Bishop remembered for ministry in Indonesia

| January 30, 2014 | 0 Comments
Bishop Alphonse Sowada

Bishop Alphonse Sowada

The Visitor

A Mass of Christian Burial for Crosier Bishop Alphonse Sowada was celebrated Jan. 17 at St. Mary’s Cathedral in St. Cloud, with St. Cloud Bishop Donald Kettler presiding.

The homilist was Bishop John Kinney, the diocese’s bishop emeritus. Burial was at the Crosier Priory Cemetery, Onamia.

Bishop Alphonse Sowada, 80, bishop emeritus of the Diocese of Agats, Indonesia, died Jan. 11 at the Mille Lacs Health System, Onamia.

The Minnesota native who retired to his home state was remembered fondly by Bishop Kinney.

“Bishop Sowada was, in my estimation, what Pope Francis has written about in his apostolic exhortation ‘The Joy of the Gospel,’” Bishop Kinney noted. “He brought the joy of the Gospel of Christ to the people of the Diocese of Agats and to all of us.”

Bishop Sowada was born June 23, 1933, in Avon, to Alphonse and Monica (Pierskalla) Sowada.

He attended Crosier Seminary High School in Onamia and received his seminary formation at the Crosier House of Studies in Fort Wayne, Ind. He made his profession of vows in the Canons Regular of the Order of the Holy Cross Aug. 28, 1953, and was ordained to the priesthood at Fort Wayne May 31, 1958.

In 1961, he earned a master’s degree in cultural anthropology from The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.

He then left for the Asmat Mission in Indonesia, where he served as pastor of the parish in Sawa-Erma from 1962-1965 and pastor in Agats from 1965-1969. He was the regional superior for the Crosiers in Agats when he was appointed the first bishop of Agats. He was ordained a bishop Nov. 23, 1969.

“He was a great man, a great Crosier and missionary priest and bishop,” recalled Bishop Kinney.

“I had the privilege of visiting him in Agats back in 1999 or 2000 and spent a couple of weeks with him.

“I saw the tremendous pastoral work that he was doing with the Asmat people — and their love for him. He had a great love for them, for all of the priests and people of the Diocese of Agats. It was a privilege for me to be with him during that time.”

Preserved cultural heritage

During his years ministering to the Asmat people, Bishop Sowada wrote books on Asmat art and culture. His collections of artifacts are the core of the American Museum of Asmat Art at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul.

He celebrated his 50th jubilee as a Crosier Aug. 3, 2008.

Bishop Sowada is survived by his brothers and sisters: Adrian (Joann) Sowada, Little Falls; Marlene (John) Mulrooney, Winona; Ramona Sowada, Addison, Ill.; Rose Ann (David) Munsch,Poway, Calif.; Lenore (Michael) Leigh, Green Valley, Ariz.; Dennis (Janice) Sowada, Rice; and Terese (Richard) Athman, Hamilton, Mont.; and several nephews and nieces. He was preceded in death by his parents.

“After Bishop Sowada’s retirement,” Bishop Kinney said, “our joy was having him return here to the Diocese of St. Cloud, to be in retirement here but also to assist me. He worked very hard helping with some of the confirmations — his being here was a joy for me.”


The Visitor is the newspaper of the Diocese of St. Cloud.

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Category: Obituaries