Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of June 5, 2000
Gifted pastor suffered in isolation
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
He was a gifted seminarian who didn't have to study to get tops marks. As a pastor, he never prepared a homily; he just gave it. People loved him and he loved them back.
But stress got the best of him, cutting his fruitful priestly career short.
Father Allan Hensel, who retired in 1968, just 10 years after being ordained, died at Royal Alexandra Hospital May 28 after a long struggle with cancer. He was 68.
"He was very gifted. Everything came so easy for him. At the seminary he never prepared for an exam and he always got top marks," recalls his seminary classmate Father Karl Raab, pastor at Holy Family Parish in St. Albert. "People really liked him, he had a great personality."
Hensen and Raab attended the seminary in the early 1950s and became good friends. "He was very easy going, very relaxed and very talented," Raab recalled. "He had a good singing voice. In fact, we used to call him Bing Seminary because he sang like Bing Crosby."
Father Don Stein, pastor at Sherwood Park and a long-time friend of the Hensel family, recalls the years Hensel spent as assistant pastor at Clandonald following his ordination.
"The people adapted so beautifully with him and he was a sort of very alive person people loved, willing to play cards, sit with the people, meet the people, be with people," he recalled.
"He was a very people-centred priest and had a sense of humour of his own and had this special laugh; he brought laughter to people. He could be quite funny."
Born in New Sarepta, July 5, 1932, Hensel was ordained to the priesthood June 15, 1957 in Edmonton by Archbishop John Hugh MacDonald.
He served as assistant pastor at Clandonald from 1957 to 1960 and then moved to Edmonton to serve as assistant pastor at St. Anthony's Parish for the next three years.
In 1963 he was appointed pastor at Consort, where he served until 1965. He took a year-long study leave, returning to parish work as pastor at Mayerthorpe in 1966.
In 1968, Hensen retired from active ministry for health reasons.
Raab and Stein recall their lively friend Allan changed when he was assigned as pastor at Consort. "That's a very isolated area. He went there on his own and I don't know if he was really ready to handle that," Raab said.
His mother, who was very dear to him, died around the time he went to Consort. "Something happened to him after his mother died, he just seemed to never be the same Allan," Stein said.
"The isolation of Consort also affected him greatly. He was a good pastor but his health started to go and he wasn't able to handle the stress of the modern parish."
Hensel was never the same after the Consort assignment, lamented Raab. "He had a very painful existence, a very difficult life."
After his retirement he became a "recluse" and Raab didn't see much of him. He saw him last at St. Andrew's Centre, where Hensel spent the last 10 years of his life. "He didn't seem to want visitors that much."
But Hensel always remained faithful to his commitment and remained a priest to his death.
Retired Bishop Emmett Doyle was to preside at Hensel's funeral Mass June 1 and Stein was to say the homily.