Rev Fr Joseph Lawson Howze

Rev Fr Joseph Lawson Howze

Birth
Daphne, Baldwin County, Alabama, USA
Death 9 Jan 2019 (aged 95)
Ocean Springs, Jackson County, Mississippi, USA
Burial Biloxi, Harrison County, Mississippi, USA
Memorial ID 195926579 · View Source
Suggest Edits

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 Otis 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, Annice (Mario) Thomas, of Mobile, AL, Janice (Ruben) Robinson, of Mobile, AL and Vincent Burden, of Mobile, AL, Albert O. (Rossitta) Howze, III and Geraldine Howze Powell; 42 great-nieces and nephews; 71 great-great nieces and nephews; 20 great-great-great nieces and nephews; numerous cousins and very devoted friends.

He began 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 baptismal name) was shuttled back and forth between the homes of his grandparents, aunts and father, who later remarried 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. He began 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 August 1952, he wrote to Bishop Vincent S. Waters of the Diocese of Raleigh NC, asking to study for priesthood 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 Howze was awarded the Doctor of Laws Degree; Honoris Causa, 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 (USCC), the Mississippi Health Care Commission, the NCCB Liaison Committee to the National Office for Black Catholics; the NCCB/USCC Education Committee Administrative Board, Alternate, Region V; the NCCB Interreligious 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 priesthood 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 Garden c/o The 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 a recitation 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.

Bishop Joseph Lawson Howze has passed away. He died Wednesday morning at the age of 95. Bishop Joseph Lawson Howze made history as the first bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Biloxi when it was established in 1977.

Bishop Howze was born Aug. 30, 1923, in Daphne, Alabama. He was born Lawson Howze and took the name Joseph when he converted to Catholicism in 1948. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree from Alabama State University in 1948. After religious training at Christ the King Seminary, St. Bonaventure University in New York, Bishop Howze was ordained a priest for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Raleigh, North Carolina in 1959. Bishop Howze was ordained as a bishop in 1973 and was named Auxiliary Bishop for the Diocese of Natchez-Jackson that same year.

In 1977, the Diocese of Natchez-Jackson was divided to become the Diocese of Jackson, comprised of the northern 65 counties of the state, and the Diocese of Biloxi, made up of the southeastern most 17 counties of Mississippi. The Catholic Diocese of Biloxi was established in 1977. The selection of the first bishop, Joseph Lawson Howze, made history.

"I am the first African American Bishop to head a diocese in this century. There have been a few others since then. I was the first. It was interesting," said Howze.

The first African American Bishop installed to lead a diocese in the U.S. He accepted the position after careful and thoughtful deliberation.

"The bishop in Jackson, MS was asking Rome for a black bishop, and they sent me here. If you asked, did I want to come? No. No I didn't. I was afraid, but my bishop at that time said, 'Father, go. You are called to that.' I've been here ever since," Howze said.

Bishop Howze served for 24 years. He retired in 2001. He was honored with the title Bishop Emeritus of the Diocese of Biloxi. Today, at the age of 93, he lives at the Gardens Senior Living Center in Ocean Springs. Howze was known for working with religious leaders of other faiths and was active in improving Catholic schools in the Diocese.
He accepted the position after careful and thoughtful deliberation.

Howze was known for working with religious leaders of other faiths and was active in improving Catholic schools in the Diocese. He met many times with Pope John Paul II and has fond and vivid memories of those encounters. "I met with John Paul seven times. This cross I'm wearing was given to me by the Pope John Paul II, so it's almost like a relic," said Howze.

Biloxi Bishop Louis F. Kihneman III released a statement remembering Bishop Howze shortly after his death was announced Wednesday. "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, both as an auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of Natchez-Jackson and later as first bishop of Biloxi from 1977 to 2001," said Bishop Kihneman.
"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.

"I was honored by Bishop Howze's presence at my ordination and installation as Biloxi's fourth bishop in April 2017 and, subsequently, had multiple occasions to visit him, anoint him with the Sacrament of the Sick and pray with him. Without fail, every time I visited him, even as his health began to deteriorate, his first concern was always with what was happening in the Diocese of Biloxi.

"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 priesthood and the episcopate, will now welcome him to his heavenly home where he will continue to intercede for us. May he rest in peace."
BILOXI, MS (WLOX)∼Bishop Joseph Howze (1923 – 2019) was the first African-American bishop in the 20th century to head a Roman Catholic diocese in the United States, selected to head the diocese in Biloxi, Mississippi in 1977.

In the 1960s, the bishop led and integrated an all-white parish in Raleigh, North Carolina. Bishop Howze had the honor of introducing Pope Paul II at a church meeting at the Superdome in New Orleans.

Died: Wednesday January 9, 2019. (Who else died on January 9?)

Details of death: Died at the age of 95 in Ocean Springs, Mississippi.

Bishop Howze on the foundation of his ministry: "Love is eternal," he said. "Faith and hope are for this life only. Everything else is bound with weakness and imperfections of the present state. Our foundation is love." –At the ceremony when he was appointed head bishop in Biloxi

What they said about him: "While we are saddened by the death of Bishop Joseph Lawson Howze, we rejoice in his life." "He loved the Diocese of Biloxi and prayed unceasingly for its continued success. "He had a genuine concern for the salvation of souls." - Biloxi Bishop Louis F. Kihneman III said in a news release following his death.

Bishop Emeritus Joseph Lawson Howze, the first black bishop to lead a diocese in the United States in the 20th Century, and founding bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Biloxi, died Wednesday at the age of 95.

Howze became known as the top-ranking American black clergyman. He had led and integrated an all-white parish in Raleigh, N.C., in the 1960s, was appointed president of the National Black Catholic Clergy in 1974, and introduced Pope John Paul II in a historic church gathering in New Orleans in 1987. And he emphasized unity in God regardless of color.

Howze had worshiped in Baptist and Methodist churches when he was younger, and wanted to study medicine. But the call to the priesthood led him on a path to lead and grow the Catholic Diocese of Biloxi for 24 years.

He oversaw parishes in 17 South Mississippi counties after the diocese was founded in 1977 with 42 parishes, 28 schools and 48,000 Catholics.Bishop Emeritus Joseph Lawson Howze, the first black bishop to lead a diocese in the United States in the 20th Century, and founding bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Biloxi, died January 9th at the age of 95.

Howze became known as the top-ranking American black clergyman. He had led and integrated an all-white parish in Raleigh, N.C., in the 1960s, was appointed president of the National Black Catholic Clergy in 1974, and introduced Pope John Paul II in a historic church gathering in New Orleans in 1987. And he emphasized unity in God regardless of color.

Howze had worshiped in Baptist and Methodist churches when he was younger, and wanted to study medicine. But the call to the priesthood led him on a path to lead and grow the Catholic Diocese of Biloxi for 24 years.

Howze had been ill and died at Ocean Springs Hospital, diocese spokesman Terrance Dickson said.

“While we are saddened by the death of Bishop Joseph Lawson Howze, we rejoice in his life,” Biloxi Bishop Louis F. Kihneman III said in a news release.

“He loved the Diocese of Biloxi and prayed unceasingly for its continued success,” Kihneman said. “He had a genuine concern for the salvation of souls.”

Creation of a diocese
Pope Paul VI appointed him to be the bishop in Biloxi on March 8, 1977. Howze signed a decree from the Vatican on June 6, 1977, minutes after cathedral bells tolled at the Nativity Cathedral of the Blessed Virgin Mary. An overflow crowd watched the symbolic creation of the Biloxi Diocese. A 135-voice choir representing each parish sang. Thousands viewed the historic occasion on closed-circuit TV, Sun Herald archives show.

More than three dozen bishops attended, along with a number of priests.

Howze, then 54, took his seat in the Episcopal chair and was adorned with a mitre, the bishop’s crown and the crozier, the symbol of his role as the diocese’s chief shepherd.

During Mass, he said the foundation of his ministry must be of love.

“Love is eternal,” he said. “Faith and hope are for this life only. Everything else is bound with weakness and imperfections of the present state. Our foundation is love.”

The occasion also celebrated the first Catholic Mass on the Mississippi Coast 278 years earlier.

“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,” Kihneman said.

A black leader
The last black Catholic bishop to serve as a pastor had been Bishop James Healy of the Portland, Maine, diocese. He was ordained in 1854 and died in 1900.

Howze became president of the National Black Catholic Clergy in 1974. Three years later, he became the Biloxi bishop.

In 1987, he introduced Pope Paul II at a church meeting in the Superdome in New Orleans. He told the pope that church racism was a major hurdle to black leadership goals and evangelism in the U.S. church, Sun Herald archives show. He told the pope that many African Americans didn’t think that being black and Catholic were made for each other.

“Black Catholics love their church, and they want to become a more significant part of its mission to evangelize and sanctify the world,” Howze said.

He was interviewed by numerous media organizations and magazines, including Ebony, which said in an article, “Bishop Howze wears his awesome power with great humility, preferring simple pastoral duties to much weighty administrative tasks as monitoring a nearly $650,000 annual budget.”

Howze made a lasting impact on many black Catholic high school students who met him, said Dr. Todd Coulter, who went on to become an internal medicine doctor in Pascagoula.

“We looked up to him,” Coulter said. “He was a trailblazer for us, a hero — period. Especially for those of us who were considering the possibility of becoming a priest.”

Howze went on to become Coulter’s patient and close friend, and married Coulter and his wife.

“He was a very saintly, godly man,” Coulter said.

His background
Howze, born in Daphne, Alabama, was shuttled between relatives after his mother died when he was 5. His given name was Lawson, and Joseph later became his baptismal name.

He had foot problems that could have left him wheelchair-bound had he not received treatment, which left him with a shuffle when he walked.

He attended elementary and high schools in Baldwin County, Ala., and at the Mobile County Training School at Plateau. He was valedictorian of his high school class and intended to study medicine, but earned a bachelor’s degree in science and education at Alabama State College in Montgomery.

He taught biology and chemistry for two years at Central High School, a black public school in Mobile.

Howze had first been a Baptist, then a Methodist. He was a choir director, taught himself to play piano and was a Sunday School teacher. He was drawn to the Catholic faith when he was 25 through one of the Catholic students in his biology class.

He began studies to enter the priesthood at Epiphany College in New York in 1950 after being inspired by a Josephite priest, from a congregation of priests whose mission since the Civil War has been to serve the African American community,

Howze began studies at the Diocesan Preparatory Seminary in Buffalo in 1953, and was ordained in Raleigh, North Carolina, in 1959.

Pope Paul VI made several appointments for Howze and he rose through spiritual ranks. He was auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of Natchez-Jackson in 1972, and ordained as a bishop the next year in Jackson.

Howze told the Sun Herald he detested church politics and was surprised when he was nominated to become a bishop.

He enjoyed some of the unexpected pleasures of being a priest on the Mississippi Coast. He sprinkled countless shrimp boats with holy water and prayed for safe travels and good catches at the annual Blessing of the Fleet boat parade.

‘Work of a priest’
Howze made it clear that his work was “the work of a priest.”

He was a big believer in Catholic education. He was once quoted as saying, “Catholic schools are not just private schools, but schools with a very definite philosophy of educating the whole man — body and soul.”

Howze later hired Bragg Moore as youth minister for the diocese.

“He was always a man with a big smile and a hearty laugh,” Moore said. “He loved children. He loved people. He loved a good joke and he loved baseball.”

The Biloxi Diocese had been a part of the Natchez-Jackson Diocese before Howze was named bishop.

He once told the Sun Herald he judged his success as a bishop not by the number of parishioners, buildings or schools, but “by the salvation of souls.”

Howze retired on May 15, 2001. Kihneman, the current bishop, said Howze was present when he was ordained and installed in 2017.

Kihneman enjoyed visits with Howze, anointing him with the Sacrament of the sick, and praying with him.

“Without fail, every time I visited him, even as his health began to deteriorate, his first concern was always with what was happening in the Diocese of Biloxi,” Kihneman said.

“His was a life well lived in faithful service to Almighty God and to the people of Mississippi, both as an auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of Natchez-Jackson and later as first Bishop of Biloxi.”

Funeral arrangements
A visitation is scheduled for 5-8 p.m. Jan. 15, at Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Cathedral, 870 Howard Avenue, with the vigil for the deceased at 7 p.m. There also will be a visitation Jan. 16 from 8:30 a.m. until the funeral Mass at 10:30 a.m. at the cathedral. Interment will be at the new Bishops’ Prayer Garden behind Nativity Cathedral following the Mass.

Conclusion of Funeral:

A horse and carriage took Bishop Howze’s body for interment to the new Bishops' Prayer Garden, which is located behind the Nativity Cathedral.

A Vigil for the Deceased was held Tuesday for Bishop Howze, with the homily led by Bishop Kihnemann. Here's the YouTube video of the funeral proceedings: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JzmQe8pRTtk&feature=youtu.be


Sponsored by Ancestry

Advertisement

Advertisement

  • Created by: Edmond Boudreaux
  • Added: 9 Jan 2019
  • Find A Grave Memorial 195926579
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Rev Fr Joseph Lawson Howze (30 Aug 1923–9 Jan 2019), Find A Grave Memorial no. 195926579, citing Nativity BVM Cathedral Bishop Cemetery, Biloxi, Harrison County, Mississippi, USA ; Maintained by Edmond Boudreaux (contributor 47212104) .