Msgr. James Habiger, former executive director of the Minnesota Catholic Conference, died Oct. 9. He was 85.
Ordained a priest in 1951 for the Diocese of Winona, he ministered in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis since 1980 when he took the MCC post, which he held for 15 years. He also served at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul and was moderator of the Archdiocesan Council of Catholic Women for 20 years, retiring from that position in 2008.
At the MCC, Msgr. Habiger represented the Catholic bishops of Minnesota on social, legal and political issues and lobbied the Legislature on their behalf.
“Msgr. James Habiger was a beloved friend to those on the margins of society,” said Jason Adkins, MCC executive director. “He was and will continue to be an inspiration to many social justice advocates who carry on his legacy. For example, it was Msgr. Habiger’s committee testimony that finally elicited the votes to pass MNCare legislation, providing health insurance for low-income Minnesotans. His work left a lasting impact on the state of Minnesota in many areas. He will be missed.”
Adkins’ thoughts were echoed by Olive Hupf, who has been active in the ACCW since the 1980s and served as president from 2003 to 2005.
“He has served us well,” said Hupf, a member of St. Pius V in Cannon Falls with her husband Vernon. “He was a wonderful man. He helped me so much during the time when I was president of ACCW. He was steadfast.
“He was so full of faith and he was so full of goodness. He just was so good. He was absolutely wonderful and was a true friend. And, I ask him to guide me now.”
After his ordination, Msgr. Habiger served parishes in Austin, Winona and Rochester and was principal at St. Augustine’s in Austin and Winona Cotter before becoming superintendent of education for the Winona diocese in 1960, a position he held for 16 years. He served as pastor of St. Francis of Assisi in Rochester from 1976 to 1980, when he joined the MCC.
At the University of St. Thomas, in honor of his parents, he established the Joseph and Edith Habiger Institute for Catholic Leadership in the Center for Catholic Studies to provide student leadership formation.
The funeral Mass for Msgr. Habiger will be celebrated at 10:30 a.m. Monday, Oct. 15 in the Chapel of St. Thomas Aquinas at the University of St. Thomas, with a visitation in the chapel at 9 a.m. Visitation also will be held from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. (with prayers at 4 p.m.) Sunday, Oct. 14 at the Church of St. Peter, 2600 Margaret St., N., in North St. Paul.
Interment will be at 3 p.m. at Holy Trinity Cemetery near Owatonna.