Bishop Joseph Law­son Howze

1923 ~ 2019

The Sun Herald (Sunday) - - Obituaries & News -


Bishop Joseph Law­son Howze, Bishop Emer­i­tus of Biloxi, MS, Biloxi’s found­ing bishop and first black bishop in the 20th cen­tury to head a dio­cese in the United States, passed away Wed­nes­day, Jan­uary 9, 2019 in Ocean Springs at the age of 95. While we are sad­dened by the death of Bishop Joseph Law­son Howze, we re­joice in his life. His was a life well lived in faith­ful ser­vice to Almighty God and to the peo­ple of Mis­sis­sippi.

Bishop Howze, son of the late Al­bert O tis Howze, Sr. and the late He­len Law­son, was born in Daphne, AL on Au­gust 30, 1923. He was pre­ceded in death by his par­ents; his sis­ter, Effie Merteil Bur­den; his brothers, Al­bert O. Howze, Jr. and Sher­man Howze; his niece, Carla Wright; and his nephew, Oswald E. Howze. Bishop Howze is sur­vived by his brother, T.C. (Asaline) Howze, of Mo­bile, AL; his sis­ter, Car­men (Richard) Swain, of Mo­bile, AL; his un­cle, Robert( Shirley) Howze, of Mo­bile, AL; his nieces and neph­ews, He­len Harbins, of Dal­las, GA, Bar­bara (John) Woods, of Gads­den, AL, Rus­sell (Bar­bara) Bur­den, of New­nan, GA, Cedric (Pa­tri­cia) Bur­den, of Gary, IN, Agnes McGill, of Gads­den, AL, An nice( Mario) Thomas, of Mo­bile, AL, Jan­ice( Rub en) Robin­son, of Mo­bile, A Land Vin­cent Bur­den, of Mo­bile, AL, Al­bert O. (Ros­sitta) Howze, III and Geral­dine Howze Pow­ell; 42 great-nieces and neph­ews; 71great-great nieces and neph­ews; 20great-great­great nieces and neph­ews; nu­mer­ous cousins and very de­voted friends.

He­be­gan his school years at Most Pure Heart of Mary El­e­men­tary School in Mo­bile, AL. That first year of school was in­ter­rupted in 1928 by the death of his mother, just six days after she bore her fourth child. The el­dest, at age 5, young Law­son (Joseph is his bap­tism al name) was shut­tled back and forth be­tween the homes of his grand­par­ents, aunts and fa­ther, who later re mar­ried and fa­thered three more chil­dren. His re­main­ing el­e­men­tary and high school years were spent at Bald­win County Schools and at Mo­bile County Train­ing School at Plateau.

After grad­u­at­ing as Vale­dic­to­rian of his 1944 high school class, four years later, he grad­u­ated with honors, and as pres­i­dent of the se­nior class, from Alabama State Col­lege, in Mont­gomery. He had in­tended to study medicine, but in­stead earned a bach­e­lor’s de­gree in sci­ence and ed­u­ca­tion. He­be­gan his two-year teach­ing pro­fes­sion as the Bi­ol­ogy and Chem­istry teacher at Cen­tral High School in Mo­bile.

Bishop Howze had first been a Bap­tist, then a Methodist, serv­ing as a choir di­rec­tor and church or­gan­ist and pi­anist. But while he was teach­ing at Cen­tral High, he was drawn to the Catholic faith through the ex­am­ple of Mar­ion Car­roll, Jr. who was one of the seven Catholic stu­dents in his bi­ol­ogy class. Soon after he be­gan in­struc­tions in the Catholic faith un­der the di­rec­tion of Josephite Fa­ther Ben­jamin Hor­ton.

On De­cem­ber 4, 1948, at age 25, he was bap­tized at Most Pure Heart of Mary Church in Mo­bile, and on the fol­low­ing day he re­ceived his First Com­mu­nion. He soon re­al­ized that he would re­ally like to be a priest and be­gan to in­quire about the process.

In Au­gust1952, he wrote to Bishop Vin­cent S. Wa­ters of the Dio­cese of Raleigh NC, ask­ing to study for priest hood in that dio­cese. In Septem­ber 1950, he en­tered Epiphany Col­lege in New­burgh, NY to be­gin prepara­tory stud­ies for the priest­hood. His priestly stud­ies were in­ter­rupted for a year when he went to teach bi­ol­ogy at St. Mon­ica’s High School in Tulsa, OK.

In Jan­uary 1953, he was adopted as a stu­dent for the Dio­cese of Raleigh, NC and be­gan his stud­ies at the Dioce­san Prepara­tory Sem­i­nary in Buf­falo, NY. On May 7, 1959, Bishop Wa­ters or­dained the young priest for the Dio­cese of Raleigh. Fa­ther Howze said his first Mass at Most Pure Heart of Mary Church in Mo­bile on May 10, 1959. He served as pas­tor of sev­eral parishes in North Carolina dur­ing his 13 years of priestly min­istry there.

On Novem­ber 8, 1972, Fa­ther Howze was ap­pointed by Pope Paul VI as the aux­il­iary bishop of the Dio­cese of Natchez-Jack­son and was or­dained a bishop on Jan­uary 28, 1973 in Jack­son by Luigi Car­di­nal Rai­mondi. Within a year, he was named pres­i­dent of the Na­tional Black Catholic Clergy. On March 8, 1977, Bishop Howze was ap­pointed by Pope Paul VI as the first bishop of the newly es­tab­lished Dio­cese of Biloxi. Es­tab­lish­ing a new dio­cese was hard work, but Bishop Howze was very proud of what he, with the help of de­voted clergy, re­li­gious and laity, ac­com­plished dur­ing his ten­ure as bishop of Biloxi and was for­ever grate­ful to the peo­ple of the dio­cese for their un­fail­ing gen­eros­ity of time, tal­ent and trea­sure.

Bishop Howzew as awarded the Doc­tor of Laws De­gree; Honor is Ca us a, by the Univer­sity of Port­land, OR; Doc­tor of Hu­man­i­ties by the Sa­cred Heart Col­lege in Bel­mont, NC; Doc­tor of Laws De­gree by the Man­hat­tan Col­lege in New York. He also holds honorary de­grees from Phillips Col­lege in Gulf­port and the Lift Bi­ble Cru­sade Col­lege in Ocean Springs.

Dur­ing his lead­er­ship of the Dio­cese of Biloxi, Bishop Howze served as a mem­ber of the Na­tional Coun­cil of Catholic Bish­ops (NCCB) Ad Hoc “Call to Ac­tion” Com­mit­tee, the World Peace Com­mit­tee of the United States Catholic Con­fer­ence( US CC ), the Mis­sis­sippi Health Care Com­mis­sion, the NCCB Li­ai­son Com­mit­tee to the Na­tional Of­fice for Black Catholics; the NCCB/USCCE­d­u­ca­tion Com­mit­tee Ad­min­is­tra­tive Board, Al­ter­nate, Re­gion V; the NC CB In­ter re­li­gious and Ec­u­meni­cal Af­fairs Com­mit­tee, and the Biloxi Re­gional Med­i­cal Cen­ter Board, as well as a mem­ber of the Board of Di­rec­tors for the Gulf Pines Girl Scout Coun­cil and the Na­tional Epis­co­pal Li­ai­son of the Apostle­ship of the Sea.

He was a Fourth De­gree mem­ber of the Knights of Peter Claver and a Third De­gree mem­ber of the Knights of Colum­bus.

Bishop Howze re­tired May 15, 2001, after serv­ing as bishop of the Dio­cese of Biloxi for 24 years. He loved the Dio­cese of Biloxi and prayed un­ceas­ingly for its con­tin­ued suc­cess. He had a gen­uine con­cern for the sal­va­tion of souls. Now, we pray that God, who called Bishop Howze to priest hood and the epis­co­pate, will now wel­come him to his heav­enly home where he will con­tinue to in­ter­cede for us. May he rest in peace.

In lieu of flow­ers please con­sider do­na­tions to the Bish­ops’ Ceme­tery and Me­mo­rial Prayer Gar­denc/ oT he Catholic Dio­cese of Biloxi, 1790 Popps Ferry Road, Biloxi, MS 39532.

A vis­i­ta­tion for Bishop Howze will be held at the Cathe­dral of the Blessed Vir­gin Mary on Tues­day evening, Jan­uary 15, 2019 from 5:00 pm un­til 8:00 pm with a 7:00 pm Vigil of the De­ceased with are ci­ta­tion of the Rosary to fol­low. A Mass of Chris­tian Burial will take place on Wed­nes­day, Jan­uary 16, 2019 at 10:30 am where friends may visit from 8:30 am un­til Mass time. The ad­dress of the Cathe­dral is 870 Howard Av­enue, Biloxi, MS 39530. In­ter­ment will fol­low in the Bish­ops’ Ceme­tery and Me­mo­rial Prayer Gar­den.

The Howard Av­enue Chapel of Brad­ford-O’Keefe Fu­neral Home is in charge of ar­range­ments.

View and sign regis­ter book at www.brad­for­do­

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