Getting to know Monsignor Laurence Higgins of St. Lawrence Catholic parish with "10 questions"
4:09 PM, Dec 29, 2013
1:18 AM, Dec 30, 2013
TAMPA, Fla - Are you ever curious about the real lives of politicians, celebrities, local newsmakers and athletes?
Each week, ABC Action News asks 10 questions of a Bay area leader, politician or even national celebrity.
We go beyond the questions that are news of the day. After all sometimes, we want know more about them. What's their favorite music? Biggest regret? And who do they look up to?
During this time of the year as we celebrate the holidays, we wanted you to get to know some of our religious leaders in our community. I reached out to all of you and received many suggestions, that we truly appreciate.
I could not feature everyone in these next few months, but I hope to profile all your suggestions throughout the New Year!
And rounding out the feature, a familiar and beloved figure in the Bay area, Monsignor Laurence Higgins. The founder and Pastor Emeritus of the St. Lawrence Catholic parish in Tampa.
Born in Derry, Northern Ireland, the monsignor first thought he would become a doctor or even a professional athlete he was hailed as an All-Ireland football star, but the calling for the priesthood took over.
Higgins was first ordained a catholic priest and served at the All Hallows Seminary in Dublin.
He was transferred to Florida in the fifties after a need arose for priests as the catholic population grew rapidly in this state.
He was then was assigned to the Diocese of St. Augustine and then served as a priest in Miami and before heading to Tampa in 1958 where he was sent to establish a parish, coincidentally named St. Lawrence.
He worked tirelessly to establish the church in the community. Higgins not only oversaw the development of St. Lawrence he also oversaw the establishment of St. Lawrence Catholic School.
He also served at the Chaplain for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Higgins tireless work through the years did not go unnoticed.
In 1980 the then Bishop Thomas Larkin appointed Higgins as the Vicar General of the Diocese of St. Petersburg, a position he held for 10 years.
And then in 1983, the year of his 30th anniversary as a priest, Pope John Paul 11 gave him the title of Monsignor, Prelate of Honor, and in then in 1988, Protonotary Apostolic, the highest rank as a monsignor.
The University of South Florida named its Alcoholism and Addiction Research Program after him knowing his dedication to those in need. He has served on numerous boards and organizations in hopes of raising awareness and improve conditions for the underserved.
Monsignor was also the 67th Tampa Civitan Club's Citizen of the Year, one the city's highest awards for community service that is granted every year since 1927.
After serving nearly 50 years, the monsignor stepped down from St. Lawrence in June of 2007. His impact on the community was clearly evident when upon his retirement, then Mayor Pam Iorio proclaimed that week "Higgins Days."
To this day, he is still active in the community. His familiar Irish brogue and warm spirit still also such a comfort to thousands in this community.
Just this past June, dozens gathered to for a mass celebrating the 60th anniversary of his ordination in his native Ireland.
Former Buccaneer Coach Tony Dungy and former Buccaneer Strong Safety John Lynch often talked about the Monsignor and all his work, as well as help guiding the team as chaplain.
I have a had a chance to interview Monsignor Higgins on numerous occasions. Even during controversial stories, he always made himself available to help directly answer questions being discussed in the media at the time.
I love this segment-and I hope you do too! Because you learn so much about people-I had to ask the monsignor to rep eat his answer to number 7. Tell us something about you most people do not know? The answer was not expected and made me smile because of the way he described it.
1. What is your all time favorite movie or song?
A Man For All Seasons
2. Do you have a Smartphone? If so, what's your favorite app?
I have a smartphone, I just don't know how to work it!
3. Who do you count as your mentor(s)?
My parents and Bishop Eugene O'Doughtery of Northern Ireland. He was a great man, a great fisherman, and a great human being loved by all people.
4. What was your very first job?
The only job I have ever had was a priest. I was a student and studied medicine, I played rugby and football but did not think I was quite good enough to make it my career! (he's being modest according to those who know him)
5. If you could change one thing about yourself what would it be?
I need to learn to relax more!
6. What do you consider your greatest success?
Establishing four parishes un Tampa. St. Lawrence, Epiphnay, Incarnation and St. Paul.
7. Tell us something about you most people don't know?
I was expelled from two colleges! I would not follow the rules!
8. If you could have dinner with any three people, living or dead, who would they be?
I have four. G.K. Chesterton, an English writer,
And then these three men I greatly admire. Ghandi, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Nelson Mandela. They all have the same concepts, they believe all people should live peace.
They are all great leaders and we should live by their example.
9. What is in your fridge right now?
Mangos, yogurt and Irish oatmeal
10. You could have a different career, other then what you're doing now, what would it be?
I would do medicine and be a doctor
This segment is largely based on your suggestions. Please keep sending me your recommendations and ideas. I look forward to hearing from you!