We sadly report the passing of Monsignor Laurence E. Higgins at his rectory home under hospice care, Wednesday, August 24th, 2016, approaching his 88th birthday.
Monsignor Higgins was born September 3, 1928 in Magherafelt, County Derry, Northern Ireland to John and Philomena Higgins. He was the third oldest of eight children – Eoin, Mary, Ruaidhri, Philomena, Maeve, Anne and Margaret.
His first thoughts were to become either a doctor or a professional athlete but the call to priesthood was greater. He was educated at St. Columb’s College in Derrry, St. Patrick’s College, Armagh and All Hallows Seminary in Dublin where he was ordained on June 21, 1953.
Following his ordination, responding to the need for priests, he came to the Diocese of St. Augustine and served at three parishes in Miami – Holy Family, 1953-56; Corpus Christi, 1956-57; and St. Mary’s, 1957-58. In May 1958 Monsignor Higgins was assigned to the mission area in Tampa to establish a parish in northwest sector of Tampa. On November 5, 1959, St. Lawrence Parish was canonically established and he was appointed Administrator pro tempore. Later he formed a mission in the northeast section and Epiphany Parish was canonically established in May 1961.
Continuing to form missions in the area, Incarnation Parish was canonically established in 1962 and then St. Paul’s Parish in 1963. Monsignor Higgins served as Vicar General, Consultor, Vicar Forane (Dean) and on many diocesan boards and councils.
**For additional information on Monsignor Higgins life, contributions to our diocese and community and bequests to his charities, please see the tribute from St. Lawrence Parish and other links included below the funeral information.
All funeral services will take place at St. Lawrence Catholic Church, 5521 North Himes Avenue, Tampa.
Monday, August 29, 2016:
Reception of the Body & Visitation: Noon – 9:00 PM
Rosary at 7:30 PM
Tuesday August 30, 2016:
Visitation: Noon – 9:00 PM
Evening Prayer at 7:30 PM
Wednesday, August 31, 2016: Funeral Liturgy – 11:30 AM Bishop Lynch will preside. Priests and Deacons wishing to vest, please bring your alb and stole. Seating will be available in the Church, the Piazza, and in Higgins Hall. Parking on St. Lawrence grounds will be restricted to the handicapped and those continuing on to the cemetery. Parking for those attending the funeral only will be available at nearby Al Lopez Park with shuttle service provided.
Committal at Garden of Memories Cemetery in Tampa will follow.
Reception thereafter at Higgins Hall.
In lieu of flowers, Monsignor Higgins hoped that those interested would make contributions to one of the organizations so important to him, including St. Peter Claver School, Cristo Rey Tampa High School, Abe Brown Ministries, or the Gold Shield Foundation.
- Tampa Bay Times article: “ Monsignor Laurence Higgins, who built a parish and helped build Tampa, dies at 87”
- WUSF article: “Reflections on the Passing of a Well-Known Priest”
- FOX 13: “ Tampa’s Monsignor Higgins passes away at 87”
- St. Lawrence Parish’s tribute website: “A Tribute to Msgr. Higgins”
- St. Lawrence Parish website
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers: “Remembering “Great Man,” Monsignor Higgins”
- Spirit FM 90.5 Audio Tribute to Msgr. Higgins
FROM ST. LAWRENCE CATHOLIC CHURCH:
Our beloved Monsignor Laurence E. Higgins, founder and pastor of our parish for 49 years, passed away this morning (Aug. 24) at his rectory home. He was 87.
Monsignor served as pastor from the inception of St. Lawrence in 1958 to June 2007, the longest tenure of any priest in the St. Petersburg Diocese. After retiring he remained as pastor emeritus and continued his many initiatives on behalf of the poor.
As one of the best known and respected spiritual and civic leaders in the Tampa Bay area for decades, attendance at the funeral is expected to be significant from parishioners and others in the community. Guided by Monsignor’s desire for everything to be open to the public, we have attempted to structure a schedule that should enable everyone to pay their respects.
Visitation will be held at the church Monday and Tuesday (August 29 and 30) from 12:00 – 9:00 p.m. both days, with recitation of the rosary at 7:30 p.m. on Monday and Evening Prayer at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday.
A funeral Mass will be celebrated Wednesday (August 31) beginning at 11:30 a.m. with graveside services to follow at Garden of Memories Cemetery and a reception thereafter at Higgins Hall. Seating will be available in the Church, the Piazza, and in Higgins Hall. Parking on St. Lawrence grounds will be restricted to the handicapped and those continuing on to the cemetery. Parking for those attending the funeral only will be available at nearby Al Lopez Park with shuttle service provided.
In recent months Monsignor made it known that in lieu of flowers he hoped that those interested would make contributions to one of the organizations so important to him, including St. Peter Claver School, Cristo Rey Tampa High School, Abe Brown Ministries, or the Gold Shield Foundation.
Monsignor was born September 3, 1928 in Magherafelt, Northern Ireland to government administrator John Higgins and homemaker Philomena. He was the third – oldest of eight children (Eoin, Mary, Ruaidhri, Philomena, Maeve, Anne, and Margaret).
Monsignor was ordained on June 21, 1953 at All Hallows Seminary in Dublin, Ireland. Soon thereafter he was sent to the United States and assigned to the Florida Diocese of St. Augustine. He worked in Miami at Holy Family, Corpus Christi, and St. Mary’s Parishes before being transferred to the mission territory of the Tampa Bay area in 1958.
Upon his arrival in Tampa, Archbishop Joseph Hurley gave Monsignor 20 acres of cow pasture at Hillsborough and Himes Avenues along with a mandate: “Build a parish.” The Parish was canonically established in 1959 with Masses celebrated in barracks in Drew Park, in the auditorium at Hillsborough High School, in the chapel at Jesuit High School, and at the Wellswood Civic Center until the provisional church building was completed in 1961. As the Parish eventually grew to include 2200 families, finances enabled the permanent church to be constructed and dedicated on April 5, 1981.
Over the years Monsignor played a role in starting three more Catholic parishes in Tampa: Epiphany, Incarnation, and St. Paul. While still at St. Lawrence he served as interim pastor at St. Peter Claver from 1971 – 73 when President Jimmy Carter also appointed him to the U.S. Commission for Civil Rights for southern states.
As a priest Monsignor was appointed the Vicar General (second in command) of the Diocese of St. Petersburg from 1980 – 90 under the late Bishop Thomas Larkin. Previously he had served in the roles of Consultor (adviser) to the bishop and Vicar Fornane (supervisor of the clergy). In 1983 Pope John Paul II gave him the title of “Monsignor Prelate of Honor” and subsequently in 1988 “Protonotary Apostolic,” the highest rank of Monsignor.
Monsignor has served as chaplain for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Rowdies and was frequently sought by Tampa Bay area media outlets to comment on controversial and church – related issues.
Monsignor gained a reputation as a good Samaritan and became a constant presence at civic and athletic events. His contributions to the community include serving on the board directors of the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute Foundation, Judeo Christian Health Clinic, “Higgins Alcohol and Addiction Program” at USF’s Institute for Research in Psychiatry, Florida Treatment Center, Project Return, Gold Shield Foundation, MOSI, Crisis Center of Hillsborough County, Boys and Girls Clubs, Tampa and West Tampa Chambers of Commerce, Ybor City Development Corporation, the Outback Bowl, and many others.
He founded the Raphael Foundation in 1997 which supports programs for the disadvantaged such as MacDonald Training Center, Meals on Wheels, Judeo Christian Health Clinic, Abe Brown Prison Ministries, and Trinity Cafe. He also established “Housing by St. Laurence,” which is dedicated to helping first – time home buyers and low – income families, and San Lorenzo Terrace I and II, a HUD project of retirement apartments for low – income seniors.
A celebrated member of the Tampa Bay community, Monsignor received numerous honors including the “Outstanding Service” Award from the Cuban Civic Club in 1974, the Sertoma Club “Service to Mankind” Award in 1986, the “Citizen of the Year” Award from the Tampa Civitans Club in 1994, the “Ethics” Award from the University of Tampa in 2000, the “Gonzmart Family Ambassador” Award from the Tampa Bay Convention and Visitors Bureau in 2004, the Jewish National Fund Tree of Life “Lifetime Achievement” Award in 2011, and the Tampa Bay Lightning “Community Hero” Award in 2016. He received an honorary law degree from Ave Maria School of Law in 2013.
As we gather for this celebration of his life, please pray for the repose of Monsignor’s soul and in thanksgiving to God for sending us this wonderful priest and friend.
Click on this link http://monsignorlaurencehiggins.org/ to visit a website dedicated to Msgr. Higgins.