Name: Msgr. Francis Henricksen
Years ordained: 54
Current assignment: Retired, but in the diocese I’m serving as vicar for clergy and vicar for religious; I serve on the Presbyteral Council, the board of Priests’ Aid Society and the Priests’ Personnel Board. I am a member of the Board of Directors of St. Ambrose University. And I assist at parishes throughout the diocese as needed.
How did you know you were being called to priesthood? I think a vocation is a mystery. I’ve never figured it out. Once I made the decision, that was it. I was in college; I went to St. Ambrose College and was studying to go into pre-medicine. As a student in my junior year I joined the seminary department. Bishop (Ralph) Hayes accepted me as a candidate for the priesthood.
Aside from your ordination Mass, what was your most memorable Mass? Probably the year I went to Rome for the National Convention of Vicars for Religious. It was a weeklong conference in Rome. The high point of the conference was con-celebrating Mass at the high altar of St. Peter’s Basilica. The Cardinal Prefect for the Congregation of Religious Women was the presiding celebrant. And vicars from all over the United States were con-celebrating. The other most memorable Masses: when I was able to celebrate the funeral Masses for my parents.
What is most rewarding about being a priest? To celebrate Eucharist is probably the most rewarding thing; to be able to act in “Persona Christi,” in the person of Christ, and to be able to be of service in that light, to be able to serve the people of God, to bring Christ to them in word and in sacrament. I think that’s the thing I found out after I retired. I finally found out what it was like to be a priest. Without the concerns of administrative and financial responsibilities — whether it was parish work or being editor of The Catholic Messenger — I finally came to understand that to be a priest was to be able to celebrate Eucharist and preach the word of God. And that’s why I love going out on Sundays throughout the diocese meeting the different people of God and being able to celebrate Eucharist with them.
What is most challenging about being a priest? The most difficult thing is to see the dwindling number of priests and the shortage of vocations. That’s the challenging thing for me. The other challenge is to give evidence by the way I live that the priesthood is worth investing one’s life in.
What is your favorite Scripture passage? Psalm 27, verse 4: “One thing I ask of the Lord; this I seek: To dwell in the Lord’s house all the days of my life, to gaze on the Lord’s beauty, to visit his temple.”
What is your hobby? I’ve never found time to have any particular hobby. I’m not a collector. I love the outdoors, I love walking. I love getting together with my brother priests and go canoeing. I enjoy cooking and I enjoy when priests can get together, and friends and relatives, and I can cook for them. I enjoy doing that.