By Richard Meek

The Catholic Commentator  

Bishop Emeritus Robert W. Muench said the death of Bishop Roger P. Morin brought an instant sense of “loss to me of someone who had been a co-worker, friend and colleague for many years.”  

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Bishop Roger P. Morin Photo courtesy of the Diocese of Biloxi 

 

He added that sense of loss was immediately followed by a “deep sense of peace from the words of Sacred Scripture: ‘Blessed are those who have died in the Lord; let them rest from their labors for their good deeds go with them’ (Rev 14:13).”  

Bishop Morin, who served in the Archdiocese of New Orleans before being appointed the third bishop of Biloxi, Misssissippi, died Oct. 31 at the age of 78. He was returning to Biloxi after vacationing with his family in Massachusetts and died during his flight from Boston to Atlanta, according to a diocesan news release.  

“This is a sad day for our diocese. I was shocked to hear the news,” Biloxi Bishop Louis F. Kihneman III said in a statement.  Bishop Muench said Bishop Morin, as a seminarian from Massachusetts, volunteered for several summers for the highly successful inner-city Witness program, launched by Archbishop Philip M. Hannan. Bishop Muench said those several years of volunteer service in New Orleans led Bishop Morin to enter the seminary for the archdiocese. 

“He was a man of exceptional faith, spirituality, intelligence, organizational ability, humility, wit and humor (sometimes wry) alongside a soft-spoken manner, with a special charism for the underprivileged, seminarian Roger became Deacon Roger, then Father Roger, then Msgr. Roger, and finally Bishop Roger Morin,” Bishop Muench said. “He will always be remembered for so successfully help plan the visit of Pope John Paul II to New Orleans (Sept. 11-13, 1987).  He will be sorely missed, but always remembered with great respect and fondness.  May he rest in peace.”  

Bishop Morin was appointed to head the Diocese of Biloxi by Pope Benedict XVI March 2, 2009 and was installed in April 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 J. Rodi of Mobile, Alabama.

His episcopal motto was “Walk Humbly and Act Justly.” He retired in 2016 at age 75.  

“Bishop Morin was a kind and gentle man who truly embodied his episcopal motto as one who walked humbly and acted justly,” he said. “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.”  

A native of Dracut, Massachusetts, he was born March 7, 1941, the son of Germain J. and Lillian E. Morin. He has one brother, Paul, and three sisters, Lillian “Pat” Johnson, Elaine (Ray) Joncas and Susan Spellissy. His parents and his brother James are deceased.  

After high school and college studies, he earned a bachelor’s degree in philosophy in 1966 from St. John’s Seminary in Brighton, Massachusetts, and continued theology studies at St. John’s for two years of graduate school. In 1967 he went to New Orleans to work in its new summer Witness program, conducted by the archdiocesan Social Apostolate.  

He was ordained to the priesthood by Archbishop Hannan April 15, 1971, in his home parish of St. Therese of the Child Jesus Roman Catholic Parish Church in Dracut, Massachusetts.  

His first parish assignment was at St. Henry Church in New Orleans. In 1973, he was appointed associate director of the Social Apostolate and in 1975 became the director, responsible for the operation of nine year-round social service centers sponsored by the archdiocese.  

Bishop Morin had a master of science degree in urban studies from Tulane University and in 1974 completed a program as a community economic developer. Bishop Morin was the founding president of Second Harvest Food Bank.  

In 1978, he was a volunteer member of Mayor Ernest “Dutch” Morial’s transition team dealing with federal programs and then accepted a $1 a year position as deputy special assistant to the mayor for federal programs and projects. Morial was the first African American to be elected mayor of New Orleans.  

Then-Father Morin served the city of New Orleans until 1981, when he was appointed New Orleans archdiocesan vicar for community affairs, with responsibility over nine agencies: Catholic Charities, Social Apostolate, human relations, alcoholics’ ministry, Apostleship of the Sea, cemeteries, disaster relief, hospitals and prisons. He was named a monsignor by St. John Paul II in 1985.  

He was in residence at Incarnate Word Parish beginning in 1981 and served as pastor there from 1988 through April 2002. 

One of the highlights of his priesthood came in 1987 when he directed the New Orleans Archdiocese’s preparations for St. John Paul’s historic visit to New Orleans. The visit involved thousands of community volunteers and coordination among national, state and local religious and political leaders.  

He also coordinated the events of the bicentennial of the archdiocese in 1993. In 1995, Bishop Morin received the Weiss Brotherhood Award presented by the National Conference of Christians and Jews for his service in the field of human relations.  

St. John Paul named him an auxiliary bishop of New Orleans Feb. 11, 2003; his episcopal ordination was April 22 of that year. He was vicar general and moderator of the curia for the archdiocese 2001-2009.  

Bishop Morin was a member of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Subcommittee on the Catholic Campaign for Human Development 2005-2013, and served as chairman 2008-2010. During that time, he also was a member of the Domestic Justice and Human Development and the National Collections committees.  

Catholic News Services contributed to this report