In memoriam: Msgr. Joseph Clement Mercier

HATTIESBURG – Msgr. Joseph Clement Mercier “Father Joe,” a native of Hattiesburg, passed away on March 20, 2023 after a long and full life of priestly ministry.

Msgr. Mercier was preceded in death by his parents, Albert and Ella Mae McGinley; five brothers, Albert Lucien, Patrick Bernard, Adrian Gabriel, Delphins Francis & Michael James; two sisters, Agnes Therese Morgan and Mary Claire Debrow. Msgr. Mercier is survived by his brother, Damian Mercier of Hattiesburg; numerous nieces, nephews, great nieces and nephews; and many priestly brothers and deacons.

Msgr. Mercier graduated from Sacred Heart High School, Hattiesburg, in 1944. After a brief tour in the U.S. Navy during World War II. He began his seminary training at St. Joseph Seminary in St. Benedict, Louisiana, and then completed his formation at the North American College and Gregorian University, both in Rome, Italy. He was ordained a priest at the Church of The Twelve Apostles in Rome for the Diocese of Natchez on July 17, 1955. As a priest, Msgr. Mercier served as associate pastor of St. Mary’s parish, Jackson; Nativity Cathedral, Biloxi; St. John the Evangelist parish, Gulfport; and Sacred Heart parish, Hattiesburg. He then served as pastor of Christ the King and Holy Family parishes in Jackson; Sacred Heart parish, Pascagoula; St. John the Evangelist parish, Gulfport; and Sacred Heart parish, Dedeaux.

During his nearly 68 years of priestly ministry Msgr. Mercier served the Catholic community in many roles. He served as a teacher in three Catholic high schools in Mississippi, overseeing many parishes with attached schools, he also served Catholic students at the University of Southern Mississippi as chaplain of the Newman Club on campus and acquired the land on behalf of the diocese where St. Thomas Church and the Newman Center are today. He also served on the diocesan board of consultors, clergy council, diocesan liturgical commission, personnel board, synodal examiner, parish priest consultor for the “Mississippi Register” newspaper (now “Mississippi Catholic”) for the Diocese of Natchez-Jackson.
While at Sacred Heart parish, in Dedeaux, he was the priest director of the Cursillo movement of South Mississippi and lay retreats. After his retirement he spent many years assisting fellow priests by traveling to celebrate Mass, hear confessions and continued ministry with the Cursillo movement.

Msgr. Mercier spent his last years at The Claiborne assisted living facility in Hattiesburg where he continued to celebrate Mass for small groups in his room until his health prevented him from continuing.
A Mass of Christian burial was held at Sacred Heart Church for Msgr. Mercier, with interment at Sacred Heart Cemetery on Bonhomie Road.