Catholics in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis are being asked for their input as Pope Francis prepares to appoint a permanent archbishop to lead the local church.
Interim Archbishop Bernard Hebda has announced he will lead a series of listening sessions over the next few weeks, to gather opinions of local Catholics on the strengths and challenges of the local church, and what characteristics they believe are important in a new archbishop. The first ones are scheduled for Monday.
Hebda is "taking a page from the pope's playbook," he told the Catholic Spirit, noting that Pope Francis has consulted regularly with cardinals and other church leaders on various matters.
"We’re hoping that we might be able to assist him — in all humility — along those lines by giving him some information from those who know the archdiocese best," Hebda said.
He noted the effort to involve local church members in the process of choosing a new archbishop is unusual, but he said other dioceses might consider following suit, according to the Catholic Spirit.
Hebda was named interim archbishop for the St. Paul and Minneapolis archdiocese in June, shortly after John Nienstedt resigned from the post after months of scandal over his handling of clergy sexual abuse by local priests.
A new permanent archbishop will be appointed by Pope Francis but the timing of his decision is unclear.
The Progressive Catholic Voice calls Hebda's plan to gather community input "good news!"
"For many of us, this is the opportunity we've long been waiting and working for: the chance to step up and let our voices be heard about the type of leadership we want to see in our local church."
Hebda met with staff members at the chancery on Sept. 17 to hear their thoughts. According to the Catholic Spirit, they named geographical and ethnic diversity, strong Catholic organizations and dedicated pastors as some of the strengths of the archdiocese. Not surprisingly, the greatest challenge they identified was trust.
Here's the schedule of listening sessions:
Monday, October 5:
1 – 3 p.m., Rauenhorst Ballroom, Coeur de Catherine, St. Catherine University, St. Paul
7 – 9 p.m., St. Stephen, Anoka
Tuesday, October 6:
1 – 3 p.m., For women and men in consecrated life, Carondelet Center, St. Paul
7 – 9 p.m., Pax Christi, Eden Prairie
Monday, November 2:
7 – 9 p.m., Saint Peter, Forest Lake
Tuesday, November 3:
7 – 9 p.m., Divine Mercy, Faribault
Wednesday, November 4:
7 – 9 p.m., Woulfe Alumni Hall, Anderson Student Center, University of St. Thomas, St. Paul
Additional listening sessions will also be scheduled for Latino Ministry parishes, which will be held in Spanish, and priests.
According to the archdiocese, the information shared at the listening sessions will be passed along to Pope Francis' advisors and to the new archbishop, when he is chosen.
The Catholic Spirit newspaper will publish summaries of the meetings.