ROCKVILLE CENTRE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Pope Francis has chosen a local Long Islander to help lead the Diocese of Rockville Centre.
Msgr. Richard Garth Henning was born and raised in Nassau County and spent summers kayaking and swimming in the Great South Bay in Suffolk County. Locals say his approach is just what the church needs.
Moments before his ordination, Henning credited his birthplace as a reason for attaining one of the highest honors in the Catholic church.
“I am a local boy, I love Long Island,” he said. “It’s been my home, a great place of joy with my family and friends.”
Henning grew up one of five children in Valley Stream, all of whom were products of Holy Name of Mary. He earned high honors at Chamindae High School while working on the student newspaper. The proud graduate of the class of 1982 was involved in nearly every after school activity. School President Brother Thomas Cleary calls him a “humble guy you take a walk with.”
“You sense in a conversation he’s a spiritual thinker and a really knowledgeable, intellectual man,” Cleary added.
Parishioners at St. Peter of Alcantara in Port Washington, the first parish Henning served in, say they knew the newly ordained auxiliary bishop was going places.
“We’re so proud of him,” parishioner Katie Duhig said. “I’m proud to know him.”
As a parish priest, Henning spoke Italian, French, Greek, and Hebrew but no Spanish until he was assigned in Port Washington, where parishioners helped him become fluent.
“He’s deeply pastoral, a son — an adopted son of our beautiful Hispanic Catholic community,” Rockville Centre Bishop John Barres said.
The Pope appointed Henning to the elevated position. 27 bishops joined Timothy Cardinal Dolan, who proclaimed the day one of “hope and promise.”
Bishop Henning will now help lead one of the larges dioceses in the nation, consisting of one and a half million Catholics.