Archbishop Hebda

On May 14, Bernard Hebda, former bishop of Gaylord, Michigan and, most recently Coadjutor Archbishop of Newark (due to succeed in two more months on the resignation of Abp. Myers) was instead installed as the Archbishop of St. Paul-Minneapolis, Minnesota. His arms are:

Coat-of-Arms-Archbishop-Hebda-big

The blue, seven-pointed star at the top right of the shield signifies Mary and Archbishop Hebda’s placement of his pastoral ministry under her protection. The elderberry tree symbolizes Archbishop Hebda’s Polish ancestry. The tree is widely found in southeastern Poland, from where Archbishop Hebda’s paternal grandparents emigrated. The tree’s Polish name, “bez heb,” also serves as a visual pun of “Hebda.”

The tree also has a theological meaning; as one of the first plants to show signs of life after winter, it is also used to symbolize hope for a season of fertility and graces. According to an official document explaining the blazonry of Archbishop Hebda’s coat of arms, “Being strong and fruitful, the elderberry has also been identified with constancy and pastoral zeal, fundamental traits expected of any bishop.”

The seven green berries — reminiscent of rosary beads — at the top of the tree are a sign that he was named a bishop on Oct. 7, the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. With the additional eight berries at the bottom of the tree, the total 15 berries symbolize Mary’s assumption, celebrated Aug. 15. The Norbertine monastery in Hebdów, Poland, was dedicated to the Assumption in the 12th century, and “Hebda” was a common name among those who lived and worked on the monastery’s lands. The four clusters of fruit on the elderberry tree are a sign of the cardinal virtues — prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance — which “sustain the pastoral activity of the bishop.” [NOTE: all of the previous paragraph and the symbolism it describes is really a bit of a stretch, heraldically.]

The checked pattern on the fess is adopted from the coat of arms of the Diocese of Pittsburgh, where Archbishop Hebda grew up and was ordained a priest July 1, 1989. According to the blazonry explanation, the placement of the tree on the chequy fess “recalls that Bishop Hebda has roots in the Diocese of Pittsburgh and has drawn his strength from that local Church.”

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