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Fr Lowell Case, SSJ, veteran Black priest from Baltimore, dead at 80

A steady pastor in the Black apostolate has died after a battle with terminal cancer, the latest blow to the historic Josephite society of priests and brothers.

Case addressing parishioners during Mass at St Pius V-St Peter Claver Catholic Church in Baltimore on November 7th, 2021.

WASHINGTON — Fr Lowell Case, SSJ, an African-American priest and 42-year member of the Society of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart, passed away on April 5th in Washington, D.C. after a long battle with lung cancer, the society has announced.

He was 80 years old and a resident of the Serenity Rehabilitation and Health Center, where he relocated earlier this year.

Born in Baltimore, Maryland in 1941, Case was raised at the Josephites’ own St Pius V Catholic Church, where he remained a faithful member following his graduation from Coppin State College and entry into a career in public service.

He served as a personnel specialist for the Civil Service Commission for seven years, and was active even then in local Catholic affairs and ministry.

During a period of service on the archdiocesan school board and in the Urban Affairs office (including Black parishes and schools across the Baltimore region), Case was inspired to a priestly vocation by the late then-monsignor William C. Newman, who later became a local auxiliary bishop.

Case entered the Josephite novitiate in 1977, and professed first vows a year later. He obtained a Master of Divinity degree from Washington Theological Union in 1980, and was ordained that same year.

Case went on to serve various Black parishes across the society’s footprint, including in Louisiana, Texas, Washington, and Maryland, taking up residence in his native Baltimore upon his retirement in 2017.

Among the highlights of his ministry was his orchestration of a monumental financial turnaround during his service at historic St Augustine Catholic Church in Washington in the early 2000s, when the 140-year-old parish was on the brink of closure. His extensive expertise in human resources is said to have contributed to the parish's quick recovery.

Case also oversaw the construction of a new edifice for St Joseph Catholic Church in Welsh, Louisiana in the mid-1980s.

In 2020, Case moved into the Josephite senior residence at St Joseph Seminary in Washington, the same year he celebrated his 40th anniversary as a priest. He lived there for over a year while facing various health challenges.

In November 2021, however, he was able to travel to Baltimore for a Mass at St Peter Claver Catholic Church—where he had retired, and into which his childhood parish had been merged—just ahead of his 81st birthday.

The occasion was to celebrate the 40th anniversary of his arrival to the parish as a pastor in the 1980s.

The Mass served as a reunion of sorts, reconnecting Case with various former parishioners, their families, and his own relatives still residing in the area. (He is survived by 10 brothers and sisters.)

Another of Case’s former posts, the Church of the Incarnation in Washington, will host his funeral on Tuesday, April 12th at 11am ET, with a viewing beforehand beginning at 9am. Interment will follow at New Cathedral Cemetery in Baltimore.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to the Oblate Sisters of Providence, Baltimore’s own and the first order of Black nuns in the United States.

Nate Tinner-Williams is co-founder and editor of Black Catholic Messenger, a seminarian with the Josephites, and a ThM student with the Institute for Black Catholic Studies at Xavier University of Louisiana (XULA).

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