The Congrégation de Sainte-Croix elects its first non-priest Superior General

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DENVER — The Congregation of Holy Cross has elected Connecticut-born Brother Paul Bednarczyk as Superior General. He is the first non-priest to lead the congregation, as permitted by a change in Church law approved by Pope Francis.

“I am humbled and grateful for the confidence of my brothers in Holy Cross for granting me the privilege of serving as superior general,” he said in a statement after his July 1 election by the chapter. general of the congregation.

The Congrégation de Sainte-Croix was founded in France in 1837 by Blessed Basile Moreau, a priest who grew up during the French Revolution. The congregation has two separate societies for religious brothers and religious priests, which according to its constitutions are “bound into one indivisible brotherhood”. Its members work, pray and live united by “a common founder, tradition, rule, government, way of life and mission”.

The congregation has more than 1,200 religious brothers and perpetually professed priests serving in 16 countries, the congregation’s website says. The Holy Cross mission has long focused on education. The congregation helped found the University of Notre Dame in Indiana and the University of Portland.

Until his election as Superior General, Brother Bednarczyk served as Vicar General and First Assistant of the Congregation, living in Rome at the Holy Cross Generalate.

The canon law of “mixed” religious institutes, those which include both priests and religious brothers, has long required that superiors general be priests.

In May 2022, the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life announced that Pope Francis had granted an exception to this law and would allow the congregation to grant exceptions on a discretionary basis.

The change reflected an innovation by Pope Francis to allow not just clerics but “any faithful member” to lead a dicastery of the Roman Curia.

The Vatican confirmed Brother Bednarczyk’s election on July 4.

“The Holy Father’s decision to allow a brother to serve as supreme moderator in a mixed congregation of priests and brothers is an unprecedented affirmation and validation of the religious brother’s vocation in the Church,” commented the brother. Bednarczyk.

The Congregation of the Holy Cross said its structures emphasized the common dignity of member priests and brothers. An equal number of priests and brothers compose both the general chapters of the congregation and the general governing council.

Elder Bednarczyk was born in New Haven and graduated from Notre Dame High School in West Haven in 1975. He continued his vocation in the Eastern Province of the Congregational Brethren, training at Moreau Hall at Stonehill College in Easton, Massachusetts.

Brother Bednarczyk took his first vows in 1979 at Sacred Heart Church in Bennington, Vermont. He made his final vows in 1985 at St. Joseph Center in Valatie, New York.

He holds a BA in English from Stonehill College and an MA in Religion and Religious Education from Fordham University.

For twelve years, he worked at Bishop McNamara High School in Forestville, Maryland, and at Notre Dame International School in Rome, Italy, as a teacher, administrator, and campus minister. He was director of vocations, director of formation and member of the provincial council of his province.

In 2002, he became executive director of the National Religious Vocations Conference, an organization of more than 900 religious vocation directors from 15 countries. In this role, Brother Bednarczyk served as a consultant to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life, and Vocations.

He served on the advisory board of Praesidium Religious Services, an abuse prevention consultancy. He has also served on several international Holy Cross commissions and on the board of Holy Cross Family Ministries, which promotes Catholic prayer and spirituality for families.

He is a member of the Moreau Province Congregation of the Holy Cross, headquartered in Austin, Texas.

Brother Bednarczyk will assume his responsibilities as the fourteenth Superior General of the Congregation of the Holy Cross on July 8. He succeeds Fr. Robert L. Epping, who has served as Superior General since 2016.

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