Brother Thomas Charles Henning, C.S.C.
(September 30, 1934-August 29, 2020)
Brother Thomas Henning, C.S.C., age 85, died at Notre Dame, Indiana. He was born in Detroit, Michigan, the son of Charles Henning and Frances (Razmus) Henning, the oldest of six children. Graduating from St. Andrew High School in 1951, he worked for a while as a trust insurance clerk in a Detroit bank. In 1957, he enlisted in the United States Army, and while serving as personnel assistant for the Presidio of San Francisco, attended the University of San Francisco until his discharge in 1962. Until 1967, he worked for Crocker Citizens Bank of San Francisco, when he then entered the Congregation of Holy Cross taking final vows in 1973.
From 1970 to 1985 and from 2002-2003, Brother Thomas served at Le Mans Academy, Rolling Prairie, Indiana as an administrator, treasurer, dorm counselor and teacher of reading, math and typing. During this time, he earned a MS degree in Special Education from the University of Indiana. In 1985, he was appointed the Assistant Business Manager of the Midwest Province of Brothers of Holy Cross, a position he held for the next ten years. In 1995, he studied at St. Meinrad Seminary, St. Meinrad, Indiana for a Master of Theological Studies. He then accepted the position of Business Manager for St. Pius X Church in Southgate, Michigan. His final assignment prior to retirement was working at Archbishop Hoban High School from 2003-2014 where he was the Attendance Director. Brother Thomas lived at Columba Hall on the campus of the University of Notre Dame from 2014 until his death.
Tom Henning was first a community member who enjoyed living with and serving his brothers. Even though he held many positions while at Le Mans Academy, formally St. Joseph Novitiate, he was most famous for his Saturday-evening soirées. Brothers from South Bend would often drive out to the Prairie for his elaborate hors d’oeuvres and drinks. When the brother’s rec-room was closed because of school renovations, he personally relocated the parties to a room in the tower. Not only did he supply the food for the parties, but also the cards and poker chips. He was a kind and gentle man, meticulous about the details for his many tasks.
With a wonderful sense of humor, he was also a man who accepted the paradoxes in his life. While in Akron, he turned 75 and was informed that he needed to take the driver’s test to assure that he was not a menace on the highway. This test would be administered in South Bend. So, he loaded himself into his car and drove to South Bend, passed the test then drove back to Akron. A 700-mile round trip. All in a day’s labor for Tom.
His job at Archbishop Hoban High School was Attendance Director, one that he took on with the same penchant for detail as he had demonstrated as assistant business manager for the Province. Each morning, he would listen to an array of excuses for absences. “Where is the note from your mother?” No note—guilty! Once found guilty, there was no reprieve from the long arm of Tom’s justice.
The attendance office was in the same room as the faculty xerox machines for which he also held responsibility for their immediate maintenance—unjamming the jammed. One faculty person wondered what Tom had done to deserve this job as just a few days of it assured that he would hold a high place in heaven. During these eleven years, he exemplified humble graciousness, always smiled at teachers and loved hearing about what they were doing in the classrooms.
Tom Henning was a quiet, self-effacing Brother, a real example of the early Brothers of Saint Joseph. He liked wide 1950-style ties and perogies filled with mashed potatoes. He liked long walks in the metro parks and the Cuyahoga National Forest. He liked the San Francisco Bay area and lighthouses of Lake Michigan. He liked all Polish food with the occasional cold beer. He liked his many friends and wrote to them frequently. He loved musical theater and had personal favorites that he watched over and over. He nourished himself with communal and private prayer always having a private prayer space in his personal room. He spent more and more time at prayer as he grew less and less capable of the physical activity demanded in schools.
During his last years, he became less verbal which some might have interpreted as an inability to comprehend what was going on. Not so. Once one got his attention, he would look up and break into a smile that absorbed his entire face. He listened and responded in a few words, and you knew that he knew. He was liked by all who knew him.
The Lord has called Tom with “'Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!' (Mathew 25:23)
A private Mass of Resurrection will be celebrated for Brother Thomas Henning on Thursday, September 3, 2020 at 11 AM at St. Joseph Chapel, Holy Cross College.
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