LONG BEACH, MS (WLOX) - During this time of Thanksgiving, the Catholic Diocese of Biloxi is counting among its blessings hundreds of Irish priests and nuns. A fundraiser is underway throughout the Diocese to build a monument honoring all the Irish clergy men and women who have served in our area over the years. One priest from the Emerald Isle talked about the special bond between his native country and South Mississippi.
After receiving his calling to the priesthood, Father Louis Lohan says he wanted to serve where he could still be close to his countrymen. A large number of Irish priests and nuns as well as the chance to make a difference made Mississippi ideal.
"They said 'We need you. We need you'," said Father Lohan. "There are counties in Mississippi there are no Catholic churches, no Catholic priests or nuns. I think that was the challenge. We wanted to come and help out. "
Over 34 years Father Lohan has served in Catholic churches in Long Beach, Wiggins, Pascagoula, Bay St. Louis and several other South Mississippi towns. He said it took some getting used to for both him and the parishioners.
"I came from a totally different culture to a whole new culture. The most notable was that every time I opened my mouth somebody said, 'What did he say? What's he trying to say?"
According to the Biloxi Diocese, Ireland has sent 154 priests, 178 nuns, and two bishops to Mississippi to spread the gospel. Plans are to build a monument baring all their names on the grounds of St. Patrick High School in Harrison County.
Father Lohan said, "They've been very, very good to us priests and nuns. I think it's very nice. I'm also conscious that there are priests from other countries that came too and priests from other parts of the United States that have come to be pastors to be nuns here among the Catholic people and I think we need to be very conscious of that. It's not just the Irish."