Bishop William Russell Houck

Bishop Houck
Bishop William Russell Houck

1984-2003
Born: June 26, 1926
Ordained a Priest for Mobile: May 19, 1951
Ordained a Bishop: May 27, 1979
Installed: June 6, 1984
Retired: Jan. 3, 2003
Died: March 9, 2016
Episcopal Motto: Proclaim Jesus Christ is Lord

Houck shield002
Bishop William R. Houck became bishop in the Catholic Diocese of Jackson in 1979 when he was ordained by Pope – now Saint – John Paul II on May 27, at the Basilica of St. Peter in Rome.  He served as Auxiliary Bishop to Bishop Joseph B. Brunini from 1979-1984.  He was installed as the ninth bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Jackson on June 5, 1984.

Bishop Houck was born on June 26, 1926 in Mobile, Alabama. He died on March 9, 2016 at the age of 89.  He was the son of William R. and Mildred Blanchard Houck.  He earned his S.T.L. from St. Mary’s Seminary and University in Baltimore, Maryland and his Master’s Degree from The Catholic University of America in Washington.  He was ordained a priest on May 19, 1951 at the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Mobile, by Bishop Thomas J. Toolen.

Bishop Houck was an educator. He held teaching and school administrative positions in Pensacola, Florida (1951-57) and in Birmingham, Alabama (1957-79) with the exception of 1969-70, when he was Superintendent of Catholic Schools in the Diocese of Mobile-Birmingham. He was high school principal, Superintendent of Schools and Secretary for Education for the Diocese of Birmingham during the years of 1957-79. He served as Pastor of St. Francis Xavier Parish in Birmingham from 1974-79.

Bishop Houck was presently a member of the Board of Governors of the Catholic Church Extension Society, the Mississippi Religious Leadership Conference, and the Board of Hospice Ministries, Inc.

Bishop Houck was a past board member of the International Liaison: U.S. Catholic Coordinating Committee for Lay Volunteer Ministry, the American Board of Catholic Missions Committee of the NCCB, and the Mississippi Governor’s Task Force on Infant Mortality. He was also a member of the Southern Ecumenical Coalition on Maternal and Infant Health, and President of Ecumenical Health Care Organization for Whispering Pines.

He was a past president of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.  He was also active in the National Catholic Education Association, Southern Association of Independent Schools and Accreditation of American Schools in Latin America.

Bishop Houck also served as Chairman of the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on Evangelization, and was a member of the Committee on Laity, the Domestic Policy Committee on Peace and Justice, and Conference Nominations Committee.

Under his chairmanship, the Committee on Evangelization developed Go and Make Disciples: A National Plan and Strategy for Catholic Evangelization in the United States. This document was issued in 1992 by the U.S. Catholic Bishops.

In May 2001 Bishop Houck celebrated his 50th anniversary of ordination to the priesthood. In September of that year, at the request of Cardinal Francis George, Pope John Paul appointed him president of the Catholic Church Extension Society in Chicago.

On January 3, 2003, Pope John Paul accepted Bishop Houck’s resignation as Bishop of Jackson and appointed Msgr. Joseph Latino as the 10th Bishop of Jackson. Bishop Houck continued to serve as president of Catholic Extension until 2007, when he retired and moved back to Jackson from Chicago.

Bishop Houck marked 25 years as a bishop in 2004, and 60 years as a priest in 2011. He remained active in church ministry up to his last days.