By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger
For the second time in two years, Pope Francis has named a priest from the Archdiocese of Dubuque to become bishop of an Iowa diocese.
On July 18, the Vatican announced that Father William Joensen, 59, a professor of philosophy at Loras College in Dubuque, has been chosen to lead the Diocese of Des Moines as its bishop.
Two years earlier, the Holy Father named then-Msgr. Thomas Zinkula to lead the Diocese of Davenport as its bishop. Bishop Zinkula and Bishop-elect Joensen are good friends and have belonged to the same priest prayer group for years.
Bishop-elect Joensen, a native of Ames, Iowa, will be ordained and installed as the 10th Bishop of the Diocese of Des Moines during a Mass to be celebrated Sept. 27 at St. Francis of Assisi in West Des Moines.
He succeeds Bishop Richard Pates, who introduced the bishop-elect during a news conference July 18 at the Des Moines Diocese’s headquarters in Des Moines. The diocese includes 80 parishes in 23 counties in central and southwest Iowa.
“The Holy Father, Pope Francis, is sending a bishop with a pastoral heart to the Diocese of Des Moines,” Bishop Pates said. “Through Bishop-elect Joensen’s stellar personal gifts, the diocese will be served in the years ahead.”
During the news conference, Bishop-elect Joensen shared his amazement at being asked to become Des Moines’ bishop. He also spoke of his love for the state of Iowa, its people, their rootedness in the land and their deep faith.
“I’ve always wanted to spend my life here serving others,” he said. “My greatest hope and heart’s desire as a priest, soon-to-bishop, is that people have the graced chance to encounter Jesus, to experience his love and his mercy (as I certainly have!), and to form a friendship with him through Sacred Scripture, the life of the sacraments – especially the Eucharist – and through the communion we know with one another.”
In a statement, Archbishop Michael Jackels of the Archdiocese of Dubuque congratulated and praised Bishop-elect Joensen and asked for people’s prayers for him. “We are sad to lose Bill as a member of our presbyterate; he will be missed. Hopefully, the faithful of the Diocese of Des Moines will very soon come to appreciate the gift God is giving them in their new bishop,” Archbishop Jackels said. “That one of our priests has again been named a bishop is again a credit to the presbyterate of the Archdiocese of Dubuque.”
Bishop Zinkula said Bishop-elect Joensen was ordained to the priesthood a year ahead of him. “We are good friends and have been in the same priest prayer group, which meets once a month, for 27 or 28 years. … Fr. Joensen is very bright, works very hard at everything he undertakes, and is very articulate. He is an avid bicyclist and is in excellent physical condition. I would describe him as a pastoral academician. People are attracted to him because of his keen insights, pastoral sensitivities, breadth of knowledge, joyful demeanor and deep faith.”
“In my opinion, Fr. Joensen will be a wonderful bishop and I am overjoyed that he was chosen to be the next bishop of the Diocese of Des Moines. I look forward to collaborating with him in the province of Iowa. Who would have thought that the two of us one day would be bishops of neighboring dioceses in our home state? It is surreal.”