Local News Archive
Print Issue: July 6, 2000
Priestly Ordinations Held For Three June 10
By Priscilla Greear, Staff Writer
ATLANTABringing a wealth of experiences and interests to their ministries, three men were ordained as priests June 10 at the Cathedral of Christ the King to serve the Lord and the people of the archdiocese.
Rev. Mr. John T. Conway, Rev. Mr. Hieu Minh Ha and Rev. Mr. Michael Heninger were ordained by Archbishop John F. Donoghue. Over 40 priests concelebrated the Mass. The Cathedral was packed with family, friends and other supporters and music was provided by the Cathedral choir under choirmaster Kevin Culver and music director H. Hamilton Smith.
Following the Scripture readings in English and Vietnamese, and the proclamation of the Gospel, Father David Talley, vocations director, called forth the three candidates and presented them to the archbishop and the congregation. They were accepted by the archbishop and received with warm applause by the people.
The men then listened as Archbishop Donoghue offered advice and instruction on living the life of a holy priest and the necessity of pledging obedience to the Gospel and to the church. The archbishop spoke of how the people of God have always brought gifts to the Lord and how the Lord has given gifts to the faithful, specifically the gift of the Holy Spirit, the gifts of the sacraments, and notably on this day, the gift of the priesthood.
It is the special gift by which His ministry at the source of its power, is continued as a living, breathing force in our own day, and for all the days which we can imagine that will come, he said.
Archbishop Donoghue spoke of the gifts the new priests will bring to glorify God and serve the church.
They bring their young and hardy enthusiasm, their fresh dedication, the strength of the families who stand behind them, and their open and wide capacities, yet unfilled by the great experiences before them, but filled nevertheless with the hope and the dream of what can be done for the people of Godhow they can be served, comforted, fortified, and eased through lifes thorns and into the beautiful pasture of verdant salvation.
The archbishop called for the congregation to show gratitude and affection to the young shepherds and to make a solemn pledge to help, to support, to understand, to encourage, and to be with these young men as they begin.
We counsel them with those divine and wonderful counsels which come from the Gospel, from the life of our Lord, and which must stand as the pillars of their future livesthe counsels of chastity, of poverty, and of obedience, he said.
And their greatest gift is the Eucharist which priests are made to produce, to handle, and to give, every day of their livesthe Body sacrificed, and the Blood poured out, by Jesus Christ, so that we all, without ever really deserving it, can know the boundless love of God the Father, he concluded.
The solemn rite continued as the three candidates affirmed their intent to serve in the order of priests and promised obedience to the archbishop and his successors. The men then lay prostrate in the center aisle as the congregation called upon the intercession of the saints.
Each then knelt before Archbishop Donoghue and he laid his hands upon them individually in silent prayer, an action signifying the conferral of the Holy Spirit.
Following the archbishops prayer of consecration, which completes the action of ordination, the newly ordained priests were vested with chasuble and stole, assisted by chosen friends and family members. The archbishop anointed the hands of each new priest with chrism to signify the priests ministry in the church to heal, sanctify and offer prayer for Gods people. Family members brought forward the offertory gifts that were presented by the archbishop to each new priest. The concelebrating priests then formed a line to welcome and embrace the newly ordained. The new priests then joined the archbishop at the altar for the Liturgy of the Eucharist.
Following the Mass, the congregation enthusiastically gathered to greet the newest priests at a reception.
Father Heninger, 39, spoke of his eagerness to delve into ministry at St. Pius X Church, Conyers, where he will serve as a parochial vicar.
Im absolutely elated and it feels natural. (I hope) to gain as much experience as I can to provide effective ministry both to the Anglo and Hispanic communityto gain as much exposure and broad experience to grow as a priest, he said.
Having served for four years in the Air Force and now as a member of the Army Reserves Chaplain Corps, he also hopes to go to active duty one day if the bishop is willing. Undergraduate and graduate studies in speech communication have helped to equip him for preaching.
I considered myself growing up the shyest kid in Chicago. God drew me into this (communication) field ... The time spent in my studies in communication have been a great help to me in being able to break open the word of God and deliver that message more effectively.
His father, Byrne Heninger, was also elated. Im just feeling filled with the Holy Spirit and truly excited and happy for Michael. His whole process truly has been in process a very long time, he said.
The proud father said his son is systematic and thorough, waiting an extra year after his discernment year to be sure of his vocation. And his peaceful spirit is contagious.
He has such a soothing way ... Everything is positive with Michael, he said.
Father Jacques Daley, OSB, a professor at St. Vincents Seminary in Latrobe, Pa., said Father Heninger brings a commitment to spirituality and prayer and relates well to men and women.
Michael has a real balanced spirit of joy. Michael doesnt fluctuate ... Hes a great man of prayer. He loves the Eucharist. He loves adoration of the Blessed Sacrament ... Hes very easy to deal with and I think that is a key quality to a priest.
Father Conway, 37, is eager to begin his first assignment at the Church of the Good Shepherd, Cumming.
I feel really filled with joy right now, he said following the ordination. I want to be able to preach the word of God according to the needs of the church. I think for most people that takes time to develop and certainly for me it doesnt come easily.
The priest said one-on-one ministry is very important to him and particularly ministry to the sick. I have a true sense of Gods presence. Its very powerful.
At one time he was away from the church for three years. While working in Chattanooga, Tenn., as a service technician for Eastman Kodak, his conversion process, which led to his considering the priesthood, began with conversations with an evangelical Christian client.
She began witnessing to me (about) her relationship with Jesus Christ ... It changed my life. It was really amazing. One night, Father Conway said, while he was alone he asked Jesus Christ, if hes really real to come into my life.
After that I started going back to church as often as I could, he continued. I was even going to non-Catholic churches because I wanted to be around Christians. The minute I was in the Catholic church, it was almost like I had a religious sense, This is where youre supposed to be. This is your place.
His mother, Ann Conway, said her son has become strongly supportive of the magisterium of the church. I feel like this is one of his strengths and sometimes I look at him and I see a glow that I didnt see before.
His college roommate, Jerry Schmidt, said that the two often had conversations about faith.
Hes a very good person and a very prayerful person and yet hes very passionate, cares about whats right and whats wrong and whats true and what isnt true, Schmidt said. He has quite a bulldog determination about sticking to whats right. Thats one of the biggest things I remember about him. I know hes totally dedicated to God.
Msgr. Francis Pham Van Phuong, pastor of Our Lady of Vietnam Church, Riverdale, was grateful to welcome Father Hieu Minh Ha, 36, to the priesthood, having encouraged him initially.
I knew that we needed a lot of vocations and I told him that going to be a priest is a wonderful thing. I encouraged him to pray more. I know his family is a family of prayer, he said. I feel like he is very stable. Every summer he comes back to see me and I encourage him and two years ago he had an internship in my parish. He did very good.
He said that during his internship in the parish he led a youth group and took youth hiking and camping while also leading them to Jesus in the Eucharist.
Hes very down to earth working with the children and the youth group ... I think he is very close to the youth.
Hai Minh Ha spoke of his younger brothers sacrificial spirit beginning as a boy when he quit school to take care of the buffalo on their farm in South Vietnam. When he and his brother left family behind and moved to Atlanta they were very poor, but saved money while doing landscaping to send back to their parents.
He helped me a lot and working like that we saved all the money to send back to our family ... He was a very good brother to me because we (had) no parents around, no relatives.
He described his brother as a funny person who enjoys cracking jokes, socializing and traveling. He said his family was very pleasantly surprised by his vocation and hasnt stopped praying for him.
POST ORDINATION --
(L-r) Msgr. Louis Naughton, judicial vicar, Father Michael Heninger, Father
John Conway, Archbishop John F. Donoghue, Father Hieu Minh Ha, Father Paul
Reynolds, vicar general in curia, and Father David Talley, director of
vocations, are shown after the June 10 ordination.