Msgr. Habiger celebrates 60 years as a priest

| May 17, 2011 | 0 Comments

Msgr. Habiger

Msgr. James Habiger, retired executive director of the Minnesota Catholic Conference, will celebrate the 60th anniversary of his ordination into the priesthood May 22.

Habiger will celebrate Mass at 11 a.m. in the Chapel of St. Thomas Aquinas on the University of St. Thomas campus, where he has lived since 1980. A private luncheon for family and friends will follow.

A native of Harvey, N.D., Habiger, 84, grew up in Owatonna, Minn. He earned a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from St. Mary’s Seminary and University in Baltimore and a master’s degree in education from Catholic University in Washington, D.C., and was ordained May 19, 1951.

He returned to Minnesota and served parishes in Austin (St. Augustine), Winona (St. John’s) and Rochester (St. Francis of Assisi). He was high school principal at St. Augustine’s in Austin and Winona Cotter before serving as superintendent of education for the Diocese of Winona from 1960 to 1976, when he became pastor of St. Francis of Assisi in Rochester.

In 1980, Habiger was named executive director of the Minnesota Catholic Conference and held the position for 15 years, representing bishops on social, legal and political issues and lobbying the Legislature on their behalf. He also served as chaplain of the Minnesota House and Senate.

Upon his retirement from the conference in 1995, Habiger received the John A. Ryan Award from St. Thomas for outstanding contributions in social justice. He since has served in Campus Ministry at St. Thomas, assisting with liturgies on campus and in area parishes, most notably St. Peter’s in North St. Paul.

To honor his parents, Habiger established the Joseph and Edith Habiger Institute for Catholic Leadership in the Center for Catholic Studies at St. Thomas to provide students with leadership formation opportunities. Another program, the Habiger Lectures Series, has brought lecturers, scholars-in-residence and artists-in-residence to St. Thomas every semester.

Habiger also was moderator of the Archdiocesan Council of Catholic Women for 20 years before stepping down in 2008.

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