The First Black Bishop to be consecrated in the United States of America, Monsignor Joseph Oliver Bowers SVD., was born in Massacre, Dominica, to sheriff Montague Bowers, who hailed from Antigua, and his wife Mary. Travelling to the United States to attend St. Augustine's Seminary, in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, he was ordained to the priesthood on January 22, 1939 through the Society of the Divine Word.
At 42 years of age, Bowers was appointed Auxiliary for the Diocese of Accra, Ghana, by Pope John XXIII, receiving his episcopal consecration with the Titular See of Cyparissia on April 22, 1953, from Cardinal Francis J. Spellman, assisted by Bishops Richard Oliver Gerow and Adolph Alexander Noser SVD., at the Church of Our Lady of the Gulf in Bay St. Louis, USA, becoming the First Black Bishop to be so consecrated in the United States. Bowers was consecrated after being already named Bishop of Accra on the previous January 8.
Bishop Bowers founded the Congregation of the Sisters of the Handmaids of the Divine Redeemer (HDR) in Accra in 1957, dedicated to caring and comforting the poor. He also started a school, which is named after him today. Founding furthermore St. John's College and Seminary, presently known as Pope John Senior High School and Minor Seminary, one of the best high schools in Ghana, in recognition and acknowledgement of his pioneering work in Ghana, when the Diocese of St. John's-Basseterre in the West Indies was created in 1971 - comprising the islands of Antigua-Barbuda, St. Kitts and Nevis, Montserrat, Anguilla and the British Virgin Islands – Bowers was appointed its First Bishop on January 16, 1971, becoming the chief pastor in Antigua.
Retiring from the pastoral government of his See on July 17, 1981, after spending some time in Charlestown, Nevis, he returned to Dominica, where he lived in Mahaut in the care of his sister.
In the 1990's the HDR Sisters, some of whom had periodically visited him in Dominica, invited him back to Ghana where he lived with them until his death, which occurred at Agomanya in the Eastern Region of Ghana on Tuesday, November 6, 2012, at the venerable age of 102.