Date of death: 7/9/2021
Saint Meinrad Class: O 1963
Father James Thomas Henseler, 85, of Peoria, IL, peacefully passed away on Friday, July 9, 2021 at Snyder Village Retirement Community in Metamora, IL.
Father Tom was born March 21, 1936 at OSF St. Francis Hospital in Peoria, IL, the fifth of nine children of Alexander Joseph and Marcella (Ary) Henseler.
Father Tom is survived by four siblings, A.J. Henseler, Jr. (Regina, dec), Victoria Kuntzman (Robert, dec), Mary Beth Murray (George, dec), Patricia Florey (George, dec), and 28 nieces and nephews.
Father Tom was preceded in death by his parents; four siblings, Philip (Catherine) Henseler, Richard (Kathleen) Henseler, Alice Henseler, and John (Susan, dec) Henseler; and one nephew, Reverend Philip Henseler, Jr.
He attended St. Mary’s School in Canton, IL, led by the Sisters of St. Francis of Heading Avenue in Peoria. He graduated from Canton High School in 1954, eventually becoming the school’s first graduate to be ordained a priest. After one year of college at St. Ambrose College in Davenport, IA, he then entered St. Bede College in Peru, IL to begin his preparation for the priesthood. He completed his final six years of theological studies at St. Meinrad Seminary in St. Meinrad, IN.
After his ordination to the priesthood in the Diocese of Peoria in 1963, he served as Assistant Pastor at St. Patrick’s Parish in Peoria from 1963-1970. After serving as Lieutenant and Chaplain in the U.S. Navy in San Diego, CA, he returned to serve as Assistant Pastor of Visitation Parish in Kewanee in 1971, and St. Thomas Parish in Peoria Heights until 1972. In 1971, he was appointed Director of Peoria Cursillo and served for over 25 years. In 1973, he was appointed Director of the first class of Permanent Deacons. He directed the Permanent Diaconate Program and guided the Cursillo until 2000. He served as Pastor of St. Edward’s Parish in Chillicothe starting in 1990, and then as Pastor of Holy Family Parish in Mount Sterling from 1993-2009.
Father Tom served on the Board of Directors of St. Jude Midwest Affiliate, including as President of the Board. He served on the St. Augustine Manor Board of Directors. He was a Chaplain for the Bradley University Basketball Team from 1978-1986, as well as Chaplain at Western Illinois Correctional Institution in Mount Sterling, IL from 1993-2009.
He retired from the Diocese of Springfield on July 1, 2009, returning to the Diocese of Peoria and working until he retired in 2013.
Father Tom shaped countless lives through his vocation as priest, with the abiding fellowship and deep faith he embodied in every facet of his ministry. He will be remembered for shaping the ecumenical outreach under Bishop Edward O’Rourke; expanding the Cursillo ministry and starting the Walk to Emmaus program in several foreign countries. He pioneered the training program for the first Permanent Deacons in the Diocese of Peoria. Whether shepherding a parish community, guiding someone’s faith formation, preaching the gospel, conferring a Sacrament, counseling the downtrodden –wherever he served, whatever the circumstances – Father Tom brought his remarkable energy, enthusiasm and richness of spirit to everyone he encountered.