The Rev. Henry J. Dahl died on Nov. 22, 2020 in Sun City, Ariz. a week after suffering severe brain injuries in an auto accident, said his friend Pat Pichette, who was with him when he died. He was 79.
Father Dahl served as head priest at St. Peter the Apostle Catholic Church in Provincetown for nine years, from 2002 to 2011. It was an eventful period that included the legalization of same-sex marriage in Massachusetts and the devastating fire that destroyed the church in 2005. He was instrumental in helping lead a townwide effort to rebuild the church.
Henry John Dahl was born on June 25, 1941 in Staten Island, N.Y. to Harry and Hazel Dahl. He was their second child and first son. Henry graduated from Northside High School in San Antonio, Texas, and then spent four years in the Air Force, originally studying to be a weatherman.
Instead, he joined the business world, working in retail management as a credit analyst. After a 30-year career, he entered the Holy Apostles Seminary in Cromwell, Conn. to study for the priesthood. He was 50 years old.
He earned his master’s degree in theology and divinity in 1992 and served in a series of diocesan, hospital, and parish assignments.
In a 2011 appreciation written by Pru Sowers in the Provincetown Banner, his friend Bill Gately described how Father Dahl had been changed by his time at St. Peter’s.
“Living and working in the depths of Provincetown has opened his eyes and resulted in him being far more flexible and far more human than when he first came here,” Gately said. “Provincetown has helped him see the complexity of life in an authentic human perspective. Over time he has adapted and grown to embrace this community. Also, he had adapted and embraced his own humanity.”
“I came from a very conventional background,” Dahl told Sowers. “Needless to say, Provincetown is quite non-conventional in many ways. I’ve been exposed to people with many different viewpoints.”
Sowers noted that Father Dahl continued a tradition of monthly lunches cooked by church members for the AIDS Support Group of Cape Cod, fostered friendly relations with ministers of other non-Catholic churches, and offered St. Peter’s as a site for non-Catholic funerals for those who needed a large space. He was also instrumental in persuading the Fall River diocese to donate church-owned land to Provincetown, allowing the construction of a new assisted living center at Seashore Point.
In 2011, Father Henry moved to Sun City, Ariz., to enjoy his retirement and care for his old friend, Father Thomas Weible. Although retired, he spent much time at St. Clements of Rome Church, assisting with mass and working in the community, which will miss him greatly.
He is survived by his sisters, Sandra J. Oefinger of San Antonio, Texas, and Deborrah J. Davenport and husband John of San Antonio; his brothers, Jack H. Dahl of Mooresville, N.C., and Jeff R. Landrum and wife Esther of San Antonio; and by many nieces and nephews.
Funeral services will be held in Sun City at St. Clements, and burial will follow at Holy Cross Cemetery in Maricopa, Ariz. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to St. Peter the Apostle Church in Provincetown.