Fall listening session series aims to shape archdiocese’s future

| September 20, 2015 | 13 Comments
Archbishop Bernard Hebda is spending his first full week in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis following his appointment as its apostolic administrator in June. Dave Hrbacek/The Catholic Spirit

Archbishop Bernard Hebda is spending his first full week in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis following his appointment as its apostolic administrator in June. Dave Hrbacek/The Catholic Spirit

Archbishop Bernard Hebda is asking for Catholics’ input on the strengths and challenges of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, and the qualities hoped for in its next archbishop, through a series of listening sessions to be held in October and November.

The sessions are “taking a page from Pope Francis’ playbook,” he said.

“It’s an opportunity for our local Church to be able to offer some input to Pope Francis and those with whom he’ll be collaborating in making a decision about the next archbishop,” he said. “I think it’s important that we see how consultative Pope Francis has been from the beginning of his pontificate. Consider, for example, his use of a committee of cardinals to advise him and the emphasis that he has placed on the Synod process. We’re hoping that we might be able to assist him — in all humility — along those lines by giving him some information from those who know the archdiocese best.”

Archbishop Hebda, the archdiocese’s apostolic administrator since the resignation of Archbishop John Nienstedt in June, acknowledged that the effort to obtain widespread feedback ahead of a new archbishop may be somewhat unusual, but suggested it could be something other dioceses adopt if it proves helpful.

Seeking wide reach

The sessions will be hosted at parishes and Catholic institutions in several areas of the archdiocese in hopes that every Catholic who wishes to participate can. The locations were chosen for geographic diversity, their ability to accommodate large groups and as “parishes where different kinds of people would feel comfortable,” Archbishop Hebda said.

“Some of the sessions will be in non-parish settings, so even those who feel some distance from the Church might feel comfortable in sharing their views with us,” he said.

The public sessions begin Oct. 5 from 1-3 p.m. at St. Catherine’s University and 7-9 p.m. at St. Stephen, Anoka. The following sessions will be held from 7-9 p.m.: Oct. 6 at Pax Christi, Eden Prairie; Nov. 2 at St. Peter, Forest Lake; Nov. 3 at Divine Mercy, Faribault; and Nov. 4 at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul.

A session 1-3 p.m. Oct. 6 at the Carondelet Center in St. Paul will be held for consecrated men and women. The series will also include special sessions for priests and Spanish-speaking Catholics.

Archbishop Hebda, who is also coadjutor archbishop of Newark, New Jersey, said he hopes Catholic leaders will participate in the two-hour listening sessions. The series will also include special sessions for priests and Spanish-speaking Catholics. The consultation may also include an online questionnaire to accommodate those who are unable to attend a session.

First session feedback

The first listening session was held Sept. 17 with chancery corporation staff members, who were asked to work in small groups to brainstorm the greatest strength of the archdiocese, its greatest challenge and the attributes or experience they would hope to find in its next leader.

Geographical and ethnic diversity, influential Catholic organizations and institutions, and dedicated pastors were among the strengths the staff members shared. As for challenges, the list topper was nearly unanimous: trust.

The last several years have been difficult for the archdiocese and local Catholics. The archdiocese has been facing a slew of child sexual abuse allegations against members of clergy; filed for Chapter 11 Reorganization in January; was criminally and civilly charged in June for allegations of failing to protect children; and experienced the resignations of its archbishop and an auxiliary bishop.

Listening sessions

  • Oct. 5 – St. Catherine’s University, 1-3 p.m.; St. Stephen, Anoka, 7-9 p.m.
  • Oct. 6 – Carondelet Center, St. Paul, 1-3 p.m. (for men and women in consecrated life only);
    Pax Christi, Eden Prairie, 7-9 p.m.
  • Nov. 2 – St. Peter, Forest Lake, 7-9 p.m.
  • Nov. 3 – Divine Mercy, Faribault, 7-9 p.m.
  • Nov. 4 – University of St. Thomas, St. Paul, 7-9 p.m.

No small task

Archbishop Hebda said it would be a large task to collate the information received and summarize common themes.

“Our hope would be to share our findings with the Holy Father through the nuncio in a concise way, but then also to have that information available for the next archbishop,” he said. “We’re also hoping that it’s going to give us the opportunity to share with the faithful of the archdiocese in the months to come.”

In addition to information-gathering opportunities, the listening sessions are “a reminder for people to be praying for this whole process — that the Holy Spirit will help Pope Francis to send just the right shepherd for this local Church,” Archbishop Hebda said. “I’m also hoping that it gives us an opportunity, as well, to celebrate the great history of collaboration that distinguishes this local Church and a long tradition of expressing those things that are most important to us within the context of our Church family.”

Pope Francis appoints a bishop to a diocese typically after the position is vacated by death, retirement or — in rare cases — resignation, but may also appoint a coadjutor archbishop when the present bishop is expected soon to retire, as he did in the case of Archbishop John Myers of Newark, whose role Archbishop Hebda is expected to assume next summer.

It is not known when Pope Francis would appoint a new archbishop to the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. When a decision is made, few people know before the Vatican officially announces it.

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  • Tony de New York

    What a NON SENSE!!

  • Paula Ruddy

    Thank you, thank you, thank you, Archbishop Hebda. This is a great step in uniting all of us behind the mission of the Church.

  • Lyn Yount

    Thank you Archbishop Hebda. Listening to the people, I believe, is the first step towards re-building trust. This is very hopeful.

  • GoodKnight

    Your consideration is much appreciated, Archbishop . . . and wise as well. Thank you.

  • Charles C.

    I’d appreciate some clarification as it seems I don’t understand the purpose of these listening sessions. As I read the article I get the impression that they will be very thorough and wide-ranging “Opinion polls” designed for two purposes. One purpose is to assist the Holy Father in gathering important information about the Archdiocese and the interests of the parishioners for their next Archbishop. The second purpose is to prepare a “Briefing book” for the incoming Archbishop to assist him in understanding the people of St. Paul – Minneapolis.

    These are both worthy and admirable goals, and I add my small measure of support to the thousands praying for it’s success.
    So what, GoodKnight, are you referring to when you say the Archbishop’s actions following the meeting will determine how well he listened? It appears from the article that these sessions are not designed to be the basis of new actions, but to obtain information and establish communications. Why you think the Archbishop’s actions are a measure of how well he listened is a mystery to me. You seem to be putting a requirement on the process that was never contemplated.

    I may misunderstand, but are you saying that if, after all the comment sheets are collected, summarized, and sent off to the Pope, Archbishop Hebda has to implement some new policy you approve of to prove he was listening?

    I’m sure that’s not the case, for that is ecclesiastically and logically flawed. But if that’s not what you are saying, what can you mean?

    I wouldn’t assume that you’d like the Archbishop to simply continue an existing policy. Nor do I believe that you are calling on the Archbishop to institute a policy which you disapprove of. So my question remains, what do you mean? What action does the Archbishop have to take in order to convince you that he’s listening? And what happens if he listens as intently as is humanly possible, then decides not to do what you want him to? How do you respond then?

    So, if you’d clear up my misunderstanding, I’d be grateful.


  • Carmen S.

    How about having at least one session in Minneapolis?

    • Charles C.

      I’m not from the metro, but isn’t Eden Prairie only about 10 miles or less from Minneapolis? That seems close enough.

      • Carmen

        Assuming one has a car and does not rely on public transportation 10 miles is not that far. Getting home to Minneapolis from Eden Prairie on a bus at 9:00 pm is a huge barrier to many who would like to have their voices heard.

  • TimHuegerich

    Archbishop Hebda, respectfully, it was a mistake not to listen to Jennifer Haselberger as one of your first steps. http://canonicalconsultation.com/1/post/2015/06/an-open-letter-from-father-bauer-and-archbishop-hebdas-response.html But it’s not too late. If you are serious about healing this diocese, reach out to this heroic woman and publicly thank her for her great service to the Church.

    • Charles C.

      Dear TimHuegerich,

      You present one of the difficulties I sometimes face in my discussions and on my website. You say it is important for the Archbishop to listen, and he made a mistake by not listening to her.

      How do you know that she tried to talk to him and he wouldn’t listen? Establish that. Tell us how you know. That may be the case, but at first glance I’d doubt it.

      But it’s the second portion of your note that really bothers me. I’ve seen it in many discussions. Basically, for you, listening doesn’t really matter. What’s important, as expressed in your note, is that the Archbishop thanks her and praises her publicly, telling the whole world what a wonderful, heroic, woman she is.

      He may feel that way, or he may not. But it is logically wrong, and imprudent to say that if he doesn’t share your attitude about this woman, then he isn’t serious about healing the diocese (sic). By taking that approach, you run the risk of sounding like a bully, or extortioner.

      Of course, I may misunderstand, and you may have further information. I’d welcome correction.


      • TimHuegerich

        The link provided in my comment is how I know. Ms. Haselberger herself writes, “I can assure you that he has not met with me, nor has he expressed any interest in doing so.” http://canonicalconsultation.com/1/post/2015/06/an-open-letter-from-father-bauer-and-archbishop-hebdas-response.html

        Am I “logically wrong,” a “bully, or extortioner”? “Establish that. Tell us how you know. That may be the case, but at first glance I’d doubt it.”

        • Charles C.

          Dear Tim Huegerich,

          The link provided in your comment unfortunately, shows nothing like what you claim it shows.

          Archbishop Hebda was appointed on June 15. The open letter was published on June 25th. The Archbishop’s response is received just two days later, which strikes me as quick attention. In that note, according to Miss Haselberger’s article, the Archbishop writes that he “promises to consider the points he [Fr. Bauer] raised, and pledges to continue to meet with people to hear their concerns.”

          Just two days after the Archbishop’s response, June 29th, Miss Haselberger writes that it’s been two entire weeks since the Archbishop was appointed and he hasn’t talked to her yet. The Archbishop writes that he will meet with people to hear their concerns, but Miss Haselberger claims that he has expressed no interest in meeting with her. What does she think he meant when he promised to meet with people?

          And all of this was in June, and all of it was in the first two weeks of his appointment. I would think the Archbishop would have slightly more pressing matters to attend to as he gets off the plane, so to speak.

          Now July, August, September, and three weeks of October have passed since Miss Haselberger’s article. You’re claiming that the article in June is proof that the Archbishop hasn’t met with her at some point in the following three and a half months?

          Maybe he’s met with her, maybe he hasn’t, but you still haven’t shown the slightest reason for anyone to believe that he hasn’t. Indeed, it’s more likely than not that he has met with her in some form.

          Now, “logically wrong?” Besides what has been mentioned above?

          “But it is logically wrong, and imprudent to say that if he doesn’t share your attitude about this woman, then he isn’t serious about healing the diocese (sic). By taking that approach, you run the risk of sounding like a bully, or extortioner.”

          I explained why I think it is logically wrong. Non sequitor is, I believe the Latin term for the logical error committed. But maybe the argument has additional steps which i didn’t detect. You’ll note that I didn’t accuse you of being a bully or extortioner.

          I will say that the position, “If you don’t do what I say, that proves you are bad, unfit, and stupid,” is one I have seen many times, in many conversations. It makes people feel bullied and pressured, whether that is meant by the writer or not.

          In topics similar to this in intensity and political posturing, the users of such techniques appear to be much more often to be bullies at heart, but perhaps that’s just their emotions running away with them.

          If I haven’t answered your questions, I’d be glad to take another stab at it.


          • TimHuegerich

            This is all fair enough. I should have just said: “Archbishop Hebda, have you considered meeting with Jennifer Haselberger, specifically? I think you should.”