Answering the Call


When he was first asked to assume the role of bishop of the Diocese of Des Moines, Reverend William Joensen, Ph.D., had trouble believing it.

“When the call came from the United States Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop (Christophe) Pierre with a request to become bishop, it was not simply a big surprise but also daunting,” Fr. Joensen recalled. “Among my initial responses was ‘Are you sure, Archbishop, that the Holy Father Pope Francis knows about this and has signed off on it?’”

Pope Francis selected Fr. Joensen to become the 10th bishop of the diocese on September 27. He replaced Rev. Richard Pates, who announced his resignation in February 2018 when he turned 75 years old. By Canon Law, bishops must resign at age 75. He had been bishop since 2008.

“Beyond surprise and some trepidation, my heart was stirred and filled with peace and attraction to this position for I am thoroughly an Iowa guy,” Fr. Joensen said at his introductory press conference. “I love this state and I love its people with their rootedness in the land and the deep faith that is woven into that. I have always wanted to spend my life here serving the people.”

Fr. Joensen has served as dean of campus spiritual life at Loras College since 2010. As such, he promotes the college’s Catholic mission and identity, and serves as a spiritual director on campus and at St. Pius X Seminary.

As an associate professor of philosophy at Loras, Fr. Joensen has taught courses in metaphysics, epistemology, philosophical anthropology and history of philosophy. He also teaches the College’s Catholic Identity mission courses.

Fr. Joensen is a faculty member at the Tertio Millennio Seminar on the Free Society, a seminar on Catholic social teaching held annually in Krakow, Poland. He also serves on the medicalmoral commission of the Archdiocese of Dubuque and is a regular contributor of spiritual reflections to Magnificat, a Catholic spiritual resource.

We are sad to lose Fr. Bill as a member of our presbyterate; he will be missed,” Archbishop of Dubuque Michael Jackels said in a statement. “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. Perhaps, too, Fr. Bill’s generous ‘yes’ to God’s call will inspire young men to consider God’s plan for their own lives, and to seek happiness and fulfillment in the pursuit of living for God and others as a priest in the Archdiocese of Dubuque.”

Fr. Joensen, 59, was born in Waterloo and attended seminary at the Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus, Ohio. He was ordained as a priest in the Archdiocese of Dubuque on June 24, 1989.

Following his ordination, Fr. Joensen served as associate pastor at Sacred Heart Parish in Waterloo, and taught at Columbus High School (1989–1992). In 1992 he became associate pastor at Resurrection Parish in Dubuque, where he served until 1995. From 2003–2010, he was a chaplain at Clarke College in Dubuque.

In addition to the theology degree he has from Josephinum, Fr. Joensen also has Ph.D. in philosophy from the Catholic University of America.

“I am thrilled that Fr. Bill’s gifts and talents will serve a new purpose as the new spiritual leader for the Diocese of Des Moines,” President Jim Collins (’84) said. “That said, I know the Loras community will miss him. Personally, I am grateful for his willingness to serve in the administrative role as Dean at a critical time. He has served faithfully and effectively all these years.”

“My heart’s deepest desire and hope as a priest and bishop is that people have the grace to meet Jesus and experience his love and mercy as I have so many times that I can’t even keep track,” Fr. Joensen said.