Hebda: ‘All in’ for more transparent, engaged church, with focus on Jesus

by Jessica Trygstad

ST. PAUL, Minn. (CNS) — In a packed Cathedral of St. Paul in St. Paul on the feast of Our Lady of Fatima May 13, Archbishop Bernard A. Hebda became the ninth archbishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

After the procession of knights and ladies of church orders, seminarians, deacons and priests, the congregation rose and awaited Archbishop Hebda’s knocking on the cathedral’s Holy Doors, signifying his taking possession of the cathedral.

Using a mallet made from a log of St. Paul’s first cathedral — an 1841 log chapel — Archbishop Hebda knocked on the door and was greeted by Father John Ubel, the cathedral’s rector. After the archbishop kissed a crucifix and blessed himself with holy water, the procession continued with the college of consultors, about 40 concelebrating bishops and Archbishop Hebda.

Of note was the archbishop’s use of a crosier that belonged to Archbishop John Ireland, who led the archdiocese from 1884 to 1918, and a chalice used by Archbishop Austin Dowling, archbishop from 1919 to 1930.

Auxiliary Bishop Andrew H. Cozzens of St. Paul and Minneapolis welcomed the congregation numbering around 3,000, followed by Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, former apostolic nuncio to the United States.

“Dear friends,” he began, “on this memorial of Our Lady of Fatima, I am truly pleased to be with you to share your joy.”

After Archbishop Vigano read a translation of the papal mandate from Pope Francis naming Archbishop Hebda to St. Paul and Minneapolis, the archdiocese’s chancellor for canonical affairs, Susan Mulheron, presented the document to the college of consultors — a group of 10 priests with governance responsibilities in the archdiocese — to approve. Archbishop Vigano then led Archbishop Hebda to be seated on the cathedra, or bishop’s seat, officially signifying his status as archbishop.

The liturgy of the word included readings in Spanish, Hmong and English.

In his homily, Archbishop Hebda said the Gospel from Luke — which included Mary’s visit to her cousin, Elizabeth, and Mary’s Magnificat canticle — and the feast of Our Lady of Fatima both point to “God’s extravagant love for the lowly and for the little ones.” That same love, he said, “surprises, sustains and challenges us.”

“God’s love is a game-changer,” Archbishop Hebda said, citing biblical examples of God telling the faithful to let go of everything but Jesus.

Several times he repeated the words “only Jesus,” which comprise his episcopal motto and are adopted from Scripture and a prayer offered daily by the Missionaries of Charity, whom he admires.

Saying the bonds of the local church have been tested in recent years, Archbishop Hebda called on Catholics to “be the church that God wants us to be, that Pope Francis calls us to be.”

Recalling the listening sessions he held last fall as the archdiocese’s apostolic administrator, Archbishop Hebda noted how participants voiced their desire for a more transparent and engaged church.

“I’m all in — but like you, I recognize that we’re going to have success only to the extent that we can stay focused on Jesus, and only Jesus, and embrace his call to humility and simplicity and finding him as we serve those most in need,” he said.

Ending his homily, he described himself as someone who has a lot of faults, who hasn’t yet eaten lutefisk — a traditional fish dish brought to Minnesota by Scandinavian immigrants — and “whose feet don’t comfortably touch the ground when seated on the cathedra.”

Before the concluding rite, Archbishop Hebda expressed his gratitude to those in the congregation and those unable to attend, including Pope Francis.

“He obviously sees gifts I don’t,” the archbishop said.

Archbishop Hebda was named apostolic administrator of St. Paul and Minneapolis in June 2015, after the resignation of Archbishop John C. Nienstedt. Already the coadjutor archbishop of Newark, New Jersey, Archbishop Hebda fulfilled both roles until Pope Francis named him archbishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

Among prelates attending the installation Mass were retired Archbishop Harry J. Flynn, who served St. Paul and Minneapolis from 1995 to 2008; those from the other Minnesota dioceses; Msgr. Michael Morgan, secretary to the apostolic nunciature who attended two of Archbishop Hebda’s listening sessions in November; and Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, Washington’s retired archbishop.

Students from several Catholic high schools in the archdiocese served as greeters, including those from Chesterton Academy in Edina, Cretin-Derham Hall in St. Paul and St. Thomas Academy in Mendota Heights.

Nicholas Lunsford, a senior at St. Thomas Academy, was one such greeter and said the installation Mass was “amazing.”

“It’s really something unique that I won’t get to see for a long time, so it’s great to be a young person and get to experience that,” he told The Catholic Spirit, the archdiocese’s newspaper. “Just listening to the music and watching everyone come in, it’s amazing.”

Lunsford’s classmate Joseph Koegel was a greeter, too. Originally from New Jersey, where he attended Catholic elementary school, he is glad to see the well-known bishop now the leader of his hometown church.

“Archbishop Hebda is going to be great. I’ve heard good things about him in New Jersey and here,” he said.

For Michael Larson, a junior at Totino-Grace High School in Fridley, the installation was his second celebration with the archbishop in a week, since he was just confirmed May 9. Besides the episcopal encounter and the liturgy, he enjoyed meeting other high school students of the local church.

The sense of community also touched Ashley Cordero, also a junior at Totino-Grace.

“It was so great — all the positive people. I just felt so happy to be here,” she said.

For younger Catholics, the day was a learning experience. Jovita Morrgado, a member of the Neocatechumenal Way and Queen of Angels in Austin, in the Diocese of Winona, brought her three children.

“It’s a great experience for us to strengthen our faith, and an opportunity to teach our children about the church,” she said.

With so many bishops present, her son, Suraj Mehta, 7, learned that not all priests with “pointy hats” are the pope.

Adults in the congregation picked up on a message of humility.

“I just think the archbishop is such a humble [man], and it really showed today,” said Alison Kaardal, a parishioner at St. Mark in St. Paul.

Copyright ©2016 Catholic News Service / U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

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