Msgr. Richard G. Henning will become the Diocese of Rockville Centre’s next auxiliary bishop, diocese officials announced last week, after Pope Francis appointed the village native on June 8.
Henning, 53, was born in Rockville Centre and grew up in Valley Stream, where he attended Holy Name of Mary. He graduated Chaminade High School in Mineola and St. John’s University in 1982 and 1986, respectively, before studying for the priesthood at the Seminary of the Immaculate Conception in Huntington. He was ordained in 1992 at St. Agnes Cathedral by John McGann, bishop of the Diocese of Rockville Centre at the time.
“Bishop-elect Henning’s pastoral charity and intelligence, his commitment to a demanding life of daily prayer, his love for the Hispanic community and evangelization, his biblical scholarship and experience in seminary formation, his national contributions to the ongoing formation of priests and assistance to international priests who serve in this country give him a wide range of pastoral experience and skills to help advance the New Evangelization and dramatic missionary growth on Long Island,” Bishop John O. Barres said in a statement.
Diocese of Rockville Centre Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States, announced the news and notified Henning, who was driving on the Southern State Parkway when he got the call.
I am grateful to His Holiness, Pope Francis, for the call to serve as an auxiliary bishop in the Diocese of Rockville Centre,” Henning said in a statement. “I am also grateful to Bishops Barres and Murphy for their encouragement and mentoring. This is a moment of deep reflection and the humble acknowledgement of my dependence upon the grace of God and my joy in His service.”
Henning is set to become the fourth auxiliary bishop for the Diocese, which has 1.5 million Catholics. In addition to English and Italian, Henning is fluent in Spanish, and Barres that his appointment is important for the 500,000 Hispanics that call Long Island home.
Henning is “an expression of the Holy Father’s love for all of Long Island, but in a particular way for the beautiful Hispanic community,” Barres told Telecare, a diocesan cable TV station. His appointment comes nearly a year after Former Rockville Centre Auxiliary Bishop Nelson Perez moved to the Diocese of Cleveland, becoming its first Hispanic bishop.
The auxiliary bishop-elect entered his first assignment as a priest at St. Peter of Alcantara Roman Catholic Church in Port Washington with the ability to speak what he called high school Spanish, Henning said on Telecare. Parishioners helped teach him the language four times a week over the course of a year. “I guess I’m as fluent as a gringo could be,” he said with a smile.
“It has been a very rich part of my life as a priest,” he added, “because I have learned so many lessons of faith and endurance, of joy.”
Recently, Henning has directed the Parresia Project, a grant-funded initiative working to improve reception processes for international priests serving in the United States.
The Diocese held a celebratory mass for Bishop-elect Henning at St. Agnes on June 8. Bishop Barres will ordain Henning there on July 24.
“As I begin this new ministry, I cannot but think of the many people who have offered me their love and their witness of lived faith,” he said in a statement. “I think of my family and friends and the men and women who have accompanied me in the work of proclaiming the Gospel. I think of the people of this island – your goodness, your hunger for the Eucharist – and I ask of you the gift of your prayers even as I commit myself anew to you and to our shared call to holiness and mission.”