Archdiocesan leaders express joy, gratitude for Archbishop Hebda’s new role

| March 24, 2016 | 2 Comments
Archbishop-designate Bernard Hebda greets people outside the Cathedral of St. Paul July 12, 2015, at the end of his first Mass in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. Dave Hrbacek/The Catholic Spirit

Archbishop-designate Bernard Hebda greets people outside the Cathedral of St. Paul July 12, 2015, at the end of his first Mass in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. Dave Hrbacek/The Catholic Spirit

Auxiliary Bishop Cozzens calls appointment ‘an early Easter’

“Brilliant.” “Humble.” “Holy.” The words were used repeatedly by leaders in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis to describe Archbishop Bernard Hebda, whom Pope Francis named their archbishop March 24.

Father Charles Lachowitzer, the archdiocese’s moderator of the curia, said the news brought him “great joy.”

“As we were going around doing the listening sessions a few months ago, the archbishop’s relationship with the people and his graciousness, his kindness, his humility, his faith, all of these things were immediately responded to by many of the people, saying ‘Can we keep you here?’” he said. “From those first listening sessions it was obvious that if he were selected by the Holy Father to be our next archbishop, we couldn’t have done any better.”

Since June 2015, Archbishop-designate Hebda has been serving as the archdiocese’s apostolic administrator, a position he assumed was temporary, as he was previously named coadjutor archbishop of Newark and expecting to lead that archdiocese upon the retirement of Archbishop John Myers.

As apostolic administrator, he has worked closely with archdiocesan leaders, including Auxiliary Bishop Andrew Cozzens, who received the news while in Rome with family for his parents’ golden anniversary.

“It’s a great blessing; it’s like an early Easter,” Bishop Cozzens said. “It’s been such a joy to work with Archbishop Hebda so far, and to think that he gets to stay and be our shepherd is a great delight. My first words were, ‘Praise God.’”

Joe Kueppers, the archdiocese’s chancellor for civil affairs, called the appointment “a great boost for the archdiocese.”

“This is going to move us ahead leaps and bounds,” he said. “Before, we were in a holding pattern. Now, we can really get an agenda and to the work we need to do to bring this Church were it needs to be.”

Archdiocesan leaders acknowledged that the appointment comes during a difficult time for the archdiocese, as it works to resolve Chapter 11 bankruptcy, as well as criminal charges filed in June 2015 by Ramsey County related to a case of clergy sexual abuse. Under Archbishop Hebda’s leadership, the archdiocese reached a settlement with the county on related civil charges in December.

Because of the challenges, Archbishop Hebda is a good fit for the role, Kueppers said.

“He’s professional, articulate, but just so humble and holy,” he said. “His humility and his spirituality come through in everything he does. But he’s got a brilliant mind, and he’s trained in canon law and civil law, so he grasps the concepts really quickly, so you don’t have to explain anything. He’s miles ahead of you before you get anything out.”

Tim O’Malley, director of ministerial standards and safe environment, said the archbishop has been “fully engaged” in his office’s efforts.

“He’s a very thoughtful, deliberative man and has offered great insights into how it is that we can move forward in a very positive way,” he said. “So I know he will be fully supportive of our efforts to care for those who have been harmed in the past and to do everything possible to prevent any future harm. I think this is a real positive day for everyone in this archdiocese to know that we have a man who’s genuine, humble and yet extraordinarily bright to help lead us to better days.”

Father Lachowitzer called Archbishop Hebda “a delight” to work with. “What you immediately experience when working with him is that he has integrated his faith with his service to the Church, first as a priest, and now as a bishop,” he said.

Several leaders remarked on the archbishop’s sense of humor. “He’s a joy to be around,” said Bishop Cozzens, who also complimented his listening skills and thoughtful decision-making.

Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet Carolyn Puccio, the archdiocese’s delegate for religious, called Archbishop Hebda “a man who knows how to interact with people.”

“This is a man who has a pastoral heart,” she said. “Just whenever he’s been in a group, large or small, there’s a care and a personal warmth. And yet, he’s very brilliant, he’s very wise, very articulate, very strong, but able to do that in a way that’s very human and very humble.”

After the appointment was announced on Facebook shortly after 6 a.m. Central Time, Catholics took to The Catholic Spirit’s comment wall to express affirmation for Archbishop Hebda’s new role.

“Archbishop Hebda is truly loved in Gaylord, Michigan, where he was the bishop of our diocese,” Marie Hahnenberg wrote. “I am so happy for the people of St. Paul and Minneapolis.”

“ACCW welcomes Archbishop Hebda,” wrote Florence Schmidt, president of the Archdiocesan Council of Catholic Women. “Our prayers have been answered.”

Others wrote: “Praise be the Lord and thank you.” “It’s an Easter miracle.” “Thank you Lord for the guidance of our Church.”

Father Lachowitzer said he expects Archbishop Hebda will lead the archdiocese forward “with great prayer.”

“He’s truly a servant,” he said, “and I believe that through his relationship with the Lord, with his sense of gifts of the Holy Sprit, that he will take his cues from that inspiration and from the direction that Pope Francis is setting for the universal Church.”

Jessica Trygstad contributed to this story.

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