By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger
Father Thom Hennen has been named vicar general for the Diocese of Davenport, succeeding Father Tony Herold in a top leadership position to assist the bishop in governance of the diocese. The change takes effect July 1.
Father Hennen, 41, will balance his new role with existing roles as chaplain of St. Ambrose University in Davenport and as an associate director of vocations for the diocese. Father Herold, 66, has also served dual roles, as pastor of St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Davenport and vicar general and consultor to the bishop. He will move from St. Paul’s to serve as pastor of Sacred Heart Parish in Newton and as dean of the Grinnell Deanery. He will continue his role as a consultor to the bishop.
In the Davenport Diocese, the vicar general works closely with Bishop Thomas Zinkula and Deacon David Montgomery, the diocesan chief of staff, who coordinates the diocese’s internal operations and administrative affairs.
“From my understanding of it, it is not an easy post,” Father Hennen said. “Still, I am honored, humbled, and a little scared.” He compares the balancing act with his “first year as chaplain at St. Ambrose when I was also still the primary director of vocations for the diocese (splitting my time, having offices in two places, etc.)…. There are logistics to be worked out of course on both ends.”
Father Hennen said he accepted his new post out of obedience. “If my promise of obedience to my bishop doesn’t mean saying “yes” to an assignment that he feels would make the best use of my abilities for the pastoral and spiritual good of the people of the diocese, then I don’t know what it means. I don’t mean that I accept this ‘kicking and screaming,’ but trusting in the Holy Spirit, acting through my bishop as successor of the Apostles. There is a kind of peace and freedom in that.”
Father Hennen continues to process all that the vicar general position entails. “You can bet that since I was first approached by Bishop Zinkula about this I have been reading up on in it. It can vary some from diocese to diocese, but as I understand it the vicar general is, in a sense, the bishop’s chief “officer” and consultor in helping him to articulate and execute his pastoral vision for the diocese. And, of course, I don’t do that alone (thank God), as there is a College of Consultors, the Presbyteral Council, various other boards, councils and committees, along with the diocesan curia and staff of the Chancery. In this first year I hope to learn a lot. I also hope I can be level-headed, diplomatic, compassionate, and yet help the bishop carry out what needs to be done even when it isn’t easy. Pray for me!”
Father Herold, appointed vicar general in January 2016 by Bishop Martin Amos, Bishop Zinkula’s predecessor, said he has “grown to respect the ministry of the bishop.”
Father Herold sees firsthand what the bishop “deals with on a day to day basis. He’s so pastoral.”
A priest for more than 40 years, Father Herold said balancing the demands of leading a large parish and school with his role as vicar general became overwhelming. “To do both of those was too much.” He discovered something else. “My passion is not in chancery work.” He wasn’t able to spend more time at the school as he thought he should. The parish also has capital needs to address.
He became immersed in the ongoing Vision 20/20 initiative, and spoke of the “graced time to get people around the table to work on that.” He viewed his responsibility as working with the bishop on his external ministry, with parishes and other entities outside the Chancery. He said he recently received a note from Bishop Amos, who told him, “You often called us back to what decisions meant to parishes,” Father Herold said. “I brought what I call ‘institutional memory’ to the diocese.’”
Now he looks forward to focusing on parish ministry. “My heart is really more in the parish.” His successor, Father Hennen, will do a great job, Father Herold said. “He’s young and he’s got a lot of wisdom.”