A true shepherd, he always sought to serve his flock during more than 30 years as a bishop first in the newly created Diocese of Arundel and Brighton and then in the Archdiocese of Southwark
Born in 1930 in Gibraltar, Michael Bowen’s early years were marked by the Second World War and the death of his father, John, killed in action at sea in 1940. Major Bowen had been serving in the Irish Guards, the regiment in which Michael and his older brother, Patrick, were both to serve: at the presentation of new Colours to the Regiment by King George VI at Buckingham Palace in 1949, the ensigns who received them were Michael and Pat – perhaps a unique moment in the regiment’s history. Their mother, Maisie, née Pedley, remarried in 1945 to Sir Paul Makins.
Michael was educated by the Benedictines at Downside, and after National Service in the Irish Guards he spent a year at Trinity College, Cambridge, before working briefly for the wine merchants, Saccone & Speed. Its responsibilities included meeting the alcohol requirements of the Royal Navy in Gibraltar. His experience in the trade left Bowen with an in-depth understanding and appreciation of wine that his friends were to benefit from over many years.
Bowen began his studies for the priesthood at the Venerable English College in Rome in 1952, and he was ordained on 6 July 1958. After one year as assistant priest at St Gregory’s, Earlsfield, he moved to English Martyrs, Walworth, where he had oversight of St Augustine’s House – a residence for men preparing for seminary formation while continuing their jobs. This role in formation was to continue as a member of the staff at the Pontifical Beda College in Rome, where he taught theology between 1963 and 1966. These were heady times in the life of the Church, with the Second Vatican Council in full swing.