by Joe Bollig
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — When Deacon Larry Bowers first told some of his closest friends that he thought he should become a priest, they weren’t surprised.
They’d seen it coming a long time before he did.
Deacon Bowers grew up with two older sisters in a devout Catholic family.
“When I was really little, we used to pray the rosary in the morning,” he said. “We always went to Mass on Sunday.”
They attended Sacred Heart Parish in Delia, which was only six miles to the south, until the parish became a stational church. Then, the family attended other nearby parishes, but mostly St. Stanislaus in Rossville.
“I served Mass [at Delia] for several years,” said Deacon Bowers. “I went to a little grade school in Delia, and sometimes the pastor would get us out of school to serve a funeral Mass.”
He had no inkling that the priesthood was in his future until he went to Kansas State University in 1994.
“I was helping out with the RCIA program at the St. Isidore Catholic Campus Center at K-State,” he said. “One night, the priest talked about the priesthood. I’ve always known about it, but I realized that night that I never considered it for myself.”
After graduation, he worked for three years in computer engineering in Manufacturing Learning Center, part of the department of advanced manufacturing in the School of Engineering at Kansas State.
He thought he was on the “settle down, get married and have kids, buy a house” track.
“I found what I really liked about my job was working with people,” he said.
“At that time, the priest at the student center called me to say he was advertising for a campus ministry position. So I applied and went to work in full-time student ministry.”
Working at the campus center was a way for him to test whether ministry in a religious context would be fulfilling, and whether he could relate to people.
“When I took that job, more and more people saw that [the priesthood] was where I was heading,” he said. “They didn’t say right away but, when I told people I was seriously thinking of [the] seminary or joining a religious community, a lot of people said they weren’t surprised.
“What I finally decided was that I was at the point where I had to try it,” said Deacon Bowers. “God led me into campus ministry, and that had gone well. All signs were pointing to at least a try.”
He sold his house and most of his possessions. He decided to join the Capuchin Franciscans because he was interested in missionary work and liked their mix of the active and prayerful life.
“I went into it with the attitude of ‘I’ll jump in with both feet and know it’s not right for me, and I’ll be able to leave and come back, and start over,’” he said.
“I wasn’t exactly wholeheartedly embracing the call. I was more testing and almost hoping someone would say, ‘You should go home now.’”
Somewhere along the line, he lost interest in missionary work. Back home, the archdiocese was inviting priests from other countries to serve in parishes.
He also felt the tension between being available for priestly ministry and commitment to community life as a religious. After consulting with his spiritual director, he decided to go the route of the diocesan priesthood.
“I prayed about some other options, but going back home seemed the right thing to do,” he said. “I still felt called to be a priest, so I never had doubts about leaving the seminary.”
Many people helped Deacon Bowers find his way down the vocational path and he’s grateful to them all. He’s also grateful for the good examples of priesthood he’s seen.
“Father Keith Weber, [the campus chaplain] at the St. Isidore Center, inspired me because of his dedication,” said Deacon Bowers. “He’s very dedicated to his work and to being there at the center, and being available to people.”
“I’ve met priests who are prayerful, but still human. And it’s something that I try to emulate,” he continued. “They’re the hard-working, prayerful, and fun-loving priests I’ve seen — especially some of the younger guys. It’s very inspirational to me.”
Deacon Bowers will be ordained 10:30 a.m. on May 25 at St. Matthew Parish in Topeka.
Name: Lawrence (Larry) Bowers
Raised: Six miles north of Delia
Parents: Larry and Marla Bowers
Siblings: Theresa Swisher and Christine Kuestersteffen
Education: Rossville High School, 1994; Kansas State University, B.S. in Computer Engineering, 1999.
Seminary: Entered St. John Theological Seminary, Denver, in 2008.
Tech I can’t live without: Mechanical pencil
Favorite musical group/person: Switchfoot
My most notable encounter with the famous/infamous: Cardinal Sean O’Malley refilled my coffee.
The most inspirational Christians I’ve met: Mother Teresa’s Sisters
Favorite saint: St. Lawrence the Deacon
Favorite devotion: Rosary
Books now reading: “Faith According to St. John of the Cross”
Favorite food: Mexican
Favorite childhood toy: Legos
Dream vacation: Holy Land
Worst job I’ve ever had: Cutting weeds out of milo fields
Best job I’ve ever had: Campus ministry
Hobbies/things I like to do: Play cards: Cribbage, Pitch, Spades, and Five Crowns; racquetball, camping, reading spy novels.
If I were sent on a difficult missionary journey, the saint I’d take with me would be: St. Francis of Assisi
Qualities I admire in priests I know: Prayer and closeness to people
Best advice I received: The three A’s: be approachable, available and adaptable.
My advice for someone seeking his or her vocation: Jump in with both feet!
What I’m looking forward to as a priest: Continuing to do God’s will.
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