11 things to know about Archbishop Hebda

July 7, 2015

Off the Record

Coadjutor Archbishop Bernard A. Hebda of Newark, N.J., and a priest pose for a photo Nov. 5, 2013, following a Mass of welcome for Archbishop Hebda at the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Newark. CNS

Coadjutor Archbishop Bernard A. Hebda of Newark, N.J., and a priest pose for a photo Nov. 5, 2013, following a Mass of welcome for Archbishop Hebda at the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Newark. CNS

After two quick trips to the Twin Cities since his June 15 appointment, Archbishop Bernard Hebda is spending his first full week in Minnesota. He plans to say the 10 a.m. Mass at the Cathedral of St. Paul July 12 — which can be heard on Relevant Radio 1330. Here are 11 things to know about our new apostolic administrator.

  1. His last name is Polish. His paternal grandparents immigrated to the U.S. from southeast Poland. “Hebda” was also a common last name of people who lived near the medieval Norbertine Monastery of Our Lady of the Assumption in Hebdów, in southern Poland near Krakow. Hopefully his first tour of the archdiocese includes a stop at Holy Cross and lunch from Sikora’s in Nordeast.
  1. He’s an ivy leaguer. Archbishop Hebda studied political science at Harvard and law at Columbia, both ivy league schools. As an undergraduate, he was on staff of the Harvard International Review, a publication of the Harvard International Relations Council, and was an editorial board member and articles editor for the Harvard Yearbook. It was while he was attending daily Mass at Columbia that he rediscovered an interest in the priesthood he first had as a child.
  1. He’s steeped in the law. He earned a degree in civil law from Columbia and practiced in a law firm for a year before joining seminary in 1984. Six years later, he earned a licentiate in canon law from the Pontificial Gregorian University in Rome. From 1992 to 1996, he served as a judge for Diocese of Pittburgh’s tribunal, which deals with canon law matters including marriage annulments. In 1996, he returned to Rome to serve on the Pontifical Council for Legal Texts, which interprets Church law, being named in 2003 its undersecretary, or third-ranking official. He left the position in 2009 to serve as the fourth bishop of Gaylord, Michigan.
  1. He loves Cardinal Newman and the Missionaries of Charity. For his coat of arms, Archbishop Hebda chose the motto “Only Jesus,” a phrase based on the Gospel of Mark, chapter 9. According to an explanation of his coat’s heraldry, the motto was inspired by a prayer written by Cardinal John Henry Newman, whom Archbishop Hebda admires. The prayer is prayed daily by the Missionaries of Charity, as was the practice of their foundress, Blessed Teresa of Kolkata. While he was working for the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts in Rome, Archbishop Hebda served as a confessor for the Missionaries of Charity postulants and their sisters who worked in a home for unwed mothers. The sisters made a deep impression. The archbishop chose the motto as a reminder of their “exemplary humility, obedience and fidelity” and “that the episcopal ministry of teaching, sanctifying and governing is ultimately to lead the faithful to an encounter with Christ himself.”
  1. He also loves the Capuchin Franciscans. In an interview published in the November 2013 edition of The Catholic Advocate in Newark, he attributed his priestly vocation in part to a vocations club the Capuchin Franciscans ran in his Catholic grade school. He wanted to go to their seminary after high school, but they steered him to Harvard instead.
  1. He has a devotion to Our Lady of the Rosary. Archbishop Hebda was named a bishop on Oct. 7, 2009, the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, to whom he entrusted his ministry as a bishop.
  1. He does the electric slide. Or so says Rocco Palmo, the uncannily observant Philadelphia-based Church chronicler at his blog, “Whispers in the Loggia.”
  1. He’s one of seven sitting bishops who call Steel City home. The others are Bishop Paul Bradley of Kalamazoo, Michigan; Bishop Edward Burns of Juneau, Alaska; Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston; Cardinal Adam Maida of Detroit; Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence, Rhode Island; and Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C. In seminary, Archbishop Hebda studied one year under Cardinal DiNardo, then a patristics scholar at the St. Paul Seminary in Pittsburgh.
  1. He’s done urban and rural ministry. The Diocese of Gaylord is small and rural, and Newark, well, is not. The Diocese of Gaylord covers 21 counties of Michigan’s northern lower peninsula and includes about 66,000 Catholics with 80 parishes. The Archdiocese of Newark covers four counties, more than 1.3 million Catholics, and about 220 parishes.
  1. He loved his mom’s cooking. He told The Catholic Advocate, “Nothing compares with my mom’s pierogi or potato pancakes. Now that my Mom has gone to God, there’s nothing that I would prefer to a plate of carbonara. After 18 years in Rome, I love anything Italian.”
  1. His friends call him “Bernie.”
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About Maria Wiering

Maria Wiering is editor of The Catholic Spirit.

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  • sharon

    When I taught Phy Ed at St. Dominic School years ago – I taught every child in the school to do the Electric Slide (Except the Kindergarten – they didn’t know their right foot from their left yet!) Those kids are all young adults now – I love that they have this in common with our new Archbishop!