Fr. Sheunesu Bowora: Sacramental life on radar for former pilot

Fr. Sheunesu Bowora offers one of his first blessings following his June 11 ordination at St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in Avondale. (John Bering/CATHOLIC SUN)

See the full story on the ordination:
Four ordained to the priesthood

Meet the other new priests

Fr. Sheunesu Bowora’s first year of priesthood will tangibly seal his religious vocation.

It was while attending both St. Mary in Chandler and a nearby Protestant church with a friend that the one-time airline pilot grappled with the existence of God. He spent last summer preaching and serving St. Mary’s 5,000 families as a transitional deacon.

Effective July 1, Fr. Bowora will officially begin serving as parochial vicar in the same sacred space. His last days as a seminarian had him eager to say Mass, hear confessions and anoint the sick.

“What’s not to look forward to?” Fr. Bowora said a day after moving into the rectory following his final drive from Denver’s St. John Vianney Theological Seminary. He was among 14 from there ordained for their respective home dioceses.

The new priest spent the last nine years discerning and preparing for a lifetime of administering sacraments, offering pastoral counsel and other duties. Now, all of the practical knowledge he gleaned going from course to course becomes a reality.

Fr. Bowora likened his time in seminary to the seed of a bamboo plant. Growth may not be evident for a good five or six years.

“You’re being given the roots that you need to actually survive later,” Fr. Bowora explained. “Then it grows very, very tall in a short amount of time.”

He ensured that his human, spiritual, intellectual and pastoral pillars of formation are very well rooted. That’s much different from a good 10 years earlier when the middle child — and only son — questioned God’s existence.

A novena to the Holy Spirit revealed to the future priest that he questioned his faith and labeled church as boring simply because he didn’t understand. He prayed through the Sorrowful Mysteries he found on a card tucked into a Bible and realized God’s personal love for each of His children.

“Well, maybe God wants me to help other people understand these things,” he thought.

Fr. Bowora became one of the original members of Phoenix’s Serra House of Discernment. The private space allows men a deeper level of spiritual living as they discern applying to seminary or if they have sold their possessions and await the new semester.

Fr. Bowora used that time to test the waters via further immersion in parish life. By this time, he settled at Most Holy Trinity and once served on core team when his fellow ordinand, Dan Connealy, was in high school.

Around the same time, a visiting priest at St. James Parish in Glendale, upon a first encounter after Mass, said, “So, when are you going to go to seminary?” Fr. Bowora’s reversion for the faith left a special fondness for encountering fallen-away Catholics. He met some via a unique door-to-door ministry he observed during a summer at St. Vincent de Paul Parish. The priest learned that their reasons for staying away by and large were not grave ones. The evangelization team gently tried to invite them back.

“You’re actually able to encounter people where they are,” Fr. Bowora said.

Even some of the non-Catholics would say, “You’re Catholic? Praise the Lord!”