Caretaker of Twin Cities archdiocese attends first St. Paul Mass

Archbishop Bernard Hebda
Archbishop Bernard Hebda, interim leader of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, spoke during an interview in St. Paul on Friday, July 10, 2015. Under his predecessor, Archbishop John Nienstedt, the archdiocese was shaken by a clergy sex abuse scandal, criminal charges and bankruptcy. Hebda says he'll collaborate with a wide variety of people on how to formulate a plan to rebuild the archdiocese. He celebrated his first Mass in the archdiocese Sunday at the St. Paul Cathedral.
Jean Pieri | The St. Paul Pioneer Press via AP

The interim leader of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis received a warm welcome from Catholics Sunday, as he celebrated his first Mass at the Cathedral of St. Paul.

Archbishop Bernard Hebda of Newark, N.J., is overseeing the archdiocese until Pope Francis appoints a replacement for John Nienstedt, who resigned as archbishop last month.

Hebda comes to the archdiocese as it faces bankruptcy and criminal charges related to clergy sex abuse.

In his homily, Hebda said the church will not be judged in the long term on how it handles court cases and finances, but on how it adheres to its primary mission.

"We should have the joy that comes from always knowing that there's always light at the end of the tunnel, that our struggles are not in vain, and that Christ and his church will triumph," he said.

Diana Orellana of St. Paul was part a church group that sang songs and held up a banner saying "Welcome Archbishop Hebda." She says Hebda brings a much-needed sense of spiritual renewal to the archdiocese at a challenging time.

"Everybody comes to church sometimes just as an obligation," she said. "Everybody should come with an open heart and happiness, and I think he's giving us that."

Hebda returned that warm welcome when he greeted the faithful as they left the Cathedral.

In the long line of well-wishers was 77-year-old Marilyn Wegscheider of New Brighton. A former nun, Wegscheider says Hebda has a spirit of openness that reminds her of Pope John XXIII, who convened the landmark Second Vatican Council in 1962.

Wegscheider says she's glad Hebda is in the Twin Cities, but says she prays for former Archbishop John Nienstedt and Auxiliary Bishop Lee Piche, who also resigned last month.

"They have to be devastated right now," she said. "And I do pray for them very sincerely. I pray for all those good priests out there as well as the victims of what has happened in our church. But we're going forward."

Hebda said after the Mass that he does not know how long he expects to remain in the Twin Cities.

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