Name: Fr. Thomas Hennen
Years ordained: 5
Current assignment: Parochial Vicar, Jesus Christ Prince of Peace Parish in Clinton
How did you know you were being called to priesthood?
I don’t know that I can pinpoint a moment when I knew definitively that I was called to be a priest. I first felt that I might be called to the priesthood when I was in the fourth grade, though I soon put it out of my mind until late in high school. I started in the seminary at St. Ambrose and after about a year decided to take some time out. By the summer before my senior year I felt very strongly that I needed to go back to the seminary. I came back my senior year and the rest is history. I haven’t regretted a day since.
During my discernment I used to wish that God would just put a sticky note on my mirror that read: “Thom, be a priest — God.” That didn’t happen. For me (and I would suspect for most priests), it was more of a relationship than a one-time call. It is probably not unlike a person discerning a vocation to married life: you meet someone and think, “This could be the one,” and then one day you “take the plunge.” The rest of your life is spent growing more in love and trying always to be more faithful to the vows you have made.
Aside from your ordination Mass, what was your most memorable Mass?
My first year of priesthood I was privileged to do a year of continued study in moral theology in Rome. I was also able that year to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land during Holy Week and Easter. On Easter Sunday, some of my classmates and I celebrated Mass at the Altar of Mary Magdalene, just outside the tomb in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem. That was certainly a very memorable Mass and an opportunity I will probably never have again.
What is most rewarding about being a priest?
I love celebrating the sacraments and sharing daily in the lives of the people. More particularly, I always feel very rewarded (and honored, and humbled) in hearing confessions and in visiting the sick.
What is most challenging about being a priest?
Living up to who I know I am called to be: an “alter Christus” (“another Christ”).
What is your favorite Scripture passage?
I have always liked the passage in Jeremiah where he says: “I say to myself, I will not mention him (the Lord), I will speak in his name no more. But then it becomes like a fire burning in my heart, imprisoned in my bones; I grow weary holding it in, I cannot endure it” (Jeremiah 20:9). I think this is a good example of how we are sometimes hesitant to do what God asks us to do but, how, in the end, zeal for the Gospel consumes us.
What is your hobby?
I enjoy getting together with friends and playing rather involved strategy board games (pretty nerdy). I also enjoy reading. Right now I am reading the third book in the Space Trilogy by C.S. Lewis. I also play the tin whistle (a.k.a. penny whistle) and occasionally dabble in the violin.