By Mary Margaret Edney
JACKSON – While working as a district sales manager for Nissan Motor Corporation, Father Bill Henry lived a successful, comfortable life. But after one particularly powerful weekend prayer retreat, he knew he was being called to move in a different direction. He answered that call, and today, Father Henry is celebrating his retirement after 36 years of service in the priesthood.
“The Lord just started speaking to me,” Father Henry said of that crucial weekend back in his early adult life. “It wouldn’t quit, like a toothache. I finally said, ‘if this is what You want me to do, I’ll do it.’”
So, Henry set a personal goal for himself — if he was going to quit the car business, he wanted to quit on top. And that’s what he did.
“It was the weirdest thing I’d ever seen in my life,” Father Henry recalled. “On my final day with Nissan, I had 18 dealers in Louisiana, and they broke every sales record. It was just awesome; it was my sendoff. I left there, all I owned was a new car and what was in it, but I felt like a millionaire. I’ll never be able to put my finger on that feeling of freedom and richness, and when I walked in that door of the seminary, there was no doubt that was where I was meant to be.”
Born in Orlando, Florida, Father Henry was raised in Washington state and spent much of his early adult life on the West Coast before moving to Jackson to work for Nissan. He attended Sacred Heart Seminary and School of Theology, and when he finished there, he made his way back to Mississippi.
After being at St. Therese Church, St. Joseph’s High School and the vocations office, all in Jackson, Father Henry became a part-time administrator at St. Anne’s in Carthage before his first pastorship at St. Alphonsus in McComb. He spent 11 years in McComb before going back to St. Therese in Jackson, and finally, his last assignment of eight years at St. Joseph in Greenville.
“A highlight for me was just the ministry as a whole,” Father Henry said of his years as a full-time priest. “It’s been a very interesting journey for me, but it has always been great to see people growing in their faith. That’s what I really enjoy.”
And just as Father Henry kept himself busy as a priest, he plans to stay active in retirement with spiritual direction workshops and events. He has been very involved with the Marian Servants of Divine Providence, a group that serves through retreats and other ministries.
“Sometimes we get stuck spiritually, and we don’t move on. We work on the roadblocks and show people how our woundedness, sin and other things keep us from moving on and growing spiritually,” Father Henry said of a workshop scheduled for late September in Greenwood.
But it won’t be all work all the time — Father Henry is looking forward to a little downtime, as well.
“I also plan to do a little fishing and bike riding as part of my everyday exercise,” he said. “I have a lot of good friends in the area, so retirement is a very enriching experience for me right now.”