Fr Paul Ewers on a boat in Ecuador

Fr. Paul Ewers spent many years in Ecuador. In this photo he is steering a boat down the Rio Verde, one of the only ways to get to his mission.

Mary Anne is the Parish & Community Engagement Coordinator at Catholic Charities of Southwest Ohio (CCSWO)

During his final years in Cincinnati, Fr. Paul liked to walk the grounds of the Comboni Mission Center in his traditional straw hat. He would pray the rosary while he walked.

In 2016, Fr. Paul celebrated his 50th anniversary of ordination.

Born on St. Valentine’s Day 1937, in Madison Place in Cincinnati, Fr. Paul Joseph Ewers grew up in a Catholic household. He had many fond memories of his childhood, especially being outdoors. He was just a young Boy Scout in Cincinnati, Ohio, when he realized his life’s work was to be a missionary priest.

Fr. Paul passed away on May 14, 2023 in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Visitation will be 9:30a Thursday, May 18, at Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish, 7820 Beechmont Ave. Cincinnati, Ohio 45255. The funeral mass will follow at 11a.

Visitors are invited to join us for a reception at the Cincinnati Mission Center, 1318 Nagel Road, Cincinnati, Ohio 45255, following Mass.

In junior high a teacher asked his class what they wanted to do when they grew up. “I stood up and wanted to be a gunner in the Air Force,” Fr. Paul recollected. “It was right after WWII and those guys were our heroes. Two of the other guys got up and said they wanted to be priests and I thought, well, that would be more useful.”

A magazine article about Africa led Fr. Paul to the Comboni Missionaries. He entered Sacred Heart Seminary in Cincinnati, Ohio, at the age of 15. Four years later he began his novitiate in Monroe, Michigan. After years of studying and preparation, he was ordained on June 26, 1965.

He had always planned to go to Africa but was called to serve elsewhere. From 1968 to 1978,  and again from 1988 to 1996, Fr. Paul served in Ecuador. His remaining missionary years were spent in the Chicago, Los Angeles, and Cincinnati, often serving in a parish.

One of Fr. Paul’s most memorable experiences comes from his time in a small fishing village in Ecuador. This village was in a very remote area, accessible only by crossing Rio Verde at low tide. At the time, the plan was to build chapels in some of these remote places. The chapel would serve as a place for the priest to stay, along with a catechist for the times the priest could not be there.

During Fr. Paul’s time in the village it was decided that a junior and senior high school should be built. The village had an elementary school, but people could complete their schooling only through sixth grade. If they wanted to further their education they had to go to the city, which was at least 45 minutes away, and they could travel only on days when the road was accessible. Eventually the missionaries, with support from the community, were able to complete the secondary school.

When he taught religion classes, his students called him Padre Gringo, a nod to his North American heritage.

One day Fr. Paul was walking along with a father of 12 children. He thanked Fr. Paul for building the school. This father said when he died he could leave his children $800 each, which they might have just drunk away. Instead he was able to give them an education, something no one could ever take away from them. Fr. Paul thought that man was very smart and was quite impressed that the Comboni Missionaries had made such an impact in this village.

Anyone who knew Fr. Paul knew of his love for all things trains and steam engines. He could talk for hours about the train stations in Cincinnati. He also enjoyed baking, especially pancakes and Kris Stollen (German fruitcake). It always reminded him of his mother.

He spoke English, Spanish, and Italian. During an interview once, Fr. Paul described himself as “an observer of human nature.”

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