Fairfield University and Fairfield Prep Mourn the Passing of Rev. James M. Bowler, S.J.

Fairfield University and Fairfield Prep Mourn the Passing of Rev. James M. Bowler, S.J.

Rev. James M. Bowler, S.J.

Fr. Bowler served our University and Fairfield Prep community for many years, most recently as the founder and former director of the Murphy Center for Ignatian Spirituality and facilitator for Catholic and Jesuit Mission.

Fairfield University and Fairfield College Preparatory School (Fairfield Prep) mourn the loss of Rev. James M. Bowler, S.J., who passed away on March 20 at the Campion Center in Weston, Mass. He was 84.

Fr. Bowler served the University and Fairfield Prep community for many years, most recently as the founder and former director of our Murphy Center for Ignatian Spirituality and facilitator for Catholic and Jesuit Mission.

“First arriving to campus as a scholastic in 1967, Fr. Bowler went on to make extraordinary contributions to the vitality and spiritual uplift of Fairfield. He was first and foremost always a friend to so many of us—as a spiritual director and advisor to students, faculty, staff and alumni,” said Fairfield University President Mark R. Nemec, PhD. “He will be deeply missed, but his spirit and contribution lives on in the ongoing work of the Murphy Center, and in the hearts and lives of so many of us.”

It was through Fr. Bowler’s vision and under his leadership that the Center for Ignatian Spirituality was founded on our campus in 2014, with a mission to train spiritual directors in the Ignatian tradition, and to provide spiritual direction to members of the campus community and the Diocese of Bridgeport. The Murphy Center, as it is known today,  remains an integral part of our work as a University, serving the entire region.

Prior to his 11-year tenure at the University, Fr. Bowler was a faculty member and administrator at Fairfield Prep. He first served as a scholastic from 1967 to 1970, teaching history and economics, and later as principal. In his leadership role, Fr. Bowler led a reorganization of Fairfield Prep’s administrative structure, instituted its Christian Service program, and implemented the Profile of the Graduate at Graduation (“Grad at Grad”) philosophy, which was adopted by all schools in the Jesuit Schools Network as the foundation for the mission of Jesuit education.

“Fr. Jim Bowler was a force for vibrant change in Fairfield Prep’s Jesuit mission. Serving as our principal and head of school from 1977 to 1983, Fr. Bowler embraced the modern Ignatian spirit through innovative programs and hiring of talented faculty and administrative leaders that would endure to the present,” said Fairfield Prep President Christian Cashman. “Equally important was Jim’s return to Fairfield as a spiritual director and mentor to so many. His legacy of care for the whole person will live on in us at Prep and the Murphy Center for decades to come.”

Born in Holyoke, Mass. on February 28, 1940, Fr. Bowler entered the Society of Jesus on August 14, 1965, at Shadowbrook in Lenox, Mass, and was ordained on June 8, 1974.

In addition to his theological studies as a Jesuit, Fr. Bowler attended three extended institutes at the C.G. Jung Institute in Zurich, Switzerland, in 1984, 1987, and 1993. For more than 20 years, he served in the area of spiritual direction — as director of Campion Renewal Center, executive director of the National Jesuit Retreat and Renewal Ministries, and as a staff member at Loyola House in Guelph, Ontario, where he was responsible for training and supervising spiritual directors in the Ignatian tradition, before returning to Fairfield as facilitator for Faith and Mission in 1999.

He received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Fairfield at the University’s 68th commencement in 2018. In May of that year the Murphy Center established the Rev. James M. Bowler, S.J., Award, which is bestowed upon an individual whose lifetime of service exemplifies the spirit of St. Ignatius of Loyola.

Fr. Bowler’s funeral Mass will be livestreamed and can be viewed here on Tuesday, March 26, 2024 at 10:00 a.m. A memorial Mass will be celebrated at 4 p.m. on Saturday, April 13 at Fairfield University's Egan Chapel of St. Ignatius Loyola, with a reception to follow in the Barone Campus Center Oak Room.

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