Friends, colleagues react to Fr. Joensen’s appointment as bishop

Will be installed Sept. 27 in West Des Moines

By Jill Kruse-Domeyer
Witness Editorial Assistant

HOLY CROSS — Last month, when ­Father Noah Diehm learned that Father William Joensen had been appointed by the pope to be the next bishop of Des Moines, the news caught him by surprise.

“I was shocked!” recalled Father Diehm, pastor of the St. LaSalle Pastorate in northern Dubuque County. The priest was astounded that someone he knew well, someone who had impacted his life so much, was becoming a bishop.

Father Diehm, 36, has served with ­Father Joensen as a fellow priest of the Archdiocese of Dubuque since he was ordained in 2011, but the relationship between the two men goes back much further.

The soon-to-be-bishop was an associate pastor at Father Diehm’s home parish when he was growing up and also was the chaplain at his college when he was an undergraduate student; he was his spiritual director when he was discerning a call to the priesthood, taught him philosophy when he was in seminary, and was the individual he asked to vest him at his priestly ordination.

Despite his initial surprise with the selection of Father Joensen as the next bishop of Des Moines, Father Diehm said it “made a lot of sense.”

“Father Joensen is clearly a good candidate for the office of bishop,” he said.  “He possesses wisdom, love for Jesus and a desire to serve.”

Father Diehm said the bishop-elect is someone who “thinks deeply and prays about issues in the world and in the church” and will “bring a great deal of thoughtfulness and prayer to being the shepherd of the Diocese of Des Moines.”

The new appointment has been an opportunity for Father Diehm to consider all the ways Father Joensen has touched his life throughout the years. Father Diehm said he especially appreciates the “depth of insight he brought” as his spiritual director and “the ability to talk with him about philosophical questions” when he was his professor.

Much like it has been for Father Diehm, Father Joensen’s appointment has been the cause for reflection for others who know the priest well, including one of his longtime colleagues in the philosophy department at Loras College in Dubuque, Dr. Roman Ciapalo.

Ciapalo, professor of philosophy at Loras, has worked with Father Joensen since the priest joined the college’s philosophy program nearly two decades ago.

“Father Joensen is an exceptionally good person and very fine, student-centered teacher,” Ciapalo said of the man now chosen to be a bishop.

With his “deep understanding of, and devotion to, the Catholic intellectual tradition” and “wonderful sense of humor,” Ciapalo said that Father Joensen has had the ability to “always motivate students to achieve more than they thought they could.”

It is with something of a heavy heart that Ciapalo says goodbye to Father Joensen as he leaves the college’s philosophy department to take on his new role as a bishop.

“He was a great colleague and loyal friend,” Ciapalo said of the bishop-elect. “Loras’ loss is as deep as the Des Moines Diocese’s gain.  I will miss him.”

Father Diehm also feels a degree of sadness over Bishop-elect Joensen’s departure from the Archdiocese of Dubuque. “I would have liked to continue to minister in the archdiocese alongside Father Joensen,” he said, “but this is clearly where God has called him, and I pray God abundantly blesses him in this new role!”

Bishop-elect Joensen was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Dubuque on June 24, 1989.

In the years following his ordination, he served terms as an associate pastor at Sacred Heart Parish in Waterloo, while also teaching at Columbus High School; as an associate pastor at Resurrection Parish in Dubuque; and as a chaplain at Stonehill Care Center, Clarke College and Loras College, all in Dubuque.

Since 2001, he has served as the spiritual director for St. Pius X Seminary in Dubuque and as a member of the Loras College faculty.

He also has served as dean of campus spiritual life at Loras since 2010.

On July 18, Pope Francis named 59-year-old Father William Joensen, Ph.D., the 10th bishop of the Diocese of Des Moines.

He will be ordained and installed at a Mass on Sept. 27 at St. Francis of Assisi Church in West Des Moines.

More information on his ordination and installation will appear in a future issue of The Witness.


Photo: Bishop-elect William Joensen.

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