Ocean Beach Pastor Named Auxiliary Bishop by Pope

By Joey MacellaroMonsignor Richard G. Henning, administrator of Our Lady of the Magnificat Roman Catholic Church in Ocean Beach for the last three years, was appointed auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of Rockville Centre by Pope Francis on June 8. He joins Robert J. Coyle, Robert Brennan, and Andrzej Zglejszewski as auxiliary bishops under Bishop John Barres. Henning began serving the church in Ocean Beach nearly 14 years ago as a part-time pastor.Beyond serving the local parish, Msgr. Henning’s connection to the beach runs strong: Members of Henning’s family have owned homes on Oak Island in the Great South Bay west of Captree since around 1900, and he continues to maintain a boat to more easily commute between Oak Island, Long Island, and Ocean Beach.“It was a great place to grow up,” said Henning. “I spent my summers swimming, clamming, exploring marine life. I love the bay. The water is my happy place. The closeness, the bonds, and the friendships we develop in a community like this are unique.”According to Henning, he received word of his appointment “in the most Long Island way possible,” with a call from Apostolic Nuncio Christophe Pierre, the pope’s representative in Washington, while driving on the Southern State Parkway in Massapequa. “I had just left Ocean Beach to visit a couple getting married in September. The nuncio couldn’t hear me, so I had to pull over at Route 107. It was truly a surprise.”“The Diocese of Rockville Centre rejoices in Pope Francis’ appointment of Msgr. Henning as auxiliary bishop of the Diocese,” said Bishop Barres in a statement. “Bishop-elect Henning’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 give him a wide range of pastoral experience and skills to help advance the New Evangelization and dramatic missionary growth on Long Island.”“I know the first days will be a struggle,” added Henning. He will be installed as auxiliary bishop on July 24 at St. Agnes Cathedral in Rockville Centre. His direct responsibilities in the Ocean Beach parish will end shortly thereafter, meaning his dog, Agnes, will have a little less time to skimboard on the beach. However, Henning has requested to continue to oversee the renovations at Our Lady of the Magnificat through the fall.“Remembering the one who made the bay and the beach and all of nature is vitally important,” added Henning. “The vastness of creation is more apparent out here. We are drawn to an awareness of God. Pope Francis has spoken on this. There is a moral obligation on those who love this place to care for it and keep it clean. The quality of the water in the bay has been diminishing. As a child in the 1970s, I remember the waters teeming with shiners and other fish. Pollution and algal blooms have caused significant changes. The bay is suffering, and we are called to action.”“I was continuously inspired by Msgr. Henning’s knowledge, faith, and dedication as a priest, educator, and mentor,” said Rose Barbier, director of faith formation at the Church of St. Peter the Apostle in Islip Terrace and a former student of Henning’s at the Seminary of the Immaculate Conception in Huntington. “He consistently related to all his students with kindness, compassion, and devotion.”“Bishop-elect Henning is one of those people who can be friends with anyone, crossing party lines and religious boundaries to find and love what is good about his neighbor,” added former student James Renna of St. Joseph’s Church in Hewlett. “His soft-spoken nature belies a quick wit and vast knowledge of his many interests.”Born in Rockville Centre and raised in Valley Stream, Henning is a 1982 graduate of Chaminade High School in Mineola and 1986 graduate of St. John’s University in Queens, later earning a master’s degree from St. John’s in 1988. After studying at the Seminary of the Immaculate Conception in Huntington, he was ordained in 1992 and later earned a licentiate in sacred scripture from the Catholic University of America in Washington. In 2007, he earned a doctorate in sacred theology from the University of St. Thomas Aquinas at the Angelicum in Rome. In addition to serving either part- or full-time in Ocean Beach during the summer months since 2004, he currently assists at St. Patrick’s Church in Bay Shore on weekends and serves as interim episcopal vicar for the central vicariate of the diocese. Henning also serves as rector of the Seminary of the Immaculate Conception and director of the Sacred Heart Institute in Huntington.