On Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, I had two occasions to reflect on the topic of biblical women, both in very different contexts and circumstances. The first, on Tuesday afternoon and evening, occurred in the context of the annual Diocesan C0uncil of Catholic Women’s convention which always takes place the first full week in May. Tuesday afternoon is always Mass with the Bishop which is followed later in the evening by the “Bishop’s Banquet” at which I am always present. I have written in this space in the past about the work of the DCCW which is so helpful in a number of ways.
This year at the banquet, the attendees and I heard one of the best talks I have ever heard on that occasion, including two banquet speeches which I have given in the past fifteen years. The ladies invited Pat Livingston who lives in our diocese to be the banquet speaker and she introduced the issue of “biblical women.” At times delightfully witty and always very incisive, she spoke both of women in the bible (Sarah, the wife of Abraham, for example) and the challenges of womanhood today. Pat Livingston has given talks to women all over the world just about and throughout the United States. She was at one time an Assistant Director of the Program for the Continuation of Priests and Religious Women which has housed out and supported by Notre Dame University and is now continuing at the Chicago Theological Union. She understands Church and she understands Sacred Scripture. On Tuesday night she was so spot on in addressing how biblical women confronted major challenges (the Samaritan women at Jacob’s well, for example), that the ladies and their priests and pastors and I gave her a standing ovation at the conclusion of her talk. I am very proud that Pat lives here among us and hope that we shall hear more from her in the future.
On Wednesday morning I joined a brother bishop in saying farewell to his mother who by all descriptions was also a modern biblical woman. Bishop Bernard Hebda is the bishop of the Diocese of Gaylord in far northern Michigan while still on the lower peninsula. I spend a couple of weeks every summer in his diocese and have assisted from time to time at the parishes in Petoskey and Harbor Springs. So, in a sense, he is my bishop when I am on vacation.
Bishop Hebda’s mother who lived with her husband of fifty-eight years on Siesta Key (off Sarasota) became seriously ill around the middle of Holy Week and the bishop missed the ceremonies of Holy Week to be with his mother, father, siblings and their children. I can only imagine how painful it must have been for Bishop Hebda to be at the bedside of his mother and away from his diocese for the conclusion of Holy Week.
Mrs. Hebda died and was buried yesterday and I was happy that I could be present for the funeral Mass as the bishop described the life of his mother in biblical terms. He noted that like many people these days, phone calls would end with “I love you” being said and his mother responding “I love you more” and occasionally, “I love you most.” He then wonderfully connected that seemingly simple phrase with the death and resurrection of Jesus. I left regretting that I never had an opportunity to meet in life this extraordinary wife, mother and grandmother. By the way, two young grandchildren read the first and second readings flawlessly and in total control. I invite you to remember Helen Hebda and her family in your prayers.
Lest any reader think I am going too soft on the great gift of femininity, last night I went to Game Four of the Tampa Bay Lightning versus the Washington Capitols hockey game in pursuit of Lord Stanley’s cup. Macho enough, I think.