Bishop Joseph Howze enters Nativity Cathedral in Biloxi to see a church, filled with people who admire and love him. The Mass of Thanksgiving Wednesday night, celebrates the 24th anniversary of the Diocese of Biloxi.
Bishop Howze remembers well, the day he was installed as Bishop of the newly-created Diocese. The Bishop says he woke up the next day and realized that a new Diocese had been established and he had to get busy, figuring out how to organize the new operations of the new Diocese. At the time, there was no office, no building, no equipment and no personnel.
Over the years, Bishop Howze steered the growth of the Diocese, including the changes in the Catholic school system, and the establishment of a new administration building on Popps Ferry Road. Priests and parishioners remember the Bishop as a man with a strong faith, who is committed to being a servant of God.
Fr. Paddy Mockler of Our Lady of Fatima Church says being the first black ordinary, Bishop Howze has been an outstanding leader, and he's been very well received in Mississippi. Fr. Mockler calls the Bishop a symbol of unity who has pastored and cared for his people.
Buck O'Gea of Biloxi says when he became a Catholic, he was confirmed by Bishop Howze. His group was the first to come through in the new Diocese, so the Bishop means a lot to him. O'Gea says Bishop Howze has been a good friend and a good pastor.
But at age 77, Bishop Howze says he's ready to retire. He thanks everyone for their support and their prayers over the past 24 years, as he served as a shepherd of the Diocese. Bishop Howze says it has been a great privilege and a great honor to serve the people of God, of which he is forever grateful.
He says it's the people in the community who make a difference in this world. Bishop Howze says the spirit of God rests in the people, so he asks them to go and proclaim God's peace and joy.
After the mass, everyone headed to the President Broadwater Hotel for a reception. Many people say although Bishop Howze is retiring, he's still going to remain very active in the Catholic Community on the Coast. Bishop Howze's successor, Monsignor Thomas Rodi of New Orleans, will be installed as Bishop on July 2nd, at Nativity.