Deacon Steven Douglas Henriksen, 53, will be ordained to the priesthood of the Archdiocese of Louisville this Saturday, Feb. 2, at 11 a.m. Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz will preside at the presbyteral ordination at Holy Trinity Church, 501 Cherrywood Road.
Deacon Henriksen’s journey to the priesthood began when he developed his doctoral dissertation in education at Loyola University in Chicago. The dissertation examined how mid-life Catholic professionals understand their lives as a vocation.
He never finished the paper.
“But it led me here. This is the completion,” he said during an interview at the Archdiocese of Louisville’s Chancery last week.
Deacon Henriksen helps Father Jeffrey Shooner, director of the Vocation Office and the Vicar for Priests, at the chancery once a week, in addition to his duties as a deacon at Holy Trinity parish.
When he’s ordained, he’ll be the associate pastor of Holy Trinity. And he plans to celebrate his first Mass of Thanksgiving there at 11 a.m. on Sunday, Feb. 3.
It’s a place he’s enjoyed serving, both recently and as a seminarian last summer.
“It’s been wonderful to interact and get to know the community both in circumstances that are joyful and circumstances that are more somber,” he said, noting that Holy Trinity’s school brings a lot of life to the parish. “There’s a high level of vibrancy there with 750 kids in pre-K through eighth (grade).”
Deacon Henriksen is an affable man who readily reaches out to shake hands and welcome the people he encounters. He describes himself as outgoing, analytical and organized.
“I enjoy people,” he noted. But he also has a definite intellectual bent. “While I like to say I have a big heart, I think most things hit me here (pointing to his head) and travel to the heart,” he said.
He’s a native of Iowa and he’s also lived in Minnesota and Illinois. He converted to the Catholic faith three decades ago.
Deacon Henriksen was raised Lutheran, but in college at Illinois State University in Normal, Ill., he was drawn to the school’s Newman Center and to the Catholic Church’s social justice teachings.
“I was confirmed right after college in Springfield, Ill.,” he noted. He said he was “powerfully attracted” by the liturgy and sacraments of the church. He became active in his church community and, in a parish full of women who were always willing to help, he was the go-to man who pitched in whenever he was needed.
At the same time he was invested in his career in higher education administration and state politics. With undergraduate and graduate degrees in political science, he was an education lobbyist for the Illinois Attorney General’s Office, a staff aid for the Illinois General Assembly’s education commission and worked on certain issues (*edited) with the Illinois Catholic Conference. He also worked as the director of finance for a student loan agency.
When he switched gears to earn a doctoral degree in higher education, the soon-to-be priest found himself examining his own vocation. His discernment to the priesthood came as a surprise to many, he said.
But he sees his experiences as a good foundation for his ministry, experiences that have given him a variety of skills for the priesthood.
As a deacon, he already enjoys giving homilies — something he finds to be a “good challenge.” He’s also glad to be a part of the highs and lows in the lives of parishioners.
Asked if he had any hopes or special interests for his priestly ministry, Deacon Henriksen said he has a simple hope: “I’m most interested in being a happy priest and someday being a happy priest as a pastor.”
Deacon Henriksen first visited the Archdiocese of Louisville when his parents moved to Southern Indiana a few decades ago. He spent holidays with them and began meeting people from the area.
“I felt so mightily welcomed,” he said. “God opens all sorts of doors. I was really led to be here. This is home now.”
His family and friends plan to attend the ordination. His mom, Mary Ellen Henriksen, lives in Floyds Knobs. His parents were married for 49 years until his dad, Larry Henriksen, died in 2008.
He also has a sister and brother-in-law who live in Illinois and two nieces of whom Deacon Henriksen says he is “very proud.”
His ordination is happening a little earlier than usual — the archdiocese tends to ordain priests in May when seminarians traditionally complete their studies. Deacon Henriksen said that since he finished seminary at Sacred Heart School of Theology in Wisconsin in December, “I can be of great service to the pastor (of Holy Trinity) and the church by being ordained a little earlier.”
Deacon Henriksen is also a 3rd Degree Knight in the Knights of Columbus and a member of Council #14471 (Monsignor William McKune), the council that sponsored him in seminary.