The inestimable Monsignor Laurence E. Higgins died and all Tampa Bay is poorer for it. He filled his time here on Earth, 9/3/1928-8/24/2016 with a lifetime of service as a Catholic priest serving in Ireland and Florida. He was ordained in Dublin, Ireland 6/21/1953 and sent to Florida that year, where he served in Miami initially, but in 1958 he was sent to Tampa. Merely a year later, 11/5/1959 he established St. Lawrence parish; over the next several years, he also help establish several other parishes- St. Paul’s, Incarnation and Epiphany.
Msgr. Higgins served the common good of Tampa Bay, frequently by helping wealth and political power assist the poor, sick, addicted and marginalized. His tireless work brought him invitations to serve on the boards of directors many organizations, but to name a few: The Judeo Christian Health Clinic, Project Return, MOSI, Crisis Center of Hillsborough County, Boys and Girls Clubs, the Tampa Chamber of Commerce and of course the West Tampa Chamber of Commerce.
His work wasn’t restricted to board rooms – he engaged and helped people individually through programs he promoted and from his parish, St. Lawrence. His work amongst the poor was recognized on a national level by President Jimmy Carter who appointed him to U.S. Commission for Civil Rights in southern states. He served as the chaplain for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Rowdies. As a priest, he was the Vicar General, number two in the diocese, from 1980-1990; he also received two special titles from Pope John Paul II: Monsignor Prelate of Honor in 1983 and Protonatory Apostolic in 1988.
His titles, appointments to boards, and founding programs aside, Msgr. Higgins is most remembered for his connection to all people. He could truly connect with regular people just as genuinely as the well-heeled.