August 3, 2020

Focus on: Son of an (almost) preacher man

posted on: Thursday November 8, 2001

by Ben Russell

According to Rev. Elias Henritzy, O.P., “College is the time to sort out the big questions of life.” And that is what he is here to do at PC – to help students answer these questions through his teaching and his preaching. Originally from the Poco-nos Mountain area of Pennsylvania, Fr. Elias was brought up in a Lutheran family. Religion was a major part of his family life, as his father had contemplated becoming a Lutheran minister and his mother told him Bible stories when he was a child. At a young age, Fr. Elias admits to having been “an antsy child” with behavior problems. In order to keep himself busy and out of trouble, he turned his focus to learning. This is where he feels his strong desire to teach originated. Despite his love for learning, Fr. Elias dropped out of college and entered the military in the early 70’s. While in the military, he experienced his conversion to Catholicism. “I prayed to God for help…and became filled with the Holy Spirit. I then had the desire to share that feeling with others, the desire to teach and to preach,” he stated. His parents supported his conversion to Catholicism. He understood that they were puzzled and mystified, because “Catholicism looks different from the outside.” His parents’ puzzlement was intensified by the fact that he was not just simply converting, but was choosing to become a priest as well. Fr. Elias was entering the Catholic Church at a difficult point, around the time of Second Vatican Council, in which Catholics disagreed on which direction the Church should take. “It is amazing to see how the Church thrives in times of challenge though,” stated Fr. Elias. Admitting he was a little confused, he was drawn deeper into his studies. He went back to college at Assumption College and studied philosophy, with a particular interest in the philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas. Fr. Elias began to look into the different orders before attending graduate school. Although he was conflicted between choosing the typical married life and life as a priest, he eventually chose to enter the Dominican order as a novice around 1986 and was ordained slightly thereafter. Fr. Elias worked as a prison chaplain, among other jobs, but always had the desire to become a teacher, a longing that brought him to PC. He began teaching in 1992 but left after three years to work on his doctorate in Rome. While in Rome, Fr. Elias learned many things. “You learn what it is like to be a stranger,” he noted. He also learned about different areas of the world and how the Church functions and affects those areas. “Everyone comes to Rome…it was a good experience,” he stated. He returned three years ago to PC to teach, and is currently teaching the theology portion of first year Development of Western Civilization and also a class on Growth in Christian Life. Fr. Elias noted that the most wonderful aspects of his life are when he is saying Mass, praying, and studying. “I enjoy sharing what I find,” stated Fr. Elias. “Sometimes I take notes with a pencil and paper when I’m praying, so that I don’t forget it later.” Fr. Elias enjoys sharing what he has learned with others. “Sometimes people understand right now what I’m trying to teach and share. But if they don’t, I know they will think about it later and understand,” he said, adding, “It’s so gratifying to see the understanding in the students. Without it, why teach?” According the Fr. Elias, the reason he doesn’t live a contemplative life or in a monastery is because of his desire to teach and share what he knows. If he couldn’t teach or share, “they would have to put a cork in me!” he said with a laugh.

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