Archbishop Hebda to students: Look to Pope Francis as model for leadership

| April 21, 2016 | 0 Comments
Hebda student

Archbishop-designate Bernard Hebda speaks to University of St. Thomas students April 19. Courtesy Mike Ekern/UST

Coined in the 1990s, the acronym BHAG — a big, hairy, audacious goal — is familiar in the business world, but Archbishop-designate Bernard Hebda applied the concept to the work of the Church as he reflected on Pope Francis’ leadership style April 19 at the University of St. Thomas.

“There is no goal that is bigger, harrier or more audacious than what’s been envisioned by Pope Francis,” he said.

More than 300 students, mostly undergraduates, filled the Chapel of St. Thomas Aquinas on the university’s St. Paul campus to listen to Archbishop Hebda, who will be installed as the archdiocese’s next archbishop May 13. He has served as the archdiocese’s apostolic administrator since June 2015.

Archbishop Hebda speaking at the University of St. Thomas April 19. Courtesy Mike Ekern/UST

Archbishop Hebda speaking at the University of St. Thomas April 19. Courtesy Mike Ekern/UST

Pointing to the pope’s vision for human ecology outlined in “Laudato Si’” and his wanting “a poor Church for the poor,” Archbishop Hebda described Pope Francis as a leader who “is willing to dream big,” and cited his accolades in business publications including Forbes, Time magazine and the Wall Street Journal.

The pontiff has been applauded for collaboration, communication skills and transparency, he said, but often overlooked is the “heart” of his leadership style: his relationship with Jesus Christ.

Citing anecdotes from a friend who frequently stays in the Casa Santa Marta, the Vatican City guesthouse where the pope lives, Archbishop Hebda described the significant time Pope Francis spends in prayer in the house’s chapel at the beginning of his day.

He also noted that Pope Francis has told priests to “learn the language of the Gospels.”

“If we are to speak convincingly about Christ, we must know him,” Archbishop Hebda said.

Students listening

Students listen to Archbishop Hebda April 19 in the Chapel of St. Thomas Aquinas. Courtesy Mike Ekern/UST

Addressing leadership in general, Archbishop Hebda encouraged students to look to people with a “mutually shared vision.”

“As Catholics, the paradigm for leadership has to be Jesus himself,” he said. “If we’re looking for leaders to follow in the world, we need to discern those leaders who have aligned themselves with the mission of Christ, the Good Shepherd, and his Church.”

To do that, he said, people need to know Christ, which comes from a life of study, prayer and service. He held up Pope Francis as a model for listening, humility and living “a consistency of life,” where his actions coincide with his words.

The hourlong event was hosted by Tommie Catholic, a collaboration of St. Thomas Campus Ministry, St. Paul’s Outreach and Center for Catholic Studies.

During his presentation, Archbishop Hebda expressed a particular love of working with young people. He served as a campus minister at a state college in Pennsylvania and has lived for three years in a college dorm at Seton Hall University in New Jersey, as he served as coadjutor archbishop of Newark, a position superseded by his March appointment to St. Paul and Minneapolis.

Archbishop with students

Archbishop Hebda visits with students following his presentation April at the University of St. Thomas. Courtesy Mike Ekern/UST

Archbishop Hebda said he first became familiar with the University of St. Thomas from its Catholic Studies in Rome program during the years he was working at the Vatican.

“I would be going to the Vatican bookstore, and I would hear students as they’re looking at the various publications there [say] ‘Ratzinger — cool!’ and I knew that was somebody from Catholic Studies,” he said, drawing a laugh from the audience.

Archbishop Hebda is also acquainted with the work of St. Paul’s Outreach, a national Catholic campus evangelization apostolate based in West St. Paul, because of SPO missionaries at Seton Hall. Prior to speaking, he had dinner with about 15 men at an SPO household on Grand Avenue.

After his 40-minute presentation, Archbishop Hebda took student questions. Undergraduates asked for his thoughts on evangelization, the pope’s new document “The Joy of Love,” and building better relationships with people of different beliefs.

One student asked what the archbishop would like to see from them as Catholic university students.

“Open your hearts to the grace that Christ wants to give to you,” he said. “When we do that, we can respond. We have a God who is interested in what we do. We’re able then to really see that, ‘Yes, Lord, you have a plan for me.’ . . . Everything that we do has some relevance, some importance in this great plan of what God has for the world.”

Tommie Catholic holds a regular 8 p.m. Tuesday event, but the archbishop’s presentation was the first one Annie Rydland has attended. A sophomore from Colorado Springs, Colorado, she said she had been inspired during a recent Campus Ministry-led retreat to deepen her relationship with Christ.

“I felt I needed to come and be a little more present in my faith,” she said. “It was great to hear [Archbishop Hebda] talk about Pope Francis and his leadership style, and I kind of laughed at ‘BHAG,’ because that’s something that my old high school teachers used to tell us.”

The talk reaffirmed ideas she took away from the retreat, she said, including “being a leader in your faith and being as genuine a person as possible while trying to have a really strong relationship with God, which I’m still figuring out.”

Several students appreciated that Archbishop Hebda pointed to the way Pope Francis sees individuals, not issues or labels, they said.

“The thing that stuck with me is that he said don’t give up on proclaiming Christ and don’t give up on being on mission and proclaiming the Gospel, because that’s what Christ asked us to do, and those were his parting words to us,” said Rosalinda Rosales, a sophomore from Eagan studying business communications. “I loved how [Archbishop Hebda] stressed that we do that in a loving way, especially here on campus when we do have so many different people and different walks of life.”

Milad Audi, a freshman from Crystal studying mechanical engineering, said he regularly goes to Tommie Catholic events, and was struck by what Archbishop Hebda said about the importance of prayer.

“You have to have that prayer life,” he said. “Jesus has to pour his love into you for you to spread it to everyone else. . . . I know that in my life, that’s what I need; I need to have that prayer.”

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