Harrison County

‘Sad day for our diocese.’ Community mourns death of Roger Morin, third bishop of Biloxi

The Catholic Diocese of Biloxi is mourning the second former bishop to die this year.

The diocese announced Thursday the passing of retired Bishop Roger Paul Morin, 78, who died while on an airplane between Boston and Atlanta. He had been visiting his family in Massachusetts, said Terrance Dickson, director of communications for the Diocese of Biloxi.

Moran was the third bishop of Biloxi.

Bishop Emeritus Joseph Lawson Howze, founding bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Biloxi, died in January at the age of 95.

Howze was buried behind the cathedral, and Dickson said the Bishop’s Cemetery was scheduled to be blessed this Saturday. That will still happen, he said, before or after the 4 p.m. Mass.

A visitation for Bishop Morin will be held at the Cathedral of the Blessed Virgin Mary, 870 Howard Ave., Biloxi, on Wednesday, Nov. 6, from 5-8 p.m. with a 7 p.m. Vigil of the Deceased and a recitation of the Rosary to follow.

A Mass of Christian Burial will take place on Thursday, Nov. 7, at 10:30 a.m. Friends may visit from 8:30 am until Mass time. Interment will follow in the Bishops’ Cemetery and Memorial Prayer Garden.

Morin was installed as bishop of Biloxi on April 27, 2009, at the Cathedral of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary by the late Archbishop Pietro Sambi, Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, and Archbishop Thomas Rodi, Metropolitan Archbishop of Mobile.

“Bishop Morin was a kind and gentle man who truly embodied his episcopal motto as one who walked humbly and acted justly,” Louis Kihneman III, current bishop of Biloxi, said Thursday.

“When I was named bishop of Biloxi in 2016, Bishop Morin was most gracious and accommodating. I am forever grateful for his support, wise counsel and, most of all, his friendship. He will be sorely missed. As we prepare to celebrate All Saints Day, we take comfort in knowing that the Communion of Saints has gained a powerful intercessor in Bishop Morin,” Kihneman said.

Morin, who came to Biloxi after surviving Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, had a big personality and was well-respected in the community and loved by the parishioners.

“He was more than a boss. He was a good friend,” Dickson said.

In 2016, Morin shared stories of his years as a priest and bishop with the Sun Herald as he prepared to send a letter of resignation on his 75th birthday.

“It’s a matter of protocol,” he said. “Retirement is effective at 75.”

He remained active in the diocese, celebrating with Howze and the congregation during a program to commemorate the beautiful stained glass windows in the Nativity Cathedral in Biloxi.

Morin was born in Dracut, Mass., on March 7, 1941, the son of the late Germain J. and Lillian E. Morin. His has a brother Paul and three sisters: Lillian “Pat” Johnson, Elaine (Ray) Joncas and Susan Spellissy. His brother James is deceased.

He earned a bachelor’s in philosophy in 1966 from St. John’s Seminary in Brighton, Mass., and has a master’s degree in theology from Notre Dame Seminary. He was ordained to the priesthood by Archbishop Hannan on April 15, 1971, in his home parish of St. Therese in Dracut.

“I went to work in inner-city programs in New Orleans,” he said. After some time in Boston, “I still wanted to go back to New Orleans,” he said, and he went to work for Archbishop Joseph Hannan as director of The Center, a neighborhood social-service organization run by the Social Apostolate.”

His first parish assignment was at St. Henry Parish in New Orleans. He holds a master of science degree in urban studies from Tulane University and completed a program in 1974 as a community economic developer.

Morin told the Sun Herald his most memorable event was when Pope John Paul visited New Orleans in 1987, and Morin directed the archdiocese’s preparations.

Just like so many other people on the Gulf Coast, Morin has a remarkable Hurricane Katrina story. He didn’t leave New Orleans before Katrina hit the city in 2005, but he packed an overnight bag and went to Baton Rouge a few days later when mandatory evacuations were ordered for his neighborhood.

CNN showed video of his house going up in flames. Morin returned to New Orleans with only what he had packed, and continued his work with social programs in the city.

“We have so much to do here,” Morin said when he learned he was being sent to Biloxi.

He quickly found there was much to do in South Mississippi as he became as vital to the Biloxi Diocese as he was in New Orleans.

Although born in New England, Morin became a fan of Southern life and food.

“It’s Southern style, what you call a covered-dish supper, and nine times out of 10, the food is done by parishioners, and that is bad for the bishop,” he told the Sun Herald with a smile. “Everybody wants you to have a taste of what they brought.

“Chicken and chocolate,” he added. “They know me. They will say, ‘Bishop, we will have this chicken dish, and oh, the dessert. It’s chocolate.”

His accomplishments and awards are many, and what many will remember most about Morin is his humor and love of people in his adopted hometowns.

Mary Perez is the business and casino reporter for the Sun Herald and also writes about Biloxi, jobs and the new restaurants and development coming to the Coast. She is a fourth-generation journalist.