Father Wenke returning to full-time parish ministry
Father Len Wenke’s tenure as Director of Pastoral Services for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati has been filled with grace and blessing. He completed his time in the position in June and became pastor of Holy Family and Our Lady of Lourdes parishes effective July 1.
As director, Father Wenke oversaw departments that include offices for Campus Ministries, African-American Catholic Ministries, Family and Respect Life, Missions, Hispanic Ministries, Youth and Young Adult Ministries, and chaplains in public facilities such as hospitals, jails and prisons.
“It’s a mix of offices that that serve our parishes and provide direct service to folks,” Father Wenke explained. “I’ve attempted to build on the image of Christ’s presence in all that we do.”
One endeavor has been his involvement in Christ at the Center, an ongoing initiative, approved by Archbishop Dennis M. Schnurr, developed in response to the New Evangelization and current research that describes the dramatic decline in participation of youth and adults in church life, as reported by National Study on Youth and Religion (2005), the CARA study on Mass attendance (2008), as well as archdiocesan assessments.
The staffs of the various offices and departments within the archdiocese have been engaged in a collaborative, interdisciplinary, open-ended, and evolving strategy that “places Christ at the center of all our efforts on the behalf of families, parishes and schools,” Father Wenke noted, with the primary objectives of nurturing family faith and eucharistic communities.
Father Wenke brought an extensive background in ministry and nurturing the faith of others to his role as director, a position he has held since 2007. A Cincinnati native and Elder High School graduate, he was ordained to the priesthood in 1979, after graduation from Mount St. Mary’s Seminary. He was on the faculty and served as chaplain at Carroll High School in Dayton, while a resident associate at St. Agnes Church, from 1979 to 1982.
Father Wenke went on to direct the archdiocesan Office of Youth Ministry, living at St. Ignatius Loyola Church in Monfort Heights and St. Agnes in Bond Hill, from 1982 to 1991.
After serving briefly as temporary administrator of St. Matthias in Forest Park in 1991, he became executive director of the National Federation for Youth Ministry in Washington, D.C. He returned to Cincinnati and served as pastor of St. Anthony, Madisonville, from July 1997 until May 2010. From June 2007 until June of 2010, Father Wenke served as the director of Priests’ Personnel Office. He has also served as dean for the St. Francis de Sales Deanery and as member of the Presbyteral Council. In addition, he has ministered to the incarcerated and provided pastoral care to families at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.
Much of Father Wenke’s focus from 2010 to the present has been working with archdiocesan parishes as they form pastoral regions as part of the Futures Project, approved by Archbishop Emeritus Daniel E. Pilarczyk in 2005.
“I’ve been assisting parishes as they learn to live and work together and share a priest,” Father Wenke said. “Working with parish communities can be challenging when the people are accustomed to having their own priest available to them. But, the grace comes in the awareness of Christ walking with them and by being at the table with each other. It’s an invitation for everyone to work together toward the development of community.”
“It’s been very rewarding to work with the people of the archdiocese and realize their love and concern for the church,” he added.
“Pastoring two parishes will give me the opportunity to practice what I’ve been working on with other parishes,” he said. “What I will try to do, and what I’ve been doing with the other parishes, is meet people where they’re at, to get them to listen carefully to each other so we can find the direction the Spirit is moving us to.”
This story first appeared in the July 2016 print edition of The Catholic Telegraph.