By Tim Bishop
WHEELING—“I never dreamed of becoming a religious woman,” said Sister Mary Bowman, a member of the Sisters for Christian Community (SFCC). “I was going to raise and train horses. That’s what I wanted to do my whole life.” But it was an experience with a child during her junior year of high school that changed her mind. Following her graduation, Sister Bowman entered the Congregation of St. Joseph where she would spend the next 25 years. During those years, she spent time working in an orphanage as well as an educator at a number of Catholic schools in the southern part of the state. “I loved children and wanted to spend my time helping them,” she said.
Following Vatican II, Sister Bowman was sent to Fordham University to continue her education. Upon returning to the diocese, she began working in adult education in western Virginia—then part of the Diocese of Wheeling. “I really got involved,” she said, “both in knowing the people and in learning about Appalachia. I really felt at peace with my ministry there.” When lines where redrawn to form the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, Sister Bowman was forced to return to the Mountain State.
Sister Mary Bowman, SFCC, second from right, stands with a family she worked with in Virgina during her early years as a missionary.
Upon returning, Sister Bowman again furthered her education to include spiritual counseling, support and spiritual direction. It was at this time, that she made the transition to the Sisters for Christian Community. Sister Bowman then spent the next 35 years of service in the Appalachian region as an adult faith formation leader, behavioral counselor and support group leader.
Now in retirement, Sister Bowman still serves the community in a number of ways. “I never thought I would return to Wheeling,” she said, “but I feel the Lord wanted me to come back. Everything I have done as a religious woman has been rewarding. I have never had a job that I didn’t like.”
Sister Bowman still is very active in the life of the church. In addition to helping take care of her niece each morning, she visits the sick and shut-in in the community. “I visit many people in five or six different nursing homes in the area,” she said. “I do many different ministries as well. I also facilitate a mental health group once a month and help facilitate a women’s group once a month.” Sister Bowman also does one-on-one counseling for several people in the community. “My whole thing in life,” she said, “is about being part of a family—biological and church family—so these experiences have been very rewarding because I consider all of the people I have worked with a part of my family.” Now at age 79, Sister Bowman said she has no regrets about her years as a religious woman. “Not one thing,” she said, “I wouldn’t change one thing. Even the difficult things because it made me stronger.”
Sister Mary Bowman, SFCC, receives a kiss from a young boy from El Salvador whose family lived with her at her home in Wheeling.