A busy father of seven, Deacon Phillip Henneman spent many late nights studying and many early mornings writing papers during his four years of diaconate formation at St. John’s School of Theology and Seminary in Collegeville.
But he’s no stranger to hard work. Deacon Phil served in the U.S. Navy as a corpsman, working as an internal area security officer in charge of information technology at a medical clinic.
After completing his military service in 2006, he continued his career in technology until earlier this year when he decided he needed more time with his family. He became a full-time stay-at-home dad. Deacon Phil’s wife, Mindy, works as a senior client analyst at Marsh and McLennan Agency in the Twin Cities.
The family — which includes their children Luke, Emma, Andrew, Margaret, Adeline, Jack and Maximilian — attends Mary of the Visitation in Becker and Big Lake.
“Growing up, I always thought there was something special I was supposed to do,” Deacon Phil said. “And later in life, even though I was married, I always felt like there was something ‘else.’ Mindy noticed it, too, and she thought maybe I was supposed to be a youth minister. We just both felt like there was something beyond or within the call of marriage that was always there.”
Deacon Phil grew up attending a Lutheran church, which built a foundation for his faith. Later, when he met Mindy, he went through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults and became Catholic.
“That’s where I first met a Catholic deacon,” he said.
And that’s also when he started “learning and discerning” about the permanent diaconate. He read up on many of the Church Fathers, and was especially drawn to the writings of St. Thomas Aquinas.
Eventually, he brought up the idea of becoming a deacon to Mindy.
“I said, ‘I wonder if this is what God wants me to do, to serve the Church as a deacon?’ She said, ‘I wondered when you were going to ask.’ So, she already knew. That was what she was hearing in her prayer, what we were hearing together,” Deacon Phil said.
He attended a deacon information night in Little Falls in 2012 and completed an application in 2013.
“I got really scared of the schooling and never submitted it. Some people said I was too young, that my kids were too young and that I should wait. I had the feeling that this must not be the time, but I just kept feeling like this was the time. I kept praying about it, talked with other people in formation and with other deacons,” he said.
By 2015, Deacon Phil applied and was accepted into the diaconate formation program. The courses were not easy, he admitted, and the family experienced a number of personal struggles, including their home flooding and the loss of Deacon Phil’s father.
“There were a lot of challenges during my four years of formation, but it’s been really good. We were able to persevere and were given the grace to make it through. Personally and academically, I was challenged in ways that helped stretch me and made me grow,” he said.
Deacon Phil was ordained a permanent deacon June 8 and is excited to serve his home parish of Mary of the Visitation, as well as being part of the larger Area Catholic Community.
“I’m most excited about getting out and serving, really being with people, and finding those who are marginalized in the communities where I serve. Also, our ACC is really large and the really exciting part is we get to take the best of each community and work together,” he said.
Deacon Phil is thankful to those who have supported him, and he is especially grateful to be a part of the diaconate community.
“It was something my wife and I didn’t expect, but it’s definitely one of the most rewarding parts — the support of the community, the love of the community. They celebrate joys and help mourn the sorrows.
“They have been so strong and have been there for us — whether we needed some questions answered, when we had our water problems, when my father passed,” he said. “You can really tell when you are being lifted up in prayer. It’s pretty amazing. I’m excited to be a part of it.”