Msgr. Vincent James Howard, a priest who dedicated his life to the betterment of others and who was beloved for his kindness, generosity, and eternal optimism, died peacefully on Dec. 6, 2018. He was 100 years old.
Msgr. Howard was born in Ann Arbor on June 7, 1918, the fifth of nine children of Louis B. and Ava M. Howard. He attended St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic School in Ann Arbor before beginning his vocational studies at Maryknoll Junior Seminary in Clarks Summit, Pa., later transferring to Sacred Heart Seminary in Detroit.
After his ordination in 1947, then-Fr. Howard served as an assistant pastor at St. Brigid Parish on Detroit’s west side until accepting a position as the Archdiocesan Vocation Director. Fr. Howard was elevated to the position of monsignor and assigned as pastor of St. Catherine and St. Elizabeth in Detroit.
During the riots, he was instrumental in helping to move some of his parishioners to safe havens outside the city. When he transferred to the Lansing Diocese, Msgr. Howard was named pastor of St. Thomas Church in Ann Arbor and St. Elizabeth in Tecumseh. It was there that he helped spearhead the adoption of a Vietnamese family.
Msgr. Howard was beloved by many for his deep commitment to human dignity and his dedication to peace and justice issues. He was proud to have marched with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in Selma, Ala. His love of serving the poor took him on missions to Appalachia and other underserved pockets of America.
In his retirement, he served mission parishes in St. Lucia and Alaska and, closer to home, provided pastoral guidance to inmates. An avid outdoorsman and gardener, he was most happy caring for the rustic log cabin home he built himself, outside Chelsea where he maintained extensive vegetable and flower gardens. Late in his life, he was a proud winner of a blue ribbon at the county fair for his prize-winning Hubbard Squash.
Msgr. Howard loved to cook, entertain, laugh and tell stories, especially about childhood growing up in Ann Arbor. He was known as an inveterate prankster, as his many nieces and nephews will attest. Children enjoyed his tall tales of his three-legged dog Smoky and sightings each Halloween of strange and ghostly figures. He celebrated each day with joy and good humor, despite the inevitable infirmities of age, and lived independently until recent months.
Dozens of family, friends and parishioners turned out to celebrate Msgr. Howard's 100th birthday in June at Sacred Heart Adult Care Home, an assisted living facility in Gregory, Mich., where he spent his final months. The joyous sparkle in his eyes will be remembered by all who helped him celebrate one last time before heading on to his heavenly home.
Msgr. Howard was preceded in death by his parents, Louis B. and Ava M. Howard, and by eight siblings: the Rev. Joseph Howard, Bernard Howard, Merrill Howard, Ruth Grogan, Mary Agnes Krasny, Margaret Ryan, Leo Howard, and Donald Howard. A memorial Mass presided over by Bishop Earl Boyea, V. Rev. William J. Canon Turner, and the priests of the Lansing Diocese will be 11 a.m. Friday, Dec. 14, 2018, at St. Mary of Chelsea Catholic Church, 14200 East Old US Highway 12, Chelsea, MI 48118. The family will receive friends from 10 until 11 a.m.
Memorial donations may be offered to Food for the Poor www.foodforthepoor.org or Catholic Social Services of Washtenaw County www.csswashtenaw.org. Please visit the funeral chapel website to leave the family fond memories or your condolences.