Deep in the heart of every man is a desire to be a father. Each father is called to live a life of service in which he protects, provides and establishes. A priest is no different. Through the last 10 years of my priestly ministry, I have grown not only to appreciate but to embrace these principles as essential parts of who I am. With each new assignment and ministry, I pray that I am able to answer the call of God and be the best father I can be.
To protect means more than simply ensuring that our buildings are secure and that we have good cash handling policies in place for the checkbook. I am called to help folks understand who they are and to better appreciate their human dignity. I challenge folks to see the preciousness of life in the womb and protect our youth through baptism as they become children of God. Baptism is later built upon through the blessing of confirmation and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. In the hour of need, through anointing of the sick, one sees the protective gift of healing, sometimes physically, always spiritually.
To provide is one that natural parentage certainly understands. Fathers work to put food on the table and clothes on their children’s backs; but as a priest, I am called to provide a bridge to God. This is most aptly seen in the sacraments of Eucharist and penance. The priest, acting persona Christi, cooperates with God to cause the bread and wine to become Jesus during the prayer of consecration. In reconciliation, the priest, again acting in the place of Jesus, receives the penitent’s contrition and provides an experience in which he is able to communicate Jesus’ love and forgiveness of sins. These moments provide so much grace as we strive to live as children of God.
Lastly, to establish is best seen in the sacraments of service. Through holy matrimony, we witness the creation of new domestic churches as a man and woman give of themselves to one another. In the sacrament of holy orders, I have seen men whom I have considered friends have their life re-ordered to God, a life of service to the Church. Through aiding our brothers and sisters in these sacraments, the Church continues to grow, march on and endure.
I am so thankful for 10 years of service. I do not know where the years went. Though they can be quantified in many different ways (four schools, seven parishes, dozens of weddings, scores of baptisms, thousands of Masses, etc.), I think the most important number is one. The one Church that I serve, the Diocese of La Crosse, led by our bishop. I thank God for this unique opportunity to serve Christ as a priest, and I look forward to the next 10, seeing where God will call me to grow.
Father Jeffrey Hennes
Pastor of St. Joseph Parish and St. Stephen Parish in Stevens Point
Published in the Sept./Oct. 2022 issue of Catholic Life Magazine