Father Pat O'Shaughnessy Leaving The Coast

He's a man respected by Catholic's and non-Catholics throughout South Mississippi. Father Pat O'Shaughnessy is leaving his job as pastor of Saint Michael's Catholic church in Biloxi and heading for Hattiesburg.

Father Pat O'Shaughnessy grew up in Ireland, went to college there, came to America in 1968 and started his priesthood in Pascagoula. There's a policy in the Biloxi diocese that priests can only stay at one church for 12 years. He's been at St. Michael's since 1992.

"So my 12 years are up, so I'm on the road," O'Shaughnessy said.

When Father O'Shaughnessy came to Saint Michael's in east Biloxi the church saw only a small congregation.

"I guess you might say it was a dying church and a dying parish. We had across some shrimp factories, some where active, some were closed," O'Shaughnessy said.

Now those days are gone. Every weekend the pews are full of people and bright lights of casinos sparkle where old shrimp boats used to sail.

Many coast residents know father O'Shaughnessy from his community service work, blessing of the shrimp fleet and fund raising for cystic fibrosis.

"I had a sister and brother who died for cystic fibrosis and have been involved since the beginning with Archie manning golf tournament, which raises about $60-70,000 every year for cystic fibrosis.

Jocelyn Mayfield and her husband celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary and Father O'Shaughnessy remarried the couple. They, along with others, are sad to see the priest leave.

"He gives you a very good homily and it doesn't take him 30 minutes to do it, but I just wish Bishop Rodi would have kept him closer to the coast. I think the young people should appreciate that," Mayfield said.

Father O'Shaughnessy said he loves the coast and would have preferred to stay here, but he is anxious to use his talents elsewhere.

"It's always difficult to say good bye, and I'll be saying good bye to a lot of people, and many of them I won't see perhaps, but, my golfing buddies that'll be the biggest adjustment to make the toughest part to say good bye to them," O'Shaughnessy said.

The Reverend O'Shaugnessy is headed to Sacred Heart Church in Hattiesburg. Helping build a new high school will be one of the challenges he faces.