15 Minutes with the Archbishop: a Knight Errant Q&A
Archbishop Bernard A. Hebda sits down with the Knight Errant for an exclusive interview.
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KE: How do you handle the responsibility of being a leader for Catholic education in the Twin Cities?
BH: “I’ve been really impressed with the schools here in the archdiocese both in the numbers and in vitality. I haven’t had the opportunity to go to [BSM] yet, but I look forward to that for sure. We have a small staff, but a really capable staff with people that are real experts in the area of education. We have Bishop Cozzens who serves as my vicar in that area and, so I rely on him a lot for input. Certainly, hearing from administrations, teachers, and then from students gives me an idea of where we’re moving for our Catholic schools, so I’m grateful for the opportunities I’ve had.”
KE: How do you stay updated on what’s going on in Catholic schools?
BH: “We have the Director of Catholic education Jason Slattery, where he’s always in contact with schools. He keeps Bishop Cozzens informed, and then he keeps me informed. I feel like I have a good idea of what’s going on in our schools, but it’s a great number of schools and so it really takes a lot of people to work on that. It’s one of the exciting things that are going on too because you get to see people like you are getting a great education and getting a foundation for life…I feel privileged in my own life that I was able to attend Catholic schools for grade school as well as for high school, and I know that that really had an impact on everything I’ve done in my life.”
KE: What changes would you like to make to the curriculum?
BH: “Personally none. Making sure that’s what’s being taught in religion is appropriate, so we have some control over that area… Our real interest is that schools maintain their Catholic identity, that they approach education with the right anthropology with the right understanding of the dignity of the human person, and make sure we provide a holistic view of what we teach as a Church and who we are.”
KE: What do you see lacking in high schools?
BH: “I think the real challenge is how to integrate the very good material you learn in theology class into the rest of your experience. How do we give people an intellectual introduction to the Church and to Christ, to give them an encounter with Christ and lead them in pursuit of virtue? Young people have that opportunity to have that foundation that’ll serve them for the rest of their lives; we want to give them a sense of what’s right and what’s wrong, helping them develop their consciousness, and to have the strength to be able to pursue them.”
KE: What’s the biggest problem the Catholic church faces today?
BH: “Helping people to act on their Faith, so that it’s not just something that is cerebral, not just an idea, we have to act on it. One of the biggest problems are people who are lukewarm about their faith, and they don’t really allow the Lord to touch their hearts or really get engaged; they hold back from being committed and only participate half-heartedly. I think we really need to do more to help people to see that this is one of the ways to realize their full potential, that God’s created us with a desire for Him and for everlasting life, and that is when we get people fully engaged, that they’re going to have a better sense of purpose in their life and a greater sense of joy in their lives. We hear about churches that are no longer as full as they used to be. We have to be active in trying to bring people back, but also when they’re there, to give them an experience that energizes them and gives them a reason to come back and also help them to be evangelizers bringing others to Christ and the Church.”
KE: What do you want high school students to know about you?
BH: “I’m interested in high school students and how you’re developing and forming. I certainly want them to know that you have great potential and you can develop that in a very positive way, believing that God has a plan for every one of you and helping you to discern what that may be knowing that that’s how you’ll discern your plan for your happiness. Really love high school: it’s an opportunity to make great friendships, live the virtuous life and have an encounter with Christ.”
KE: You’ve emphasized the importance of helping the poor before, what more can we do here in the Twin Cities to help the poor?
BH: “Well I’ve already encountered high school students who were part of outreach programs. When I’ve gone to the Dorothy Day center at times like Thanksgiving and Christmas, there were some Catholic high school students serving in a very obvious way the needs of those who are hungry and in need of a meal, not only does it serve the community, but it enriches our lives, and also gives us a sense of solidarity. One of the Gospel passages that I liked the best was in Matthew: 25 when he talks about whenever we are helping those who are hungry, thirsty, or naked, that’s when we’re helping him. We often don’t expect it, but if we’re able to encounter another person, it gives us a way to encounter Christ.”
KE: How do you perceive the work you do? Is it a challenge, a vocation, a necessity?
BH: “All of the above, because it is all of those things. It is supposed to be challenging, but it is also a necessity for sure. I’m driven to do these things because the world needs it for sure and it’s important. I believe that every one of us has a vocation or calling, and that’s what’ll bring us joy. For me, that is being a priest and now as an archbishop, but I really feels like the Lord asked me to that work, and I really want to respond with all of my heart because if He thinks enough to do this, I want to give back using the gifts I was given in whatever ways I can to show that I’m appreciative of that vocation.”