Pope names new bishop for Des Moines Diocese Thursday

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Pope Francis today named the Rev. William M. Joensen, Ph.D., a priest of the Archdiocese of Dubuque, as the 10th bishop for the Diocese of Des Moines. Photo courtesy Loras College


Rev. William M. Joensen

DES MOINES, Iowa — Pope Francis on Thursday named the Rev. William M. Joensen, Ph.D., a priest of the Archdiocese of Dubuque, as the 10th bishop for the Diocese of Des Moines.

The bishop-elect’s ordination as a bishop and installation in the Diocese of Des Moines will be Friday, Sept. 27.

Joensen, 59, grew up in Ames, the eldest of five children born to the late Alfred W. Joensen and Marilyn E. (née Simington) Joensen. He attended Iowa State University, earning a bachelor’s degree in zoology, and was in medical school when he discerned a calling to the priesthood.

Joensen was ordained in 1989 and served in parish ministry for six years before beginning graduate studies in philosophy. Since returning to the Archdiocese of Dubuque, he has served at Loras College in Dubuque as a professor of philosophy and assisted at parishes
in and around Dubuque.

“Today, our Holy Father Pope Francis gave voice to God’s will by naming Father William Joensen as the next Bishop of the Diocese of Des Moines,” said Dubuque Archbishop Michael Jackels, “and Father Bill said, ‘Yes’. We are sad to lose Father Bill as a member of our presbyterate. He will be missed. Hopefully, the faithful of the Diocese of Des Moines will very soon come to appreciate the gift God is giving them in their new bishop.”

Davenport Bishop Thomas Zinkula, a good friend of Joensen, said, “Father Joensen will be a wonderful bishop, and I am overjoyed that he was chosen to be the next bishop of the Diocese of Des Moines. I look forward to collaborating with him in the province of Iowa.”

Church law says that bishops must send their resignations — essentially retirement letters — to the pope at age 75. Bishop Richard Pates, who became bishop of the Des Moines diocese in 2008, maked his 75th birthday Feb. 12, 2018.

Bishops continue to serve until the Holy Father accepts their resignation, as Pope Francis announced today. Pates now serves as administrator of the diocese until Bishop-elect Joensen is ordained and installed as the bishop of the Diocese of Des Moines.

Upon his retirement, Pates will return to the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, where he will assist Archbishop Bernard Hebda in the pastoral service of students at St. Thomas Academy and Visitation Academy high schools as well as parishes and institutions in the archdiocese.

Pates will continue to be involved with boards of directors and other organizational activities.

“The Holy Father, Pope Francis, is sending a bishop with a pastoral heart to the Diocese
of Des Moines,” Pates said. “Through Bishop-elect Joensen’s stellar personal gifts, the diocese will be well served in the years ahead. Heartfelt thanks are extended to Pope  Francis for his solicitous care.”

The Diocese of Des Moines includes 80 parishes in 23 counties in central and southwest Iowa.

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