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Welcome Bishop Hebda


On Tuesday, December 1, Bernard A. Hebda was ordained and installed as the Fourth Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Gaylord. Pope Benedict XVI named the new bishop on October 7. He succeeds Bishop Patrick R. Cooney, who retired after serving the Diocese for 20 years. On the eve of the Ordination, Bishop Hebda made his Profession of Faith and Oath of Fidelity during a liturgy known as Solemn Vespers. The evening prayer service, coinciding with the Feast of St. Andrew the Apostle, began with a procession of the Bishops followed by the lighting of the Paschal Candle and candles held by each person in the assembly, bringing to mind that the “Light of Christ” will guide and protect us through the darkness of the night to come. Filled with Psalms, prayers and scripture, the service was especially moving as the Church in the Diocese of Gaylord gathered to pray together at St. Mary Cathedral, the mother church of the diocese. This setting of Vespers was also planned to help prepare the faithful for the Ordination and Installation the following day. During his homily, Bishop Hebda used the analogy of an arranged marriage, in which two are joined without any real knowledge of the other, to describe his appointment to the Diocese of Gaylord. He admitted that he had wondered how the mix would be. "But from the moment that I stepped into Bishop Cooney’s house until the moment I left the cafeteria at St. Joseph School in West Branch the following day, all that I experienced was the warmest of welcomes,” Bishop Hebda said. “I can’t say yet what was in your hearts, but I can tell you that I have been wondering if love at first sight is possible for an arranged marriage, for that’s what’s been in my heart since those first hours. “As the bishop’s ring is slipped onto my finger tomorrow,” Bishop Hebda said, “I can assure you that I am yours 100 percent. I have yet a lot to learn, but you have my promise that I will devote myself lovingly to learning from you and your history, and that together we will be able to continue to make Christ present and visible in the 21 counties that make up this diocese,” he added. On Tuesday, St. Mary Cathedral was filled to overflowing with some 1,100 parishioners from throughout the 80 parishes of the Diocese, along with clergy, religious sisters, ecumenical guests, civic leaders, and family and friends of Bishop Hebda from across the United States as well as several other countries. Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron, the Metropolitan for the Province of Michigan presided as the Principal Consecrating Bishop, with Archbishop Francesco Coccopalmerio and Bishop Patrick R Cooney serving as Co-consecrating Bishops. Archbishop Coccopalmerio heads the Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts at the Vatican where Bishop Hebda was assigned prior to being named to Gaylord. Among the special guests were: Archbishop Pietro Sambi, Apostolic Nuncio to the United States; Cardinal Adam Maida, Archbishop Emeritus of the Archdiocese of Detroit; Cardinal Edmund Szoka, who was the first Bishop of Gaylord and President Emeritus of the Pontifical Commission for Vatican City State; Archabbot Douglas Nowicki, OSB, of St. Vincent Archabbey in Latrobe, Pennsylvania; Bishop Jorge Solorzano from the Diocese of Matagalpa, Nicaragua, with whom the Diocese of Gaylord has a sister relationship; and Bishop David Zubik from the Diocese of Pittsburgh, the diocese where Bishop Hebda was raised and ordained to the priesthood. Sixteen additional bishops, along with nearly 200 other clergy, also gathered in Gaylord to celebrate the occasion. Knights of Columbus Color Guard members from various regions of the diocese led the processional to begin th ceremony. During the three-hour liturgy the choir and instrumentalists, comprised of musicians from throughout the diocese, led the assembly through a wide variety of music enriching the entire worship experience. A special Call to Worship was offered by Native American Drummers from the Petoskey area as the priests processed into the body of the Cathedral. At the beginning of the liturgy, the Apostolic Letter of Appointment naming Bernard A. Hebda as the next Bishop of the Diocese of Gaylord was shown to the Consultors and Archbishop Pietro Sambi, Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, then read the letter which was followed by great applause signifying the consent of the people to the appointment of their new bishop. In his homily, Archbishop Vigneron often directed his remarks to the new Bishop. He said, “You come to a diocese that was blessed from the very beginning of the faith here by the ministry of the great missionary, Bishop Baraga. And your motto of ‘Only Jesus’ is certainly a good way to think of him with his motto of ‘Unum est necessarium’ (One thing is necessary). I pray that God will guide you as much as he guided Bishop Baraga.” Reflecting upon the Scriptures, Archbishop Vigneron continued stating, “It is Christ who anoints you; Christ who consecrates you. In order to send you, just as he said to the Apostles, ‘As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’ ” Archbishop Vigneron added that Bishop Hebda is “to teach, not your own views, not your own opinions, but Christ’s mind, Christ’s heart…to be sure that throughout this diocese every Christian knows the wise way of life that Christ has come to teach us according to the Father’s plan as He willed it from the beginning… It is for this you are anointed,” he said. “You bring many, many gifts to this diocese and your service here. But in this moment, all that you have and are is being consecrated for the service of your priests, your deacons, your religious and your people,” the Archbishop remarked. The homily was followed by the Rite of Ordination during which Archbishop Vigernon as the Principal Consecrator laid hands on Bishop-elect Hebda, calling forth the Holy Spirit. Archbishop Coccopalmerio and Bishop Cooney, as co-consecrators, also imposed hands on the man who would soon become the new leader of the diocese, followed by all the Cardinals and Bishops who were present. The Book of Gospels was then placed over the head of Bishop-elect Hebda as the Prayer of Ordination was prayed by the Bishops. The placement of the Book of Gospels and its presentation later in the rite illustrated the primary obligation of the new bishop to preach and teach the word of God. Archbishop Vigneron also anointed the head of Bishop-elect Hebda with Sacred Chrism. This fragrant holy oil scented with balsam is used for the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Orders. It is also used in dedicating churches and altars. In each case where Chrism is used, there is a change such that the identity of that person or items being anointed is changed forever. During the Ordination Rite, the new bishop was also presented the insignia of his office: The ring symbolizing the Bishop’s fidelity to the Bride of God, the Church; The Miter (the pointed hat) signifying his resolve to pursue holiness; and the Pastoral Staff (Crosier) signifying the duty to guide and govern the Church entrusted to him. The new Bishop was then escorted to the Cathedra (the Episcopal chair) and took possession of the diocese, officially installed as the Fourth Bishop of the Diocese of Gaylord. The ceremony then continued with the Liturgy of the Eucharist with the newly ordained Bishop Bernard Hebda presiding. At the conclusion of the Mass, Bishop Hebda had an opportunity to make some personal remarks. He expressed his gratitude for all those who had travelled to share in the day, and most especially for his family. “I so much wanted them to experience the warmth of this local Church,” Bishop Hebda said. “All [who participated today] will take home with them a renewed sense of the life of the church.” Bishop Hebda went on to share a story to the delight of the assembly as he explained that although he enjoyed his time in Rome, he had been praying to return to the United States. He hoped to one day serve as a Pastor in a parish on the Gulf side of Florida where his family now lives because he had missed them greatly. As the months passed, “thinking that I was being generous,” he said, “I began to pray, ‘Dear Lord, send me wherever you want -- even if it’s East of that highway that runs the length of Florida, I-75.’ It was shortly thereafter I was told that I had been named Bishop of Gaylord, with a Cathedral just a stone’s throw from I-75,” the new Bishop laughed. “I stand before you this afternoon grateful for this reminder that our best plans are for naught if they aren’t rooted in His will. May His name be praised always and His will be done forever.”

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