Temporary archdiocese caretaker to say Mass for priests Wednesday

Archbishop Bernard Hebda, 2009
Archbishop Bernard Hebda in 2009.
Courtesy of the Archdiocese of St Paul and Mpls.

The new interim leader of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis will preside over his first Mass in Minnesota on Wednesday.

Archbishop Bernard Hebda will deliver a homily to Twin Cities priests gathered this week for their biennial assembly in Rochester. The Mass is closed to the public and media.

On Tuesday, several dozen priests leaving the Church of St. John the Evangelist were reluctant to comment. But some described a mood of fraternity and healing in the wake of Archbishop John Nienstedt's resignation Monday.

The Rev. Peter Dinh, who serves at the Church of St. Anne in Minneapolis, said news of Nienstedt's resignation and the shakeup at the archdiocese are on the minds of a lot of people.

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"That's probably the main thing in this assembly — getting together, thinking about what's happened [and] thinking about the solutions we can come up with," Dinh said. "We're working together now. We don't have the answers yet to everything but we're still working together."

Dinh, who is attending the assembly for the first time, is looking forward to the Mass by Archbishop Hebda, the temporary apostolic administrator for the archdiocese. But Dinh is not quite sure what he wants to hear.

"I hope that mainly people, the victims who have been affected, will receive a lot of healing and that's one of the main things we're hoping for," Dinh said. "That's something we're trying to figure out, gradually and slowly."

The Vatican named Hebda to serve in the Twin Cities until a permanent replacement is found. He will split his duties between Minnesota and New Jersey, where he is set to lead the Archdiocese of Newark in 2016.

Nienstedt's resignation came weeks after prosecutors in St. Paul filed criminal charges against the archdiocese for its role in failing to protect children from a former priest. The Vatican also accepted the resignation of Auxiliary Bishop Lee Piche.

The Rev. Gene Tiffany of St. Paul described the mood at the priests' assembly in Rochester as hopeful. He said the arrival of Hebda marks an important new chapter for the archdiocese.

"I think by his presence we will find a sense of security," Tiffany said. "I think he'll be very good for us."

Dinh agreed.

"We know that there were some issues, but we come here optimistic and very hopeful and thinking about the people," he said. "Not only for ourselves, but we pray for the people. And [we're] very optimistic. We have a lot of hope."