By Joanna Puddister King
JACKSON – Family, friends and supporters gathered on Saturday, May 14 at the Cathedral of St. Peter the Apostle in Jackson for the priestly ordination of Andrew Bowden, who set his sights on the priesthood from the time he was a kindergartener.
Father Bowden was the first seminarian welcomed into the program by Bishop Joseph Kopacz in 2014, after Bowden graduated from high school.
Bishop Kopacz said that eight years ago “seems like a lifetime age,” something that vocation director Father Nick Adam concurred with.
In 2014, Father Nick was still in seminary formation when Bowden was accepted to the program.
“It’s great to see the growth … from 18-years-old to now 26, but also the growth in his identity as a future priest of the church,” said Father Nick.
At the joyful celebration, Bishop Kopacz was joined by many other priests in the diocese, seminarians and Father James Wehner, STD, rector of Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans.
Bishop Kopacz gave special acknowledgement to Father Wehner, who is leaving his position as rector after a 10 year “tour of duty,” returning to his home diocese of Pittsburg.
Wehner was a huge part in the lives of our recent generation of priests in the diocese. Bishop Kopacz acknowledged, while running through the lists of “characters” that have entered the priesthood under Father Wehner’s tenure.“Twelve seems to be the number … we have truly been blessed in our diocese,” said Bishop Kopacz.
The Solemn Mass of Ordination featured the election of the candidate with Father Nick Adam proclaiming Bowden’s worthiness; the promise of the elect, where Bowden agreed to live his priesthood in the imitation of Christ; the litany of supplication, where Bowden laid prostrate on the floor while those at the church prayed for the saints protection; the laying on of hands by brother priests; the prayer of ordination over Bowden by Bishop Kopacz; vestition by Father Matthew Simmons; the anointing of hands with sacred oil; presentation of the chalice and paten as symbols of the priestly office; and the fraternal kiss, where the Bishop and all brother priests present exchange a sign of peace.
In his homily, Bishop Kopacz spoke on the tradition of the priesthood over 2000 years.
“We go from Jerusalem to Jackson. Same work; same faith; same Holy Word of God; and this great gift of the Lord’s presence in our midst.”
At the end of the liturgy, Bishop Kopacz thanked everyone who helped prepare for the ordination and all in attendance for the celebration, mentioning the upcoming ordination of Carlisle Beggerly to the transitional diaconate on June 4 at his home parish of Immaculate Conception in West Point.
After Mass, many in attendance traveled a few blocks from the Cathedral to the Two Mississippi Museums for a reception honoring Father Bowden and to receive first priestly blessings.
The day after Father Bowden’s ordination, he celebrated his Mass of Thanksgiving at his home parish of St. Jude Pearl, with his family, friends and fellow parishioners, who supported him during his journey to the priesthood.
For the Mass, Father Bowden invited Father Nick, as his vocation director to give the homily. Speaking directly to Father Bowden, Father Nick told him that he had been waiting for this day a long time.
“But, probably not as long as you,” joked Father Nick.
“As your vocation director, it has been a joy to see you being formed into a man who is going to be a fantastic priest.”
Most striking about Father Bowden’s ordination was the number of young people who came to show their support, noted Father Nick.
“That is a testament to the spiritual fatherhood that you have already taken on,” said Father Nick to Bowden during his homily.
At the end of the Mass, the newly ordained Father Bowden did his best to recall all to thank for their support of him and his journey to the priesthood.
“St. Jude is a place where I first started to learn to love the church, so it’s very special for me to come back and … celebrate this Mass,” said Father Bowden.
“I could not have gotten here with out all of you and your prayers and support for me.”
Father Bowden was appointed parochial vicar of St. Richard Jackson by Bishop Kopacz. He will begin his ministry at the parish on June 1.