While driving to work on the 4th of January I heard on the radio that the Pope had officially accepted Bishop Henry’s resignation. While I had an inkling that this was coming, it was still a great shock to hear the news confirmed. After 19 years, Bishop Fred Henry, was resigning, due to his serious health issues. As Chancellor of St. Mary’s University, he and I have worked together closely for five and a half years. This activity has included Convocations, blessings at fundraisers and five Bishop’s Dinners. I even recall, with some trepidation, a lone phone call very early in my presidency, where Bishop Henry asked me to join his foursome at a charity golf tournament. When the Bishop calls, you say yes! So, I did. After hanging up I announced to my kids, “I have to learn how to play golf!”You’re on your own.
Needless to say, that tournament was one of the most stressful public events I have ever attended. To suggest that my game was execrable is to be charitable. As I moved towards the cart someone leaned towards me. “He got two holes-in-one last year,” the man whispered, no doubt trying to inspire confidence. “You know Bishop,” I said as we approached the first hole, “ you’ll need to be a bit patient, this is the first time I’ve ever golfed.” Bishop Henry stared at me with those piercing eyes that would drive a lesser man to repent for sins undone: “Charity is for church,” he declared, “This is golf. You’re on your own.” And as he prepared to tee off he added: “You know, I got two holes-in-one last year…” It should be said that Bishop Henry often mentioned my golf game and St. Jude in the same breath. I never knew why….
In interviews about Bishop Henry I have been asked what people will most remember about his time in office. The gist of my answer is that we will remember a man of principle, of conviction and energy, a man of faith and good will; a man unafraid to speak his mind and to defend the mission of the church, who spoke up for the voiceless, and advocated for the homeless, and who believed passionately in the importance of education. He is a man who inspires confidence and conviction; a brilliant raconteur, who is welcoming in his humour and insight, and who is never afraid to stand his ground.
But this is not a eulogy. Bishop Henry will remain a dynamic voice for the Catholic Church, for the underdog, and for those who need his activism. In this sense, I know that he will not go quietly into that good night. He will continue to champion our causes, and to generously offer his prayers and support … except, possibly, on the golf course. There, you’re on your own!