Presumed Successor to Newark Archbishop Myers Just Got Another Job
By Jessica Mazzola
March 24, 2016
|Newark Archbishop John J. Myers and co-Adjutor Bernard Hebda hold a news conference at the Archdiocese of Newark's Archdiocesan Center in Newark . 9/24/13 (John O'Boyle/The Star-Ledger)|
A papal appointment to a post halfway across the country has got local Catholics questioning who the next leader of the state's largest archdiocese will be.
Pope Francis announced Thursday his appointment of Archbishop Bernard Hebda as the Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis. Hebda had previously served as the Coadjutor Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Newark, and was scheduled to replace Archbishop John J. Myers when he retires.
In a statement released Thursday, Myers said he was surprised by the appointment.
"Our Holy Father Pope Francis has often said that our God is a God of Surprises," Myers said in a statement. "Today is surely a perfect example of that."
When Hebda was named Coadjutor in Newark in 2013, he was expected to be the natural successor for Myers, who could retire as early as this July, when he turns 75 years old.
In a phone interview Thursday, Newark Archdiocese spokesman Jim Goodness said that Myers may stay on longer, as the church awaits a papal decision as to his successor.
"(Our) leadership is solid and in place," Goodness said Thursday. As for a successor and when he will be named, Goodness said, "that's a decision the Holy Father has to make."
Hebda was brought on in Newark to help oversee several large projects, including school initiatives and a capital campaign, Goodness said. Now that those are "well underway," a new leader brought into the Archdiocese would be able to successfully transition into the role, he said.
While serving as Coadjutor in Newark, Hebda was also named Apostolic Administrator in the Twin Cities.
Hebda was appointed to the position in 2015, in light of a sex scandal at the Archdiocese of Minneapolis and St. Paul. The archdiocese there was criminally charged in connection to the scandal, but as recently as January, Hebda said that his position in Minnesota was temporary.
In his statement Thursday, Myers said he and Hebda believed that position would not be permanent.
"Archbishop Hebda has always spoken with great affection and admiration for the people of St. Paul-Minneapolis – his new local Church," Myers said.
"The parishioners and general community of the Twin Cities have experienced what the people of Newark already have come to know – a happy spiritual leader who loves people...he will be missed."
Hebda's Installation Mass in his new post is scheduled for May 13.
As for worshippers in New Jersey, Goodness said they will trust the Pope to appoint a fitting replacement for Myers. He called Hebda's 2013 appointment in Newark a "wonderful choice...we are sure (Pope Francis) will provide us with another."