BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - On Wednesday, celebrations of Mass were also celebrations of Bishop Joseph Howze, remembered as the pillar on which the Biloxi Diocese was created.
Howze died Wednesday at the age of 95.
“As the first African-American bishop to be named the bishop of a diocese is a tremendous moment for the United States, for the state of Mississippi but also for us as a church especially,” said Bishop Louis Kihneman.
Tammy DiLorenzo was hired by Howze as director of finance.
“He came down here in 1977 with pretty much a typewriter, and that was it. He just did such a good job, and I’m proud of him,” she said, "and I’m very proud to have worked for him.”
Howze’s passing was expected, even to the point that music rehearsals involving choirs throughout the diocese were held to prepare for his funeral Mass.
“It was a kind of somber event, but we had what he wanted for his funeral and to sing songs like ‘Amazing Grace’ and things that he wanted for that Mass was what we were practicing,” said Nativity BVM choir member KC Arnold. “We knew that these were his desires for his celebration of life.”
Some parishioners, like Bones Barq, had an even deeper connection to the bishop, who helped him through a rough time in his life.
“We just hit it off,” he said. “We became great friends. I don’t know where I'd be without Bishop Howze with his guidance at that time.”
They would spend time talking, eating and laughing.
“When I went out with the bishop, I had to have four or five, six hours,” Barq said. “I blocked out the rest of the day, and I wish to God I could block out another day, another week, another year. What a man.”
With every visit came a note of appreciation. and Barq treasures them all.
As he read his words from a letter most recently sent, it was hard to hold back the tears: “I enjoyed the delicious dinner and the great company of your family’s love. I thank you with the deepest gratitude. For your kind favors. Each day when I celebrate the holy sacrifice of the Mass, the intentions are remembered in all my prayers. May the Lord bless and reward your generous kindness. Sincerely, Bishop Joseph Lawson Howze.”
Visitation at Nativity BVM in Biloxi will be from 5 to 8 p.m. Tuesday and again Wednesday from 8:30 a.m. until the funeral Mass at 10:30 a.m.