Meet the Chaplain: Father Dave Heney – Ventura/LA North Chapter
Father Dave Heney may be as accomplished and driven as any member of Legatus’ Ventura/LA North Chapter, where he serves as chaplain. Father Heney, 65, who next year will celebrate the 40th anniversary of his ordination, is the pastor of St. Bruno Catholic Church in Whittier, California. He is a published author who for 12 years has led an archaeological retreat to the Holy Land. Father Heney founded “The University Series,” a multi-parish education program that attracts thousands of attendees during the season of Lent, and co-hosts “The Joe Sikorra Show with Fr. Dave” on Immaculate Heart Radio. Father Heney recently spoke with Legatus magazine staff writer Brian Fraga.
When did you discern you were called to the priesthood?
While I was in the eighth grade, we had a very inspirational associate pastor in the parish who inspired me. But I didn’t feel like I had a vocation until my second year of college. Prior to that, I was still “trying it out” in the high school seminary. Also, I had developed some good relationships with women I knew at the time, fell in love, and yet, began to see the vocation of the priesthood really revolving around the issue of loving people.
Where did the idea of the University Series come from?
I was at St. Monica’s Church in Santa Monica, and the adult education coordinator was complaining that she had great programs, great speakers, great fliers, but the same 30 people were coming to all the events. So I decided to design a program that went in the opposite direction. Rather than making it convenient, it would make it a challenge for people to come. So, we would have it only during the season of Lent, and we would have it every night. And it would be multi-parish. We challenged people to commit the entire season of Lent, every single night going to a different parish and hearing a speaker deliver a talk. Here’s the key idea: I figured people would make a very big commitment of time if it was for a short period of time. So we invite them to dedicate the entire season of Lent, make a big commitment to God every night, and they do. We have about 15 parishes involved and about 15,000 attendees every Lent. We’ve been doing it for about 15 years now and it’s grown.
Why do you lead an archaeological retreat every year to the Holy Land?
I’m a son of a scientist. I grew up with science. Biblical archeology is a connection between science and religion. We go to the regular places, but every place we go, we discuss what the archeological evidence is that this biblical story actually occurred here. People find that very moving because it’s something that’s really reliable and verifiable. The Middle East is a place of claims, sometimes outrageous claims, that Jesus did this here or Mary did that here. When people find out at a certain spot that there is actual evidence that this actually did occur, people find it a lot more moving.
As a chapter chaplain, what value do you see Legatus having for its members and the Church?
I think the biggest insight and the biggest value I see is that it deals specifically with Catholic business leaders who have a lot of employees. We’re looking at a Catholic CEO who is a leader in a community and who has an impact over people’s lives. You know, people spend a great deal of their day at work, and if their boss is a good Catholic person, that has a big impact. I think the genius of Tom Monaghan wasn’t so much that these would be wealthy people, but that these would be influential people who have an impact over many employees at work.