Meet the Chaplain: Monsignor Dennis Dorney – Tulsa Chapter
Monsignor Dennis Dorney, the pastor emeritus of St. Mary’s Parish in Tulsa, has worn many hats.
Monsignor Dorney, 75, has been a pastor and served in many diocesan roles for over 40 years. Today, Monsignor Dorney also volunteers as a greeter at Porta Caeli House, a diocesan-run hospice.
This being his 50th year as a priest, Monsignor Dorney is likewise serving as the first chaplain of Legatus’ Tulsa Chapter, which just chartered on May 10. He recently spoke with Legatus magazine.
When did you discern your vocation?
In high school, I had the first inkling of it. I was very involved in the Young Christian Students movement at that time. Also, we had some great priests at the parish where I was in middle school and high school. They were a tremendous influence on me, and probably intensified my interest in the priesthood. When I left high school, I went directly to the college seminary.
How did you become the chaplain for the new Tulsa chapter?
Bishop [David] Konderla called one morning and asked if I would serve as chaplain for Legatus. At that time, I didn’t know that much about it. But I said, “Yes let me just read up on it a little bit.” He said, “Do so. You’ll be happy doing it.”
What have been your early impressions of Legatus?
I think it’s a marvelous idea for legates to come together once a month for prayer, especially the Eucharist, and to have a speaker who comes in to help enrich their faith and help them see how their faith can enrich them in the professions they have. The talks have all been very good, and some have been astounding. I think the members really appreciate it.
Who are your spiritual role models?
I’ve done a lot of reading on Pope St. John XXIII, especially when I was in high school and college. His Journal of a Soul is something I look at from time to time. Another one who impressed me and the rest of the world was Pope St. John Paul II, just because of how obvious it was that prayer was the center of his life.
What have been your assignments during your priestly life?
I was in the chancery for over 40 years. I served in the marriage tribunal, as chancellor, vocations director, the vicar general, and I worked in the liturgy department. I made the rounds, but I enjoyed it all. Now, I don’t have to worry about anything.
What is your role as a pastor emeritus?
As pastor emeritus I still keep an office here at St. Mary’s. I’m on the bulletin. I celebrate Mass and hear Confessions. I [presided] at three funerals in the last few weeks. I don’t have to attend meetings, and I’m not responsible for the administration of the parish and school. It’s a big change that allows me more freedom to read, especially in the evening.
What do you do at the hospice center?
I do whatever they want me to do. I volunteer on Fridays. For the most part, I’m the greeter. I meet people in the lobby. I take them on tours. I’m there when new guests arrive. I sit and visit their families, and answer the phone. It’s a real important ministry for the Church.
Why is end-of-life care such an important ministry?
Someone asked me, “Why does your Church do this?” I said, “Well because we believe in the dignity of human life, and we want to make sure that dignity is maintained until the person is called by the Lord.” What we’re doing is sending a message that human life is sacred until its natural death, and we want to provide a way for people to die not only naturally, but at peace.
What are some hobbies you enjoy in your free time?
The hobby I enjoy the most, I think, is reading. I also used to enjoy the water and skiing, but I had a hip replaced and that sort of brought that all to an end. When the weather allows it, I enjoy gardening, and traveling a little bit whenever I can.