Archbishop Bernard A. Hebda is no stranger to the legal profession.
In his homily at the annual Red Mass held at St. Mary’s Basilica, the attorney-turned-priest and canon lawyer who heads the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis spoke of those who influenced him profoundly early in his career. He also called on the lawyers, lawmakers, legislators, judges and public officials gathered to evangelize through personal witness, service and the culture.
“As a young lawyer working in Pittsburgh, particularly as one trying to discern God’s call, I was looking to find models of virtue in the practice of law,” Archbishop Hebda said. He found them in the members of the local St. Thomas More Society. He was edified, he said, by how they “really worked at being ethically excellent” and by their generosity in their pro-bono efforts.
“I am quite confident that there were saints among them and extremely fine attorneys,” Archbishop Hebda said. “You work in a field in which virtue can be contagious and can contribute to an environment in which we can draw others to Christ or bring folks back to Christ.” Setting a virtuous example may lead others to wonder about who it is that “inspires you to turn the other cheek or treat even adversaries with civility.” It’s a subtle evangelization, but one that can be very effective, the archbishop added.
Those in the legal profession “have concrete opportunities to make a difference in people’s lives, to remind them of their own dignity, the dignity that flows from being sons and daughters of our loving Creator,” Archbishop Hebda said. Referring to St. Francis de Sales — whose feast was celebrated the day — he noted that the path to “holiness comes from living out whatever vocation we have been given by God.”
Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted (center) stands with Archbishop Bernard A. Hebda of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis (left) and Auxiliary Bishop Eduardo A. Nevares (right) outside of St. Mary’s Basilica prior to the Diocese of Phoenix Red Mass Jan. 24. (Joyce Coronel/CATHOLIC SUN)He also spoke of the legal proceedings he’s been involved in since taking the reins of the St. Paul and Minneapolis archdiocese which has been a defendant in a criminal action suit and a petitioner in bankruptcy. He said he’s grateful to the lawyers who “repeatedly brought us back to our core principles and values. It’s a great story of lawyers evangelizing bishops, and speaks to the potential to have influence in the legal field. Never underestimate that potential,” Archbishop Hebda said.
Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted of the Diocese of Phoenix thanked all those who serve in the legal profession and who renewed their oath of admission to the State Bar of Arizona, a tradition at the conclusion of the Red Mass each year that demonstrates a “deep commitment to the truth and to charity and justice and the common good.”
Ron Johnson, executive director of the Arizona Catholic Conference, said Archbishop Hebda’s homily resonated with those present. “You can be the light of God wherever you are, in the workplace, in your office. That message rang very loud and clear,” Johnson said.
Rep. Jill Norgaard of Arizona Legislative District 18 called Archbishop Hebda’s homily and the annual Red Mass “fantastic” and said that it inspired her.
“As legislators, we need these resets, especially at the beginning of the session,” she said, as a way to refocus on principles of faith.
The Hon. Joseph Mikitish of the Maricopa County Superior Court agreed.
“I think it really struck a chord with everyone in attendance that we all have that calling from our faith and from our God to do good in our work and our profession.”
Christine Estes-Werther, president of the St. Thomas More Society, said she was touched by Archbishop Hebda’s homily. “I really liked when he said we are all called to holiness, that we each have our vocation and just how that was connected to our work as attorneys.”