Catholic Diocese of Biloxi's first bishop broke barriers

Catholic Diocese of Biloxi's first bishop broke barriers

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - On Friday, the Catholic Diocese of Biloxi will install Louis Kihneman III as the leader of the diocese. He will become the fourth bishop in the history of the diocese.

The Catholic Diocese of Biloxi was established in 1977. The selection of the first bishop, Joseph Lawson Howze, made history.

"I am the first African American Bishop to head a diocese in this century. There have been a few others since then. I was the first. It was interesting," said Howze.

Howze was ordained as a bishop in 1973. He lived in South Alabama and is proud that he was the first African American Bishop installed to lead a diocese in the U.S. He accepted the position after careful and thoughtful deliberation.

"The bishop in Jackson, MS was asking Rome for a black bishop, and they sent me here. If you asked did I want to come? No. No I didn't. I was afraid, but my bishop at that time said, 'Father, go. You are called to that.' I've been here ever since," Howze said.

Howze served for 24 years. He retired in 2001. Today, at the age of 93, he lives at the Gardens Senior Living Center in Ocean Springs.

Howze was known for working with religious leaders of other faiths and was active in improving Catholic schools in the Diocese.

He met many times with Pope John Paul II and has fond and vivid memories of those encounters.

"I met with John Paul seven times. This cross I'm wearing was given to me by the Pope John Paul II, so it's almost like a relic," said Howze.

Kihneman will be installed Friday at 2 p.m. at the Cathedral of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

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