First Lay Advisory Board meeting opens new dialogue for archdiocese

| April 9, 2019 | 0 Comments

Susan Wieneke, a parishioner of St. Thomas the Apostle in Corcoran, talks with Dale Lieb, a member of St. Mary of the Lake in White Bear Lake, at the Lay Advisory Board meeting with Archbishop Bernard Hebda April 3 at the Archdiocesan Catholic Center in St. Paul. Both are members of the board, which consists of representatives from each deanery in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. Dave Hrbacek / The Catholic Spirit

Mary Brady hopes a new Lay Advisory Board to assist Archbishop Bernard Hebda will usher in a new era of listening in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

“I was really active in several archdiocesan commissions when I was in my 20s. They’re no longer around,” said Brady, 71, citing as one example a former urban Catholic coalition that promoted inner city parishes. “I’m hoping that it’s a sign … that the diocese is being more open to a variety of input from people around the entire diocese.”

Representing Deanery 14, Brady, a member of St. Frances Cabrini in Minneapolis, is one of 19 members of the newly formed board, which met for the first time with the archbishop April 3 at the Archdiocesan Catholic Center in St. Paul.

Ranging in age from their 20s to 70s, some retired but others working for parishes or in professions such as business management, project management and insurance, board members were asked by the archbishop to offer advice, to listen and to be a conduit for information with people throughout the archdiocese about opportunities and challenges in the local Church.

Announced as an initiative in November, the board consists of representative members of parish pastoral councils across the archdiocese. Each was chosen by their peers to represent one of 15 deaneries, or geographic regions of the archdiocese. Some traveled as far as 40 miles to get to the Catholic Center.

Among other roles, the board will be key to finding ways to promote healing from the clergy sexual abuse scandal, Archbishop Hebda said.

It also will help shape an anticipated archdiocesan synod, which will create room for the Holy Spirit to help people to express the needs of the local Church, the archbishop told the group. Synods have been an important part of Pope Francis’ pontificate because they allow for listening to the Spirit, the archbishop said.

“That’s what he (Pope Francis) wants us as a Church to be — accompanying one another on this journey in a way that really roots us in our tradition, in our faith, but is sensitive to where the Holy Spirit might be prompting us to act,” Archbishop Hebda said.

Board members will meet quarterly with the archbishop and share results of those meetings with their deanery and pastoral council leaders.

The board includes representatives from the African-American, Latino, Vietnamese and Native American communities. The archdiocese appointed those four members to the board to ensure a diverse representation of the local Church.

“The goal was to be able to get the group to reflect the cross section of the diocese. Part of that happens naturally by the deanery structure,” said Father Mike Tix, episcopal vicar for clergy and parish services.

Father Tix, who was involved in regional meetings of deanery leaders that led to the board’s formation, also attended the April 3 gathering. He said he was encouraged by the respectful sharing of differing opinions by the board members. All had the opportunity to introduce themselves and share thoughts and questions about expectations for the board and needs in the archdiocese.

Board member Wesley Sandholm, 25, said the conversation was a good start.

“I’m pleased that it really does seem like the people there are going to have some good and productive conversations,” said Sandholm, a member of the Cathedral of St. Paul in St. Paul and an information technology security expert.

Board members also were given some homework. Archbishop Hebda asked them to seek input with members of their respective deaneries and then suggest up to five areas of priority for the local Church before their next meeting, July 17.

“I was really impressed with people who were elected to be on this board,” Archbishop Hebda said after the meeting. “I think it portends well for the venture. They’re committed to the Church, they’re articulate and they know that they want to help the Church move beyond where we are today.”

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