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A month before his installation as Archbishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis, Archbishop Bernard Hebda sat down with The Catholic Spirit for a broad interview. He spoke about his mentors, his life before the seminary, and his hopes and prayers for the archdiocese. The interview was edited for length and clarity.
When Archbishop Bernard Hebda — then Father Hebda — was asked by his bishop in 1996 to move to Rome to work on the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, he didn’t want to go. Despite a degree in canon law and experience living in Rome while studying at the Pontifical North American College, the priest was happy where he was: Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania, an hour’s drive north of Pittsburgh.
Before he joined seminary, Archbishop Bernard Hebda spent a year working at the largest law firm in Pittsburgh, Reed Smith.
“I loved it,” he said — a fact that surprised him, since even in law school he hadn’t imagined working as a lawyer, although he was intrigued by the subject matter.
Katie Hebda, 19, said it’s special to have an archbishop for an uncle. On the day of Archbishop Bernard Hebda’s installation Mass May 13 at the Cathedral of St. Paul in St. Paul, the incoming sophomore at Flagler College in St. Augustine, Florida, described her uncle as witty, kind and awesome.
The pope’s agreement on the idea — raised by members of the International Union of Superiors General, the leadership group for superiors of women’s orders — was interpreted by some as a thumbs-up to women deacons and eventually women priests, which the Vatican spokesman was quick to rebut the next day.
People of faith have the responsibility to “advocate for their faith,” not only through good works, but on spiritual realms — one being through prayer, U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, said May 17.
Sister Maureen O’Brien admits that when she learned of Archbishop Bernard Hebda’s appointment to the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, she thought, “Oh, no. Poor Bernie.”
“On one level, I’m just so proud of him and grateful for the gifts he brings to the Church,” said Sister Maureen, 72, a Sister of Charity. “And on a personal level, I just feel sad that he’s been uprooted.”
Tom Ryan has many memories of growing up in Pittsburgh with Bernard Hebda — among them, playing tennis and going on family vacations.
“I always was so jealous that he got a deep, rich tan,” Ryan joked.
But his fondest memories involve sitting around the Hebdas’ kitchen table, visiting with Bernard and his mom, Helen, over Diet Cokes. It was a second home to him.
Archbishop Bernard Hebda’s parents, Bernard and the late Helen Hebda, were married for seven years before he was born on Sept. 3, 1959, in Pittsburgh. Both having come from devout Catholic families — Polish and Irish, respectively — the couple was excited to have a family of their own, Archbishop Hebda said.