Five years ago at Blessed Junipero Serra Church in Camarillo, Cardinal Roger Mahony ordained the first and only married former Episcopal priest to minister in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Father Bill Lowe’s ordination was made possible by a pastoral provision issued in 1980 by Pope John Paul II which allows former Episcopalian priests to be ordained to the Catholic priesthood. For Father Bill, his was a shared journey with his wife Linda who today, five years into this unique ministry, says, “The Holy Spirit has been with us every step of the way.” In January they will celebrate 50 years of marriage, a life filled with choices and prayer.Their journey started when they first met in a swimming pool as teenagers, from two different youth groups, and continued until college when they married Jan. 19, 1963. Says Linda: “Bill knew even then he wanted to be a priest.” She served briefly as a high school teacher while Bill studied before their move to New York and acceptance at Bard College. After a study period at Oxford and a “rigid life of discipline,” they returned to the U.S. as Bill started his 36-year vocation as an Episcopal priest. Linda taught and administered for many years at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Her duties involved high level scheduling and “stressful organization.” They both also shared the responsibility of raising three children: Chris, Hilary and Jennifer.Their combined ministry in the Episcopal Church involved various activities and services that enhanced and strengthened their devotion and faith. In 2001 Bill retired — but priestly “retirement,” however, meant “learning from the other side of the altar” according to Linda. Gradually, they began visiting local Catholic parishes in their mutual faith journey and were inspired and amazed, in Bill’s words, by the joy, vigor and life in those parishes, particularly in their outreach to those in need, which struck a chord deep within Bill and Linda. Eventually, after having experienced a time of healing and a mutually increasing belief in the Eucharist, the Lowes felt a “calling” to the Church. During Holy Week, Linda says they both realized “we should be Catholic. But it was not a rejection of the Episcopal faith, just more of the next step in our evolution.” That final step came on a quiet Saturday afternoon when three priests confirmed them as Catholics.The desire to serveBut while their religious affiliation had changed, one thing had not.“Bill still felt a call to the priesthood,” Linda says — and fate again intervened.Aging parents needed their care in California, so they “let go” of old household treasures, giving most of them away, and found a home in Camarillo, as well as a spiritual home at Padre Serra Church, where Bill’s desire to serve at the altar never waned. Under the Pastoral Provision, it was indeed possible for him to become a priest, though it was not an easy road. But after five years of formation, supported by the expertise and advice of Santa Barbara Region Auxiliary Bishop Thomas Curry, as well as his family and the parish community, Father Bill’s ordination took place May 6, 2007. “The Holy Spirit has been with us every step of the way,” insists Linda. Bill has served as a naval base chaplain in Ventura County (Point Mugu and Port Hueneme) and as chaplain at two local hospitals. He is also on the parish staff and visits several nursing homes. And Linda? “My role as a priest’s wife,” she says, “is really no different from that of any committed active Catholic.”She is an extraordinary minister of the Eucharistic at the hospital; she is a lector, assists in children’s liturgies, and works with the group organizing the women’s retreat in the parish; and is involved in the Ventura County Interfaith Community. “Bill and I support one another in our interests and ministries,” she says.‘Prayer saved my life’But no life of service in the Church is without difficulty, and the Lowes recently experienced a particularly challenging event when Linda was involved in a serious accident. She had taken a course in driving a motor scooter, and one day while driving it hit a curb; the handle bars struck her liver and broke several ribs. Three surgeries followed, but “prayer saved my life,” she insists. And there were many prayers indeed said on her behalf. Some friends (including three bishops) visited her bedside just to sit and silently pray; others, from here and around the world, responded to Bill’s online call for prayer and sent e-mails. In two months Linda recovered. “I am so grateful to the Holy Spirit,” she smiles now that she is again active, enthusiastic and looking forward to life’s adventures. Recently Linda accompanied Bill as he served as the chaplain on a cruise to the Holy Land and Egypt. Their ship, she says, was the first to visit Egypt in two years, but their unique status as a “married Catholic priest couple” drew as much attention from some fellow cruisers as the Pyramids.“All the passengers loved the idea that Bill was a married priest, although some of the crew from foreign lands found it strange,” observes Linda with a smile. “But all the Masses were well attended. I guess that is where God wanted us.” Now, she quips, “I hope to recover from being the priest’s wife on the ship and explaining myself 59 times a day.” On January 13, the Lowes will celebrate their 50 years of dedicated married life and their commitment to prayer, during the 11 a.m. Mass at Padre Serra. “We are so grateful,” she says, “for so many blessings in our life together.”{gallery width=100 height=100}gallery/2012/1214/sblowes/{/gallery}