Catholic bishops are supposed to retire when they are 75 years old.
But Bishop Joseph Howze asked the Vatican for an extension when he reached that age more than two years ago.
Before stepping down, Bishop Howze wanted to see the completion of the new Catholic Diocese headquarters on Popps Ferry Road. With that project now finished, Pope John Paul the Second announced a replacement for Bishop Howze.
The bishop hosted a news conference Tuesday morning to announce his retirement and introduce his successor.
"It has been a great honor and a privilege to serve the people for which I am forever grateful."
Bishop Joseph Howze addressed the press conference seated next to the man who will follow him.
Monsignor Thomas Rodi of New Orleans will be ordained bishop at a Mass on July 2nd.
Bishop Howze became Biloxi's first bishop in 1977. He admits stepping down is a bittersweet experience.
"It was a great honor just to come to Mississippi and when I came here in 1972 there were tough times, but the people were good to me and I adjusted very well."
Cherished memories cover the office walls. This former high school teacher has met some interesting people during his ministry, including Pope John Paul the second.
His longtime secretary says building the new Diocese headquarters on Popps Ferry Road in Biloxi was a dream of his.
"He beamed. I mean he just glowed the day we moved in. He was going around and seeing everything and checking out the offices and welcoming people and happy to show them around. Just like the fulfillment of a dream," said Anne Godlewski.
Monsignor Thomas Rodi was born in New Orleans but has definite family ties to the Mississippi Coast. His parents lived in Bay St. Louis for 15 years. His grandparents, on his mother's side, were married at Nativity Cathedral, the same church where he'll be installed as the next bishop of the Biloxi Diocese.
Monsignor Rodi says he looks forward to his new leadership role.
"I would like to think my style is to bring people together. And that would be the thing I would most like to see. The call of Jesus Christ is for us to come together as one body and one people."
Bishop Howze will serve as Diocesan Administrator to assist with the leadership transition.
The retired bishop will stay in Biloxi.