.- Pope Francis has named Archbishop Bernard A. Hebda as the new head of the Minneapolis-St. Paul archdiocese – a surprise move for the archbishop, who was expected to take over the diocese of Newark in July.
In a March 24 press release, Archbishop Hebda said that he was “humbled by this expression of Pope Francis’s confidence.”
He also said he was "honored" to serve in a diocese with such a “rich history and its long tradition of extraordinary priests, zealous Religious and empowered laity, all working to put their faith into action.”
Archbishop Hebda has been serving as apostolic administrator for the Minneapolis archdiocese since June 15, 2015, when the former archbishop, John C. Nienstedt, stepped down after the diocese was charged with mishandling cases of child sexual abuse.
On June 5, 2015, the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis was charged with six counts of failing to protect minors, specifically with regard to the actions of the now-former priest Curtis Wehmeyer, who is currently serving a five year prison sentence for sexually abusing two minors and possession of child pornography.
In order to temporarily fill the vacant position of archbishop, the Pope appointed Archbishop Hebda as Apostolic administrator.
The archbishop has since been helping the archdiocese to recover from the scandals and work toward transparency in abuse cases.
In September 2015, the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis removed two priests from ministry pending investigation of sex abuse allegations, while it has reinstated a separate priest on the grounds that an allegation against him was not substantiated.
At the time, Archbishop Hebda was also serving as the Coadjutor Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Newark, N.J., and was scheduled to replace Newark’s current Archbishop, John J. Myers, when the latter is expected to retire in July after reaching the age limit.
The official announcement of Archbishop Hebda’s appointment as archbishop of St. Paul-Minneapolis will be made during a brief news conference at 9:00a.m. local time in the Cathedral of Saint Paul.
In addition to his leadership roles in the Archdioceses of Newark and Minneapolis-St. Paul, Archbishop Hebda also served as bishop of the Diocese of Gaylord, Mich., as well as in the Vatican and in parishes in his hometown of Pittsburgh, Penn.
The archbishop was born Sept. 3, 1959, in Pittsburgh, and joined the city’s seminary in 1984.
In 1985 he was sent to Pontifical North American College in Rome, where he completed his theological studies and earned his S.T.B. from the Pontifical Gregorian University in 1989.
He was ordained a priest by then-Bishop Donald W. Wuerl, now the Cardinal Archbishop of Washington, July 1, 1989.
After his ordination, Archbishop Hebda briefly served as Parochial Vicar Pro Tem at Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish in Elwood City, Penn., before eventually returning to Rome, where he obtained a licentiate in canon law from the Pontifical Gregorian University in 1990.
The archbishop then returned to Pittsburgh where he served in various pastoral roles around the diocese until 1996, when he was appointed as an official of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts in Rome. He was named Undersecretary of the Council by St. John Paul II in 2003.
While in Rome, Archbishop Hebda also served as an adjunct spiritual director at the North American College, and was a confessor for the postulants of the Missionaries of Charity and for the sisters in the community who were working at a home for unwed mothers.
On Oct. 7, 2009, Benedict XVI appointed him as bishop the Diocese of Gaylord, and episcopal ordination took place in December of that year. Four years later, on Sept. 24, 2013, Pope Francis named Bishop Hebda as coadjutor Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Newark.
Archbishop Hebda’s installation Mass as Archbishop of Minneapolis-St. Paul is scheduled to take place Friday, May 13, on the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima at the Cathedral of St. Paul.
In a March 24 statement, Archbishop John J. Myers of Newark said that he as been “both privileged and blessed” to have worked closely with Archbishop Hebda.
“He is a great Priest, and a great Bishop,” Archbishop Myers said, adding that Hebda’s “tireless, positive approach to dealing with the challenges presented him will be one of the graces that he will share with the people of the Twin Cities.”
Archbishop Myers said the faithful of the diocese of Newark are “truly grateful for all that he has done here since 2013, and he will be missed.”
At the same time, the archbishop offered prayers that God would continue to bless Archbishop Hebda “as he enters this new chapter in a life of service to the Church as the new Shepherd of this local Church of St. Paul-Minneapolis.”