Blast from the past: Classmate, friend reconnects

| May 17, 2016 | 0 Comments
Childhood friend and classmate Tom Ryan, a parishioner of St. Mary of the Lake in Plymouth, poses with Bishop Bernard Hebda at his ordination in Gaylord, Michigan, in 2009. Courtesy Tom Ryan

Childhood friend and classmate Tom Ryan, a parishioner of St. Mary of the Lake in Plymouth, poses with Bishop Bernard Hebda at his ordination in Gaylord, Michigan, in 2009. Courtesy Tom Ryan

Tom Ryan has many memories of growing up in Pittsburgh with Bernard Hebda — among them, playing tennis and going on family vacations.

“I always was so jealous that he got a deep, rich tan,” Ryan joked.

But his fondest memories involve sitting around the Hebdas’ kitchen table, visiting with Bernard and his mom, Helen, over Diet Cokes. It was a second home to him.

While many years and milestones have since passed, Ryan is excited that his childhood friend once again will be “just up the street,” but in a different sense. Ryan, 57, and his family live in Plymouth and attend St. Mary of the Lake. A senior executive position at Wells Fargo brought the family to Minnesota almost 16 years ago.

“When I heard the announcement, I almost felt like, personally, God was telling me something,” Ryan said. “I don’t know what, but, of all the bishops in the country, all the people in the country, a guy I grew up with, one of my best buddies . . . ends up as the archbishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis. I was shocked.

“Having known him and his family so closely, he’s going to be fantastic,” Ryan added, “and I couldn’t be happier for him and for all the Catholics in the archdiocese and really, for the whole area of people who are going to get to know him. He’s utterly brilliant and totally down to earth. And it’s such a magical combination.”

Aside from their friendship, attending grade school and high school with Archbishop Hebda gave Ryan glimpses of the “brilliance” described by so many who know him. Although Archbishop Hebda was a year behind him in school, they graduated from college at the same time because Archbishop Hebda had placed out of his freshman courses.

“So, he really ended up three years at Harvard instead of four,” Ryan said.

Ryan recalls a high school government class where Archbishop Hebda sat in front. The teacher asked students to take notes because of the wealth of information.

“Bernie just sat there, and he wasn’t taking notes,” Ryan said. “And this went on for a period of weeks. And then the teacher said, ‘Mr. Hebda, are you ever going to write anything down?’ And he said, ‘No, I think I’m good.’ So the teacher said, ‘Fine, OK, it’s your neck.’ So he took the test, and obviously he got an A. . . . I really don’t know how his brain was working, but it wasn’t the same as other people.

“He’s well learned and well read,” Ryan said, “but his passion is people. And that stems from his family.”

“We all knew he wanted to be a pastor,” he added.

In 1990, a recently ordained Father Hebda officiated at the wedding of Ryan and his wife, Michelle, in Pittsburgh. They have three daughters, one out of college, one in college and one in high school.

Like the old days when they would gather around the Hebdas’ table, Ryan hopes Archbishop Hebda will find that same hospitality in his Plymouth home.

“He knows he’s always welcome here at our home. And sometimes, given his duties, it’s a nice respite to have people you know from home to visit with and rehash memories and just relax,” Ryan said.

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Category: Welcome Archbishop Hebda