Washington, Rockville Centre dioceses get new auxiliary bishops

By Elise Harris

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Opening Mass for the synod of bishops on the family Oct. 8, 2015. Credit: Mazue/catholicnews.org.uk.

The Vatican Friday announced that Pope Francis has appointed two new auxiliary bishops for the United States, one of whom will serve the Archdiocese of Washington and one the Diocese of Rockville Centre.

Msgr. Michael William Fisher, 60, will step on as auxiliary bishop for Washington, headed by Cardinal Donald Wuerl, and Msgr. Richard Henning will serve as auxiliary bishop for Rockville Centre, which is overseen by Bishop John O. Barres. Their appointments were announced in a June 8 communique from the Vatican.

Born in Baltimore March 3, 1958, Msgr. Fisher attended the city's Polytechnic Institute high school and later received a Bachelor's degree in business administration and accounting from the University of Maryland in 1984.

He then worked as a comptroller for a psychiatric practice in Bethesda before discerning his vocation to the priesthood. He entered Mount Saint Mary's seminary in Emmitsburg in 1986, and was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Washington by Cardinal James Hickey in 1990.

After his ordination, Fisher was assigned to Sacred Heart parish in La Plata. He then served in various other pastoral roles before being given the title of “Monsignor” by Pope John Paul II in 2005.

Later that year, Fisher was tapped by Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, who at the time was archbishop of Washington, to be the vicar general for the apostolates, a role in which he oversaw the diocese's ministries for education, social justice, parish life, youth ministry and ethnic ministry.

In 2006, Cardinal Donald Wuerl named Fisher vicar for clergy and secretary for ministerial leadership, which is a position the bishop-elect has held for the past 12 years and in which he is tasked with overseeing the formation and care of clergy for the archdiocese.

In addition to his pastoral roles, Fisher has served on a number of boards and committees, including the archdiocese's College of Consultors, Priest Council, Administrative Board, Priest Retirement Board, Deacon Review Board, Needy Parish Committee and Forward in Faith Committee.

He has also served as an ecclesiastical counselor to the archdiocese's Centesimus Annus Pro Pontifice foundation, and has dedicated a large portion of his priestly ministry to assisting new pastors in their roles, educating priests and organizing priestly training through conferences and retreats.

Bishop-elect Henning, 53, born Oct. 17, 1964, in Rockville Centre, is currently the interim vicar for the Central Vicariate of the Rockville Centre diocese. He also serves rector of the seminary of the Immaculate Conception and Director of the Sacred Heart Institute in Huntington.

He obtained a bachelor's degree in history in 1988. He entered the seminary of the Immaculate Conception the same year, and was ordained a priest for the Rockville Centre diocese in 1992.

The bishop-elect then obtained a licentiate degree in biblical theology from The Catholic University of America in Washington in 2000, and later earned a doctorate in the subject from the University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome in 2007.

After his ordination, Henning served in various pastoral roles while continuing to pursue his studies. He also held several teaching positions at the Immaculate Conception seminary before being named rector in 2012.

The same year he was named to his position as director of the Sacred Heart Institute for the ongoing formation of clergy in the Archdiocese of New York, the Diocese of Brooklyn and the Diocese of Rockville Centre.

Other recent positions Henning has held include director of the Parresia Project, which is a grant-funded initiative aimed at improving the welcoming process for international priests living in the United States. He was given charge over the project in 2010, and continues in that role today.

In 2008 he was given the title of “Monsignor,” and he was named a member of the diocesan college of consultors in 2013. In addition to his native English, Henning also speaks Spanish and Italian, and is able to read French, Greek and Hebrew.

In a June 8 press release on his appointment, Henning voiced his gratitude to Pope Francis for being named auxiliary bishop, saying his nomination is “a moment of deep reflection and the humble acknowledgment of my dependence upon the grace of God and my joy in His service.”

Bishop Barres, who oversees the Diocese of Rockville Centre, said he is grateful for Henning's appointment, and praised the bishop-elect'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.”

These qualities, Barres said, give Henning a broad pastoral experience and the skills “to help advance the New Evangelization and dramatic missionary growth on Long Island.”

Barres will preside over Henning's episcopal ordination July 24, 2018, at the Cathedral of Saint Agnes, Rockville Centre, New York.

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