COA, Holy Redeemer Church celebrate life of Father James Gower

Posted June 11, 2013, at 9:04 p.m.
Last modified June 12, 2013, at 10:15 a.m.
Father James Gower
Father James Gower

Friday, June 28, 2013 11 a.m. to 11 a.m.

Location: Holy Redeemer Church, 21 Ledgelawn Ave., Bar Harbor, Maine

For more information: Lynn Boulger; 207-801-5620

BAR HARBOR, ME—College of the Atlantic, along with family, former parishioners, and friends throughout the state, are celebrating the life of the late Father James Gower on Friday, June 28, beginning with a service in the Holy Redeemer Church at 11 a.m. Following the service, at about 12:30 p.m., COA will hold a reception at Gates Community Center. All are invited.

Father Gower, who died on December 17, 2012 at the age of 90, was a man of peace, known throughout Maine for his generosity, joyous spirit, and genuine caring. A native of Bar Harbor, Father Gower had been serving the Sacred Heart parish in Waterville for 15 years when he asked to be transferred to Mt. Desert Island to be near his ailing mother. Seeking to do something to improve life on the island—and bring more peace to the world—in 1968, just a few months into his homecoming, Father Gower, along with his former high school football teammate Leslie C. Brewer, founded College of the Atlantic.

A graduate of Notre Dame, Father Gower had served on a tugboat rescuing torpedoed and bombed merchant and naval vessels as an ensign in the US Navy. That experience left him with a lasting desire to promote peace. He first pursued it through law, but after a year turned to his Catholic faith. He entered St. Augustine Seminary in Ontario, Canada, becoming ordained in 1953.

As a priest, Father Gower actively sought out clergy of other faiths, believing his role was to serve all people, regardless of religion. As an active member of Pax Christi, the International Catholic Movement for Peace, he spent a year traveling throughout the United States visiting hundreds of parishes, promoting world peace.

His quest for peace is also remembered in Father Gower’s original name for COA: Acadia Peace College. A man of sweeping intelligence, he is credited with shaping COA as an interdisciplinary college with all students receiving a degree in one, universal major—human ecology—via many individual paths of study.

Though Father Gower spent many years away from MDI, he never lost his close connection with the island or the college. At COA he participated as a life trustee, professor, and as commencement speaker when the college turned 21. To celebrate his 75th birthday, Father Gower climbed Mount Katahdin with incoming students.

In addition to his Waterville parish, Father Gower served in Northeast Harbor, Bar Harbor, Islesford, Bucksport, Castine, Ellsworth, Stonington, Portland, Lewiston, Springvale, and Dexter. He was also chaplain at Bates and Husson colleges, University of Maine Orono, and the Bangor International Airport.

If you come, wear dancing shoes; the college is hoping to commemorate Father Gower’s love of folk dancing at the celebration. For more information about the celebration, beginning at 11 a.m. in Bar Harbor’s Holy Redeemer Church at 1 Ledgelawn Ave., followed by a reception at COA’s Gates Community Center at 12:30 p.m., contact Lynn Boulger at 207-801-5620 or

College of the Atlantic was founded in 1969 on the premise that education should go beyond understanding the world as it is, to enabling students to actively shape its future. A leader in experiential education and environmental stewardship, COA has pioneered a distinctive interdisciplinary approach to learning—human ecology—that develops the kinds of creative thinkers and doers needed by all sectors of society in addressing the compelling and growing needs of our world. For more, visit