It was a new year just getting started. That was 1967. Bishop Gerald O’Keefe was installed as the sixth Bishop of the Diocese of Davenport on Jan. 4. A new spiritual leader sparked the imagination of the People of God — the local church, with the possibility of all kinds of changes. Among the priests were thoughts of possible personnel reassignments. It was a Vatican II time for changes.
But for Father Mike Morrissey, only ordained two years in his first assignment in Ottumwa, change could not have been top on his expectations. Nonetheless, he received the traditional letter with the green return address on the envelope from the new bishop. It announced a move for the young priest to the See city as assistant to St. Anthony Parish. It also included the position of Assistant Chancellor and Secretary of the Tribunal.
This was the beginning of a long and dedicated career of service to the church — all the people of the diocese. Under the tutelage of the Chancellor, Msgr. Maurice Dingman, Fr. Mike — a “Baby Priest” (a name that referred to anyone ordained less than five years) became a churchman, deserving of respect. He proved to be the right choice for the job and began up the steps to attain the role he was gifted for.
With advanced study in Canon Law for two years, Fr. Mike returned to the duty of Judicial Vicar of the Marriage Tribunal. Recognized in his new status as Vicar General, he was honored with the title of Monsignor.
But his ministry was not in just one direction. He was always a priest and a pastor of God’s people; administrator of two parishes, he fulfilled the expectations of his vocation as pastor of Holy Family Parish in Davenport. It was his native parish and scene of his ordination.
His whole life was full and broadened to include his love for travel. With a true dedication to gardening, he could name most every tree and plant by their real botanical name. He may not have been a farmer, but his love of the land demonstrated something of his Irish heritage.
His interests were many, but he didn’t have enough time to engage them all. He was limited and long suffering in his final days of retirement, which he quietly accepted.
He left us with an acceptable query of “what might have been,” had he more time. Monsignor Mike — you were a big man with a big voice and gave us a model of what it means to give your all. Thanks for everything.
— Msgr. Francis Henrichsen
Msgr. Morrissey 1939-2016
Msgr. Michael Morrissey, a retired pastor and former vicar general for the Diocese of Davenport, died Nov. 29 in Davenport. He was 77.
A native of Davenport, he was born Oct. 5, 1939, the son of John and Clara Margaret (Kenney) Morrissey. He graduated from St. Ambrose Academy and St. Ambrose College in Davenport. He completed his theology studies at Mt. St. Bernard Seminary in Dubuque, Iowa. On June 5, 1965, he was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Ralph Hayes at Holy Family Church in Davenport.
Then-Father Morrissey was an assistant pastor at St. Mary of the Visitation-Ottumwa from 1965-67 and St. Anthony-Davenport from 1967-69. He was named assistant chancellor/secretary of the tribunal, serving in that position from 1967-68. He was named vice officialis in 1968 and served as vice chancellor from 1968-71 and as officialis of the tribunal from 1968-81. From 1969-71, Fr. Morrissey took advanced studies at Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., earning his licentiate in Canon Law. He served as pastor of St. Peter-Buffalo from 1971-76, pro chancellor in 1971, then chancellor from 1971-81. He was named vicar general and moderator of the curia and all its connecting positions and served in that post from 1981-2000. In 1982 he received the honor of monsignor.
From 1990-95 Msgr. Morrissey was administrator of Ss. Phillip & James-Grand Mound and served as administrator at St. John Vianney-Bettendorf for several months in 1999. He served as pastor of Holy Family-Davenport from 2000-08 and as part-time vicar general for the diocese from 2003-05. In 2008 he retired from active ministry.
Msgr. Morrissey served on the St. Ambrose University Board of Directors; was a member of the Canon Law Society of America and had served on its Board of Directors; was a Consultor for the Diocese of Davenport; and previously served on the Presbyteral Council and the Board of Directors of St. Vincent’s Home Corp. He was a charter member of the International Oak Society.
His funeral was held Dec. 3 at Holy Family-Davenport with burial at Mt. Calvary Cemetery.
Memorials may be made to All Saints Catholic School, Davenport, or Priests’ Aid Society.