Archbishop Hebda to students: The Church wants to listen to you

| April 24, 2018 | 0 Comments

Two of the Church’s new American blesseds weren’t known for their book smarts, but they demonstrated a different prowess: the ability to listen well, Archbishop Bernard Hebda said in a talk at Anselm House in St. Paul April 20.

In a 30-minute “Fridays @ 4” talk followed by a Q&A, Archbishop Hebda briefly sketched out the lives of Solanus Casey, a Capuchin “simplex” priest who ministered in Detroit, and Oklahoman Father Stanley Rother, who first flunked out of seminary but deeply impacted the lives of the Guatemalan people he eventually served. Despite the two priests’ apparent academic struggles, Archbishop Hebda said, they excelled at connecting with others by listening to them.

Archbishop Hebda used their examples to emphasize the importance of listening, especially for the discerning Church. He drew on Pope Francis’ 2015 call to bishops for the Church to be “a listening Church.”

“His sense is that it’s so crucial, and he doesn’t see that in society at large, where everybody wants to speak,” Archbishop Hebda told the group of about 30 University of Minnesota students and faculty members who attended the Christian study center event.

Giving examples of Pope Francis’ humility and efforts to connect with regular people in everyday life, Archbishop Hebda said, “It’s pretty clear what he’s trying to teach us — not just as Catholics, not just as Christians, but as a world — how it is to discern God’s will in the midst of our discussions, our conversations, most especially in listening to one another.”

In the Catholic Church, one of the ways listening is achieved institutionally is through consultation, especially in the synod process, he said. In 1969, Pope Paul VI instituted regular meetings of a synod of bishops, who represent regions of the world and meet every few years to discuss topics important to the whole Church. Since Pope Francis’ election in 2013, he has held two synods, both exploring marriage and the family.

The Church is currently focusing on the perspectives of youths and young adults ahead of a synod on youth, faith and vocational discernment in October. The Vatican held a pre-synodal gathering in March, which included young adult delegates, including non-Catholics, from around the world.

“The sense is, just as a leader has to be willing to listen, that all of us have to be willing to also engage in that process of conversation,” Archbishop Hebda said.

He joked that he kept on talking, even though his talk was on the “listening Church,” and then asked students to share their thoughts on young adults’ role in the Church. Students’ comments and questions included the topics of social media, adhering to Catholic tradition, Church transparency about past wrongs, and evangelization and imperialism.

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