Msgr. Lawrence A. Mossing, a longtime director of the Toledo Catholic Diocese's marriage tribunal whose hobby was researching and writing about diocesan history, died of congestive heart failure Wednesday at Swanton Health Care and Retirement Center. He was 88.
Monsignor Mossing, a native of Assumption, earned a doctorate of sacred theology from the University of Innsbruck, Austria, and when the Nazis closed Austria's churches and seminaries, fled to Switzerland where he was ordained in a small private ceremony in a hospital chapel in March, 1940.
He was the oficialis, or head, of the local diocese's marriage tribunal for 28 years, stepping down in 1981 to give full-time service to St. Joseph Parish in Toledo, where he had been pastor since 1960.
Monsignor Mossing wrote the authoritative nine-volume History of the Diocese of Toledo between 1983 and 1994.
“For a man who was such a great scholar, he was also a great people person,” said the Rev. Michael Billian, chancellor of the Toledo Diocese.
The Rev. Jim Holmer, pastor of St. Peter's Church in Upper Sandusky and St. Mary's Church in Kirby, Ohio, considered Monsignor Mossing a mentor.
“He was always ready to help, whenever I needed it,” Father Holmer said. “He was a blessing in my life. I could ask him questions, and he never considered anything a dumb question. If you had a question, it deserved an honest answer.”
He described Monsignor Mossing as a “very unpretentious person and a brilliant man” with a photographic memory. He was able to recall instantly even the most minute facts about churches in the 19-county diocese.
“He would remember who the pastors were, how much the buildings cost, when some churches were hit by lightning. He very rarely had to look anything up.”
Father Holmer said the history research and writing provided Monsignor Mossing with a way to relax after working on the tribunal and hearing cases in which marriage validity was challenged.
“I think that was his saving grace because he worked so many years for the tribunal, and that was difficult, legalistic work,” Father Holmer said. “The research allowed him to channel a lot of energy in an entirely different area, instead of looking at people's problems.”
The monsignor focused on “institutional history,” facts that were not open to interpretation, and he avoided writing about scandals, Father Holmer said.
“He didn't like controversy. He was very gentle, very loving. He loved the church very much and did not want to hurt anyone's reputation. He was very charitable.”
Monsignor Mossing retired in July, 1983, at age 70 and lived in a farm house in Fulton County before moving to the Swanton Health Care and Retirement Center in October, 1998.
“He built a chapel at the farm house so he could have Mass there,” Father Holmer said. “He fixed up an old garage into a comfortable library with a wood-burning stove so that he could go out there and read and pray.”
Father Billian said three of the library's four walls contained books “from ceiling to floor.”
Monsignor Mossing also had a large collection of religious relics, which he brought back from Europe, Father Holmer said.
He enjoyed cats and often took in strays, Father Holmer said, sometimes caring for as many as six cats at a time.
Before becoming pastor of St. Joseph's, Monsignor Mossing had served at St. Paul in Norwalk (1940-42); St. Joseph in Tiffin (1942-44); Blessed Sacrament in Toledo (1944-45); St. Catherine in Toledo (1945-51); Immaculate Conception in Ottoville (1951-53), and St. Francis De Sales in Toledo (1953-60).
He was named a papal chamberlain in 1954 and a domestic prelate in 1963.
There are no immediate survivors.
Services will be at 10:30 a.m. Monday in St. Mary Church, Assumption. The body will be at the Biehl-Malone Mortuary, Metamora, after 1 p.m. Sunday with a Vesper service at 9 p.m.
It is requested that tributes be to the Catholic Office Building Fund.