Fla. priest celebrates 60 years of service



— A Tampa priest is celebrating the 60th anniversary of his ordination.

Monsignor Laurence Higgins was honored Saturday, following a mass at St. Lawrence Catholic Church in Tampa.

Higgins stepped down from his role as senior pastor in 2007. But he didn’t really slow down.

“Everybody wants to get married or buried by him,” longtime friend and church member Joe Capitano told the Tampa Tribune. “And he doesn’t care who you are, rich or poor, Catholic or not.”

Last month 83-year-old Higgins received an honorary law degree from Ava Maria School of Law in Naples.

“I didn’t see that coming. I’m very humbled by it,” he said.

Higgins hails from a family in Ireland with four generations of lawyers and doctors. He said he only regrets that his late brothers, Eoin, who was a justice of the Supreme Court of Northern Ireland and Ruri, an attorney, weren’t around to see the festivities.

“They would just laugh and say Americans are crazy,” Higgins said of what he thought his brothers would think of his honorary law degree. “Laurence, a lawyer? He should be in jail!”

Instead of law, Higgins entered the Seminary of All Hallows in Dublin.

He was ordained June 21, 1953 and came to the United States, as part of the mass export of Irish clergy sent to serve a fast-growing Catholic population. After a stint in Miami, Higgins went to Tampa in 1958. He founded St. Lawrence, where he stayed for 49 years.