Gulf Pine Catholic

FEBRUARY 7, 2020 > VOLUME 37, NO. 12 > BILOXIDIOCESE.ORG THE NEWSPAPER OF THE CATHOLIC DIOCESE OF BILOXI Gulf Pine C atholic Father Izral remembered as charismatic priest who built churches, relationships between people and Christ BY TERRY DICKSON BAY ST. LOUIS -- As he walked across the parking lot between Our Lady of the Gulf Church and rectory to prepare for the funeral Mass of Father John Izral, Father Mike O’Connor spotted automobiles with license plates from Wisconsin, Texas and Pennsylvania -- all places where Father Izral had served during his 60-plus years of priestly ministry. “People have come here whose lives he has touched,” said Father O’Connor, who preached at the Jan. 27 Mass. “It’s a beautiful tribute to your love and affection for him.” Father Izral died Jan. 22 at Dunbar Village in Bay St. Louis at the age of 93. Father O’Connor said he really came to know Father Izral in the past six years, since becoming pastor at Our Lady of the Gulf, but even more so in the last several months as Father Izral’s health began a steady decline. “I had a few conversations with Father Izral in the past few months and, as you know, Father Izral didn’t hear very well,” said Father O’Connor. “That didn’t really matter with Father Izral, because he would figure out what he thought you said and would give a soliloquy in response. That’s how I got to know Father Izral -- by listening to him over the last few weeks and months. He lived a remarkable life. He was a true man of faith.” Father O’ Connor shared the story of when Father Izral was summoned to the bishop’s office for disciplin- ary instruction. “He responded to the bishop by saying, ‘Well, bish- op, the Holy Spirit told me to do this, so I did.’ The bishop said, ‘Don’t listen to the Holy Spirit. Listen to me,’” Father O’Connor said. “I can imagine that conver- sation happening. I really can.” After Bishop Louis F. Kihneman III was named bishop of Biloxi in 2016, Father Izral sent the bishop a lengthy letter in which he, essentially, laid out his life story. “He wrote in that letter that his goal as a priest was to bring a thousand adults into the Church,” Father O’Connor said. “He didn’t quite achieve that goal, but he really desired to share the faith. I know a few people here today who told me that they were baptized by him as an adult.” Father Izral was a fastidious record keeper. “He was very aware of how many Masses he had celebrated in his lifetime,” Father O’Connor said. “He said he went and visited some Carthusians, and these Carthusians kept a record of how many Masses they had celebrated. So, throughout his life, he kept a record of how many Masses he had celebrated and, in 2014, he celebrated his 30,000th Mass. I don’t know what number he was up to today, but I saw his ledger in his room at Notre Dame de la Mar and, in it, he had marked the date and intention for each Mass. He had books of those.” Father Izral lived a very frugal life. “He would wear shoes and pants with holes in them,” said Father O’Connor. “People would be concerned that Father didn’t have a decent pair of shoes or a decent pair of pants, and they would give him money and he would give the money away. So, he was left with shoes and pants with holes in them, and no money again. “So, they came up with an ingenious scheme to get him a new pair of shoes by actually buying him shoes instead of giving him money. That sounds consistent with the kind of man Father Izral was.” SEE FATHER IZRAL, PAGE 8 Bishop Louis F. Kihneman III and priest of the Diocese of Biloxi prays over the casket of Father John Izral during a Jan. 27 Mass of Christian Burial at Our Lady of the Gulf Church in Bay St. Louis. Father Izral died on Jan. 22 at the age of 93. Photos/Juliana Skelton