WASHINGTON — Pope Francis has appointed Auxiliary Bishop Richard G. Henning of Rockville Centre, New York, as coadjutor bishop of the Diocese of Providence, Rhode Island.
The pope also accepted the resignation of Auxiliary Bishop Robert C. Evans of Providence, who has served the diocese as an auxiliary since 2009. On Sept. 2, he turned 75, the age at which canon law requires bishops to submit their resignation to the pope.
Bishop Henning, 58, has been a Rockville Centre auxiliary since 2018. As coadjutor, he will assist Providence Bishop Thomas J. Tobin, 74, who has headed the statewide diocese since 2005.
A coadjutor automatically becomes head of the diocese upon the death or retirement of its bishop.
The changes were announced Nov. 23 in Washington by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the Vatican nuncio to the United States.
Bishop Henning “is a wise pastor, a gifted theologian and a faithful disciple of Jesus Christ. In him, the Diocese of Providence truly receives a good shepherd,” Bishop John O. Barres of Rockville Centre said in a statement.
“An erudite biblical scholar with a powerful mind, Bishop Henning combines a deep knowledge of the Scriptures with a tremendous passion for the word of God,” he said. “He is a talented teacher and has shared his love for God’s word in classes and courses throughout his priesthood, most especially as a seminary professor.”
He added that Bishop Henning “loves being a priest, and he loves the priesthood.” The prelate also has “a beautiful heart for the Hispanic community and has been greatly enriched by this ministry,” Bishop Barres added.
“On this eve of the Thanksgiving feast, I give thanks to almighty God ‘from whom all blessings flow!” Bishop Henning said in a statement.
He expressed gratitude to the pope, “for the call to serve as coadjutor bishop” in Providence, and to Archbishop Pierre.
He thanked Bishop Barres “for his encouragement and mentoring,” said he looked forward to the opportunity to learn from Bishop Tobin and gave thanks “for the priestly and episcopal witness” of retiring Bishop Evans.
“I give thanks for the many people who have offered me their love and their witness of lived faith,” he continued. “I think of my family and friends, brother priests, and all the men and women who have inspired and sustained me, sharing in the work of proclaiming the Gospel.”
“This is a moment of deep reflection and the humble acknowledgment of my dependence upon Divine Providence,” Bishop Henning said.
When Pope Francis appointed him as an auxiliary bishop for the Rockville Centre Diocese, he was rector of Immaculate Conception Seminary in Huntington, New York.
Bishop Barres named the new auxiliary to lead a newly created office to help drive missionary growth in the diocese. Bishop Henning is vicar for parish evangelization and pastoral planning.
A year before his episcopal appointment, Bishop Barres named then-Msgr. Henning as the interim vicar for the diocese’s central vicariate and he worked closely with Bishop Barres on projects related to parish evangelization.
Bishop Henning was born Oct. 17, 1964, in Rockville Centre to Richard and Maureen Henning, the first of their five children. He grew up in Valley Stream in Nassau County on Long Island, New York, and was raised in Holy Name of Mary Parish, where he attended grammar school.
Bishop Henning attended Chaminade High School in Mineola, New York, and counts the Marianists as a major influence in his faith life and commitment to learning.
He earned a bachelor of arts in history in 1986 and a master of arts in history in 1988 from St. John University in New York.
He attended the seminary where he later served as rector. He was ordained for the diocese May 30, 1992, at St. Agnes Cathedral in Rockville Centre.
For the next five years, he served as an associate pastor at the Church of St. Peter of Alcantara in Port Washington, New York. In that assignment, he did extensive pastoral work in the large parish school and ministered to Spanish-speaking Catholics.
In 1997, Bishop McGann assigned him to post-graduate studies in sacred Scripture. Bishop Henning earned licentiates in biblical theology from The Catholic University of America in Washington in 2000 and the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas, or the Angelicum, in Rome in 2007.
After his studies, Bishop Henning joined the faculty of the Immaculate Conception Seminary in Huntington, where he taught Scripture for more than 10 years. He was named seminary rector in 2012.
Bishop Henning also is noted for his work with international priests serving in the U.S.
In his Nov. 23 statement, Bishop Henning paid tribute to three Rockville Centre bishops: He was ordained a priest by the late Bishop John R. McGann, who headed the diocese from 1976 to 2000; he was mentored by Bishop William F. Murphy, who headed the diocese from 2001 until his retirement in 2016; and has “been enriched by close collaboration” with bishop Barres, who succeeded Bishop Murphy.
Bishop Henning added that he has shared priestly ministry “with a remarkable presbyterate. I will be ever grateful for the gift of these 30 years.”