Little Flower's Bowling Dies at 75

By Pedro Morales
Reno Gazette-Journal
June 15, 2003

Monsignor Robert Bowling, pastor at St. Therese the Little Flower since 1974, died Saturday afternoon surrounded by friends at his home in Reno after a battle with cancer. He was 75.

Although he was recognized for more than 30 years of service in Reno, recent allegations of sexual abuse had bound him in a legal dispute that ended last week.

"Many people who respected him respect him still," said Brother Matthew Cunningham, spokesman for the Diocese of Reno. "He was just a good man who accomplished a lot.

"Whatever people thought of (the allegations) was not important. What was important was that the community would not be divided by anything that was said or not said," Cunningham said.

In his final days, he said Bowling wished the community would stay united and love each other, despite the allegations.

"It's a sad day for the church in Nevada," Cunningham said. "He had a great impact on the lives of his parishioners and the community in general. It's not only a loss to us as a church, but to the city of Reno."

Bowling came to Reno as administrator of St. Thomas Aquinas Cathedral in 1969. In 1974, he became pastor of Little Flower Church when it was in a small building at Vassar Street and Wells Avenue.

Under Bowling's stewardship, the Reno parish has grown from a 200-seat to a 900-seat church and includes an elementary school. About 3,500 families are in the parish. He is credited for leading the fund-raising drive to get the current building constructed. The church on Plumb Lane was dedicated Oct. 1, 1978.

He started Bowling's Ball fund-raiser in the late 1990's to raise money for the Little Flower school for new technology, playground equipment and other school needs.

As the parish's Hispanic population exploded along with Spanish-speaking residents throughout the region, Bowling said in 2001 that, "We want one parish instead of two parishes."

While he acknowledged that the influx of Spanish-speaking parishioners had created some tension, he said he was committed to making the entire flock comfortable at St. Therese.

More recently, he was associated with allegations of sexual misconduct in the Archdiocese of Louisville, Ky. Diocese and in Reno.

The Louisville Archdiocese this week agreed to pay $25.7 million to 243 people who accused priests, including Bowling, of sexual abuse. Bowling was a priest and school administrator at two Kentucky churches from 1955 to 1965.

The settlement covers 11 lawsuits by women who claim he molested or behaved sexually inappropriately with them while children or adults.

Bowling took a two-week leave last June to travel to Louisville, Ky., to defend himself against the lawsuits.

Funeral services are still pending, Cunningham said.


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