Retired Mississippi bishop dies at 89

Bishop William R. Houck served as president of Catholic Extension from 2001-2007. Photo courtesy of Catholic Extension.
Bishop William R. Houck served as president of Catholic Extension from 2001-2007. Photo courtesy of Catholic Extension.

.- With “a heavy heart and great sadness,” Bishop Joseph Kopacz of Jackson, Mississippi announced the death of Bishop Emeritus William R. Houck on March 9.

“We rejoice in the confident knowledge that he is at peace,” Bishop Kopacz said in a March 9 statement.

Bishop Houck experienced complications after undergoing bypass surgery for a single artery blockage.

“He was recovering but took a turn for the worst last night,” Bishop Kopacz said.

Bishop Houck served the Diocese of Jackson as bishop from 1984 until his retirement in 2003. He had a love for Catholic education and evangelization as evidenced by his years of study and numerous roles in education and school administration.

An Alabama native, Bishop Houck was born in Mobile on June 26, 1926 to William and Mildred Blanchard Houck. He was ordained a priest in 1951 after earning his S.T.L. from St. Mary’s Seminary and University in Baltimore and his Master’s Degree from The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.

He served as a school administrator in Pensacola, Florida from 1951 until 1957, when he went to Birmingham, Alabama and served as Superintendent of Catholic Schools of Mobile-Birmingham, a high school principal and Secretary for Education for the diocese during the years of 1957 to 1979. He also served as pastor of St. Francis Xavier Parish in Birmingham from 1974 to 1979.

He was ordained a bishop in 1979 by Pope St. John Paul II. Bishop Houck served with his predecessor, Bishop Joseph B. Brunini, until Bishop Brunini’s retirement in 1984. Bishop Houck was then installed as the ninth Bishop of Jackson on June 5, 1984, where he served until his own retirement in 2003.

During his time as Bishop of Jackson, he served as the chair of the U.S. Bishops’ committee on evangelization, helping them develop the 1992 document, “Go Make Disciples: A National Strategy for Catholic Evangelization.”

His lengthy resume includes service as a board member of Catholic Church Extension Society; the Mississippi Religious Leadership Conference; U.S. Catholic Coordinating Committee for Lay Volunteer Ministry; the Board of Hospice Ministries, Inc.; and the Mississippi Governor’s Task Force on Infant Mortality. He was president of the Ecumenical Health Care Organization for Whispering – a hospice ministry for AIDS patients abandoned by their families.

In 2001, Cardinal Francis George requested that John Paul II name Bishop Houck president of Catholic Extension Society of America. John Paul II agreed and Bishop Houck served as both Bishop of Jackson and president of the Chicago-based parish support organization until 2003 when his retirement as bishop was accepted.

In 2007, he retired as president of Catholic Extension and returned to Jackson where he remained active in diocesan and cathedral life until his death.

A Rite of Reception of the Body will be held March 15 at 4 p.m. at the Cathedral of St. Peter the Apostle. Bishop Houck will lie in state and be available for visitation until 7 p.m. that evening and the following day from 10 a.m. until noon, and 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. with a Vigil/ Wake Service at 7 p.m. The Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated on March 17 at 12:30 p.m. followed by interment in the Bishop’s Cemetery next to the Cathedral.

 
Remembering Bishop William R. Houck

Catholic Extension is saddened to share that our president emeritus, Bishop William R. Houck, died early yesterday morning in Jackson, Mississippi. Appointed by Pope John Paul II, he served as president from 2001 until 2007. As president emeritus, he continued to share his spiritual insights through his popular weekly meditations. Please join us in praying for the repose of his soul and in thanksgiving for his longtime dedication and service to Catholic Extension.

Posted by Catholic Extension on Thursday, March 10, 2016

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