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Father Michael Henning gave a blessing to Landon Lemmon at Mass on March 6 at St. Joan of Arc Church in south St. Louis. Landon is a second-grader at South City Catholic Academy. Father Henning was ordained in 1974 and retired last year.
Father Michael Henning gave a blessing to Landon Lemmon at Mass on March 6 at St. Joan of Arc Church in south St. Louis. Landon is a second-grader at South City Catholic Academy. Father Henning was ordained in 1974 and retired last year.
Photo Credit: Jacob Wiegand

Retired Father Michael Henning offers sacramental ministry, years of experience to new parish community

Annual Easter collection will benefit retired priests of the archdiocese

When Father Michael Henning was preparing for retirement last summer, he considered living on his own.

Father Michael Henning greeted students from South City Catholic Academy before Mass on March 6 at St. Joan of Arc Church in St. Louis.
Photo Credits: Jacob Wiegand
But after 49 years of parish priesthood, he found he didn’t want to give up the closeness to the people.

“I realized how much I enjoyed being with the people of a parish,” he said. “…And as it turned out, I also really wanted to be living with other priests, because that had been such a good part of my early priesthood and the support we can be for each other.”

Father Henning, 75, now serves St. Joan of Arc, St. Mary Magdalen and Our Lady of Sorrows churches as a retired priest in residence at St. Joan of Arc. He regularly celebrates Mass and reconciliation at all three churches and South City Catholic Academy. He also visits the homebound and celebrates weddings and funerals.

“What I enjoy most is presiding for the Eucharist in each of the three communities, and beginning to get to know people again,” he said. “I enjoy the opportunity of listening to what’s important and kind of figuring out how I might best support Father Brad (Modde) and parish leaders and parishioners here, moving into the future.”

An annual special second collection held at Masses on Easter benefits priests in retirement, regardless of where they live and whether they remain active in sacramental ministries. Of the 100 retired archdiocesan priests, 19 are in residence at parishes. Many others continue to help parishes offer sacraments while living in private residences, independent senior housing or Regina Cleri home for retired priests.

Father Henning grew up in St. Peter Parish in St. Charles and attended St. Louis Prep Seminary, Cardinal Glennon College, and Kenrick Seminary before his ordination in May 1974. He served at several parishes and was also the director of the continuing formation of priests in the archdiocese for five years.

His last assignment before retirement was as pastor of Holy Name of Jesus Parish in north St. Louis County, where he oversaw the parish’s 2005 establishment from the merger of Corpus Christi, St. Pius X, Our Lady of Good Counsel, St. Catherine of Alexandria and St. Jerome parishes.

“Some of the lessons I learned in working in North County helped to really confirm the importance of what today is known as co-responsibility, or collaborating with parishioners and parish leaders, and really, organizations and members of the entire community,” he said. “…We also learned that as hard as it is for parishes to come together, there was an experience of new life, as people experienced a larger worshipping community, a kind of rebirth of organizations and activities that really enable parish life to thrive but also the work and mission of the Church to be more effective.”

As he now serves parishes in south St. Louis preparing to come together as one (an appeal regarding Our Lady of Sorrows Parish is under review in the Vatican), Father Henning hopes to offer his previous parish merger experience — not just the challenges but the joys.

“Here again, there is that new parish being created out of three communities of faith,” he said. “And hopefully I can bring not only support to the pastor and parish leaders here, but I can also bring a sense of the positive value of all that lies ahead.”

Although he remains active in parish sacramental and social life, Father Henning enjoys the extra free time retirement affords him to travel, visit family and friends, dabble in creative hobbies and read more books. He’s also taking time to slow down and reflect as he adjusts to this new phase of priestly ministry.

“I’ve been doing some review of life and trying to focus on, OK, what’s the best way of spending the next 10, 20 years or more of my life?” he said. “Having lived through so many things, how do I want to focus for the years to come?”

“The focuses seem to be pointing in the direction of this work of evangelization, sponsoring the faith of people and seeing that it is not just something that I do, but that we do as a community,” he said.

2024 Retired Priest Collection

The annual Archbishop’s Collection for Retired Priests is traditionally held on Easter Sunday. The collection helps assure our priests receive the essential care they need, including physician services, hospitalization, nursing home care, vision care and disability, now and for years to come.

There are currently 100 retired priests in the Archdiocese of St. Louis. Nineteen are in residence at parishes, while the rest are retired at Regina Cleri, a private residence or in a senior living/nursing home.

You can make your gift on Easter weekend (March 30-31) in your parish collection.

Give online year-round at archstl.org/retiredpriests.

From the Archive Module

Retired Father Michael Henning offers sacramental ministry years of experience to new parish community 9452

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