BY AMELIA PERDOMO
Our Mother of Mercy Catholic Church held a musical tribute Sunday in honor of longtime priest Father Bartholomew Endslow.
Father Enslow, 93, will step down from the pulpit later this year after serving Our Mother of Mercy for 17 years.
The church pews were overflowing Sunday as the congregation celebrated the beloved priest with song and dance.
Pastor Ken Braxton, mass choir pianist at Our Mother of Mercy and pastor of Progressive Missionary Baptist Church in Gulfport, spearheaded the celebration. Braxton led the choir in a tribute to Father Endslow.
Our Mother of Mercy’s youth choir, traditional choir and mass choir all performed several of Father Endslow’s favorite hymns to honor him and his impact on the grateful community.
One of Father Endslow’s favorite hymns sung at the celebration describes the humble priest.
“May the work I’ve done speak for me,” the hymn proclaimed.
Toward the end of the celebration Father Endslow finally spoke saying, “I am very grateful and I don’t deserve all of this. I get more from people than I give them.”
Father Endslow has served the Catholic Church for over 65 years as a member of the St. Joseph’s Society of the Sacred Heart. Known as Josephites, priests of the brotherhood have been committed to serving the African American community since 1871.
The first Josephite priest arrived in Pass Christian in 1909 and began a congregation in a small school taught by two Catholic sisters.
The present church building was completed in 1911 and was first known first as St. Philomena’s Mission. In 1961, it became Our Mother of Mercy.
Father Endslow joined the church in 1997. He was born April 17, 1921, in Peabody, Massachusetts and ordained on June 7, 1949.
Many of Father Endslow’s loyal friends and church leaders describe him as a humble, kind and giving man.
“I can remember as far back as Father Sweeney, who was one of the first priest’s at this church, and I was close with them all,” said George Watson, a lifelong Pass Christian resident and a lifelong church member. “We love you”.
Several other organizations within the Church spoke kindly of Father and presented him with gifts of appreciation.
“You have served the Lord with gladness – tirelessly, faithfully, and with great compassion for His flock. You have given hope and encouragement to so many,” a plaque presented by the Bereavement Committee read.
Bishop Roger Morin of the Catholic Diocese of Biloxi and Deacon Gerald Norris were both in attendance and paid homage to the modest priest.
For Father Endslow the celebration was not a goodbye, but more like a see-you-around.
“I’m not retiring, I’m just stepping down. I will be here to help until the new priest comes,” he said. “I will live out my life in the church rectory and I will be buried in the little cemetery over the tracks.”