(A)t age 52, (Father Ray McHenry) found himself in a failed relationship, with no job and no prospects. It was the fall of 2005, and he often made the two-hour trip to his hometown of Des Moines, occasionally running into friends who asked, “Why don’t you come home?” The question was more than about where to live.
He continued to preside at the Eucharist for the Council Bluffs group, but in January of this year sent them a letter of resignation. Back in Des Moines, he began working as a volunteer at the St. Mary Family Center, which distributes food and clothing to the poor. He renewed acquaintances with priest friends who agreed to talk to Bishop Joseph Charron about meeting with McHenry.
McHenry met with the bishop, and was surprised that Charron said it was possible for him to return to his ministry, and that the process didn’t have to go to Rome. He asked McHenry to get counseling, which he had already begun, and make an eight-day retreat. Afterward, he could make a profession of faith and renew his promises to the bishop.
“I can’t say enough about Bishop Charron,” said McHenry. “He was the forgiving father to a prodigal son.”
After a brief ceremony in the bishop’s office on Wednesday of Holy Week, he returned to his volunteer work at St. Mary and began helping out in parishes on weekends. Then in July, he became administrator of St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in Indianola, just south of Des Moines.
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