to Loyola House in Guelph, Ontario. There, for seven years (1993-99) he continued his retreat ministry and established enduring friendships with staff members. At Fairfield University, he was appointed Facilitator of Catholic and Jesuit Mission identity, and in addition was adjunct Professor of Religion in the years 1999-2017. In 2018, he was assigned to St. Peter’s Jesuit Community in Charlotte, N.C., where he became senior priest (2018-20).

In 2021, his age started to catch up with him, and he moved to Campion Center where he combined customary praying for the Church and the Society of Jesus with a busy practice of spiritual direction and religious leadership. By 2024, Fr. Bowler’s declining health forced him to gradually disengage from the spiritual ministry he had pursed so vigorously during his life. Fr. Bowler always had Jesuit admirers and friends, and in his final weeks, a special group of Jesuit friends gathered around him, celebrating Mass in his room and engaging in the fraternal conversation and banter that he always treasured. On March 20, 2024, at the age of 84, Fr. Bowler gave up his spirit to the Lord who he spent his life serving.