By Fr. Earl Henley, MSC
My name is Fr. Earl Henley, MSC, I am a missionary of the Sacred Heart. As a young man in high school in Louisville, Kentucky I had a dream. I felt I wanted to be a missionary Priest. I wanted to proclaim and teach about the “Good News” of the Gospel of Jesus to others. My first dream came to fruition and I was ordained in my home Parish St. Cecelia on September 6, 1969. A year later another dream was fulfilled and I was appointed to work in Papua New Guinea (PNG) in 1971. I was there for 23 years. For 16 years, I was Pastor of three different parishes. I worked in the Diocese of Kavieng (PNG) as Coordinator of the Pastoral Plan for 5 years. My last two years I was Director of the Catechist Training Center at Fissoa.
“Once our commitment is made, His Graces are all powerful.” – Fr. Guise- 20 years a priest.
In August of 1994 I returned to the USA and served as a team member at the Retreat and Renewal Center in Youngstown, Ohio. In those 6 years, was involved in various programs and team ministry. One was called Renewed in the Spirit; another one was called Life Healing Journey (LHJ). The (LHJ) deals with the grieving healing process on how to cope with hurts, losses and disappointments in our journey of life.
“The Priesthood is not…something. It is someone: Christ”! -Cardinal Suhard
After about 4 years there in Youngstown, Ohio at our MSC Retreat and Renewal Center I felt that little inner voice tugging at my heart to be a missionary again. I prayed, listened. Talked and found an-other new missionary dream two years later. I took up the position as Pastor/Chaplain of the Native American Ministry in the Diocese of San Bernardino, CA on July 1, 2000.
To the Youth of the world– Apostolic letter of Pope John Paul II; March 13, 1991. “But first of all start a relationship with yourself. You know you ae not junk, you are not rubbish. You are somebody, you are child of God…Blood was shed to get you. “You are VIP not in the eyes government, but in the eyes of God himself.”
I reside at St. Joseph Mission Soboba Indian reservation and reach out to the other communities once a month. These reservations are: Torres Martinez-Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, Santa Rosa-St. Rose of Lima, Pechanga- St. Michael, Cahuilla- Our Lady of the Snows, and Morongo- St Mary’s are spread around the San Bernardino Diocese. The distance between Soboba and the rest of the communities varies from 25 miles to 80 miles. I celebrate the Eucharist as well as many Baptisms, First Reconciliations, First Communions, Funerals, and one year Funeral Anniversaries for all six communities. The mission focus is on strengthening the com-munity by bringing Catholic teaching and values while honoring and preserving Native American traditions. I am now beginning in my 20th year as Pastor/ Chaplain.
“When one reaches out to others in Love, one becomes less focused on self and more in harmony with Great Spirit and the people of the World”. – Sr. Patricia My Lott O.S.B.S.
I, as MSC Missionary wanted to go and spread the good news of the Gospel to other places. In Papua New Guinea (PNG) the whole concept was to get the people to take ownership, to enable them, then leave. I/We saw that fulfilled in New Guinea. My dream was the same with Native American ministry in California. The ministry is “no easy task” and without the help of the R.S.C.J. Sisters, MSC Sisters, with Deacons and wives, our priests in our Diocese and devoted leaders from each reservation, I would have given up years ago. You have to remember the Native American History. They went through a lot of turmoil in American History; their lands were taken away from them. They were told to cut their hair, not speak their language and learn English. When you lose your language you lose your Spirituality.
Pope Francis once said: “Jesus never strikes. He cleanses with Tenderness and Mercy” -July 2016
What lessons did I learn in my 50 years as a priest? I see my role as “offering a Catholic Presence” to those he serves. It is important to have dreams and continue to journey. FAITH enables us to love tenderly, to believe and hope continuously. Faith is an adventure in trusting Him. Each one of us will be asked to continuously say “YES” – You will fall, make mistakes, yes even sin. But as Spiritual Authors say “If you never quit-never give up, you can rest assured that God will infallibly bring you to mountain and then you will see that which St. Paul said is true: All things work out for those who love!.
Let us continue the Journey….