Br. Francis Bowers, FSC


Given by Brother John A. Muller, FSC
December 11, 2013

Mass of Christian Burial
Manhattan College, Chapel of De La Salle and his Brothers

In the last scene of Shakespeare’s The Tragedy of Julius Caesar, Mark Anthony praises the fallen Brutus in these words: “… the elements were so mingled in him that nature would stand up and cry ‘this is a man.’”

Brother Francis was a man, yes, but the elements of his humanity transcended nature. He was a man of faith, a man of hope, and a man of love.

Although the HISTORY of Robert William Bowers, Brother Clementian Francis, has ended – a history probably well-known to many of us, the elements of his STORY – the intangible yet defining qualities of heart and soul, his unique story, have outlived him.
A proud New Yorker born in Manhattan, Frank — as he was known to the Brothers and his many academic colleagues — at one time or another lived in each of the five boroughs of the City. He even rooted for the Mets and the Yankees!

The true fabric of his history, however, is woven from multiple threads of educational institutions and academic titles: St. Ann’s Elementary School; Cathedral Boys H.S.; City College of New York; St. Joseph’s Novitiate; De La Salle College, Washington, D.C.; The Catholic University of America; Ascension School; St. Augustine’s Boys’ High School; St. Peter’s Boys’ High School; Fordham University; St. Mary’s College, Winona, MN; Harvard, Oxford and Cambridge Universities; and Manhattan College, the pinnacle of his Lasallian educational career.

The fabric of his history is also spun from a catalog of titles and distinctions. First and foremost, this most cherished title – BROTHER, and then a close second — perhaps the title that best summarizes his professional career — TEACHER. Among the catalog of his other titles: coach, master of arts, doctor of philosophy, college professor, residence hall director, department chairperson, university researcher, dean, provost, academic advisor, author, and elected member of Phi Beta Kappa National Honor Society. Each school and each title encompassed a significant era in the chapters of Brother Francis’ history.

In the August 2013 interview published in America magazine, Pope Francis referred to “the common sanctity” which he defined as “…taking charge of the events and circumstances of life,” but also as “a constancy in going forward, day by day.” This “common sanctity” may well describe the STORY of Brother Francis. It is a STORY hidden in his responses to the events and circumstances that life presented; he was a man of faith, a man of hope, and above all a man of love.

He was a man of faith whose every day evidenced his deep religious belief that we live in the presence of God, a belief deepened and affirmed during his 71 years as a consecrated religious, a belief rooted in the spirituality of St. John Baptist de La Salle. This deep faith was especially evidenced in his acceptance talk when inducted into the Manhattan College Athletic Hall of Fame in 2004. And I quote: “I owe everything to God who made me, loves me infinitely as He loves you, and has blessed me every step of the way during my years of trying to be a worthy disciple of St. La Salle.”

He was a man of hope. St. Paul described hope as awaiting the unseen with patient endurance. Patience and perseverance, the qualities of a long distance runner, were certainly Frank’s characteristics.

Frank was a dynamic classroom teacher at every educational level — elementary, secondary, tertiary, and graduate. No doubt it was with unspoken reluctance that he accepted the request in 1970 to leave his college classroom and become dean of the Manhattan College School of Arts and Sciences, an administrative position he fulfilled patiently and with abundant good humor for ten years. His term as dean was followed by four years as Provost of the College, a position he was asked to fulfill only on an interim basis. The routine challenges of meetings and paperwork he faced as academic leader of the College never diminished his enthusiasm. In an address to the College community in February 1981, commemorating the Tricentennial of the founding of the Brothers congregation, Brother Francis stated: “Our confidence in the future is not something we work up for an occasion such as this; it has to have a solid basis in tradition and present performance. We have that solid foundation, so I believe we can realistically move into the future with hope.”

Formed from his earliest days in a family he deeply loved, Frank was a man of love, a love most evident in his respect for others. His love for and devotion to his parents, William and Catherine, his brother Francis, and his sister Patricia, led him to postpone for five years his personal desire to choose the religious life of a Christian Brother after graduation from Cathedral Boys High School. This he did in order to supplement his family’s income during the Depression by taking a clerk’s job on Wall Street. At a time when jobs were scarce, he demonstrated his determination to succeed by enrolling in night courses in accounting and bookkeeping at the City College of New York.

Frank loved his students, ever zealous in motivating them to advance in their studies and in athletics, and his interest in them as persons was evident from their enthusiastic response. He took great pride in recounting their achievements, both academic and athletic. De La Salle referred to this spiritual quality of a teacher as “touching hearts.”
In commemorating Frank’s 90th birthday, one student cited with admiration St. John Chrysostom: “What is nobler than to mold the character of the young? I consider that he who knows how to form the youthful mind is greater than all painters, sculptors and all [other artists].”

On the occasion of Brother’s completing appointments as dean and provost of the College in 1984, one faculty spokesman noted, “The most important thing Brother Francis knows is persons.” He went on to praise Frank for “his most open and supportive position regarding faculty concerns and his strong support of academic freedom.” Such high praise for an administrator by a faculty member is rare in most academic settings.

The man of love was again reflected in Frank’s remarks at his Hall of Fame induction: “I have loved and respected a broad spectrum of people during my years at Manhattan College, and I am grateful for having had the privilege of doing so.”

To Frank, we were all his “kids,” a name he intended as loving affirmation, not in any way as a put-down. In the end, he proved that he was heart-strong, even stronger than his medical charts reflected.

While the history of Robert William Bowers has ended, his story has outlived him – a story of common sanctity embodied in the three elemental Christian virtues: faith, hope, and love. His long Advent pilgrimage has culminated in the welcoming, full embrace of the God whom he believed in, hoped for, and loved intensely.

Please pray for the happy repose of the soul of Br. Francis Bowers, FSC

Born Robert William Bowers in New York, NY, on May 4, 1920

Entered the Barrytown, NY, Novitiate on March 14, 1942

Received the Religious Habit and Name, Brother Clementian Francis, on June 11, 1942

Pronounced Perpetual Vows in Oakdale, NY, in 1948

Br. Francis died at De La Salle Hall, Lincroft, NJ, on December 6, 2013


Monday, December 9, 2013

Viewing from 1:00 pm – 3:00 pm

De La Salle Hall
810 Newman Springs Road
Lincroft, NJ  07738-1608

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Viewing from 3:00 pm – 8:00 pm (Wake Service at 7:30 pm)

Christian Brothers Community, Chapel of St. Benilde
4415 Post Road
Bronx, NY  10471-3499

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Viewing from 9:15 am – 9:45 am
Mass of Christian Burial10:00am

Manhattan College, Chapel of De La Salle and his Brothers
4513 Manhattan College Parkway
Riverdale, NY  10471-4099

Burial at Gate of Heaven Cemetery, Valhalla, NY


District: 100 masses
De La Salle Hall Community: 30 masses
Each community in the District:
1 mass

Brother Francis died peacefully in late evening at De La Salle Hall after a brief illness.  May he rest in peace.


New York, NY
Ascension School

Brooklyn, NY
St. Augustine High School

Staten Island, NY
St. Peter’s Boys High School

Washington, D.C.
De La Salle College

Bronx, NY
Manhattan College

dean of arts and science
Bronx, NY
Manhattan College

acting provost and vice-president
Bronx, NY
Manhattan College

Bronx, NY
Manhattan College

Bronx, NY
Manhattan College

academic advisor
Bronx, NY
Manhattan College

Lincroft, NJ
De La Salle Hall