On Oct. 27, Jerome Hanus will become the coadjutor archbishop of Dubuque, Iowa. Much to my surprise, I find myself overcome with grief at this occurrence. For the past seven years, Jerome Hanus has been the bishop of St. Cloud. He has been an excellent leader, and I am very sad to see him leave. Thus, as part of my grief therapy, I have decided to devote this bulletin article to his memory.
Many people have been praising Jerome for all he did while he was our bishop, but I have decided to praise him for what he didn’t do during his brief episcopacy. Some have called it collegiality, others have talked about collaboration, but I think that Jerome’s greatest gift was his ability to stay the hell out of the way so the Holy Spirit could move. In my opinion, Jerome’s greatest accomplishments were the following things he didn’t do:
1. Didn’t get involved in every parish problem. Jerome was not a micro manager. He believed that parish problems could best be resolved at the parish level.
2. Didn’t have a “doghouse” and didn’t play favorites. Jerome refused to play punishment-and-reward games with the clergy and laity. He did not have a close circle of advisers with whom he held secret meetings.
3. Didn’t build anything. Unlike so many male leaders, Jerome resisted the temptation to erect buildings as a lasting symbol of his greatness.
4. Didn’t cover up serious and potentially scandalous problems. He was open and honest and direct when dealing with diocesan problems, especially in the area of sexual misconduct.
5. Didn’t talk about sex all the time. Unlike many bishops, Jerome believed it was time that bishops stopped talking about sex and began to listen to others talk about sex for a while.
6. Didn’t put priests in diocesan authority positions. As a result, the St. Cloud diocese is primarily run by laypeople today — and right now it is running very well.
7. Didn’t give attention (and thus power) to whiners and complainers. Jerome realized that dissatisfied people would always find something to be dissatisfied about. He dealt with people’s questions and concerns in a mature manner.
8. Didn’t need to be addressed as “bishop” or treated like royalty. He believed that we were all in the same boat, and Jerome felt comfortable and secure being “just one of us.”
Jerome Hanus did know how to trust. He was a secure man who had a sense of confidence in the reliability of other people. For centuries, Catholic spiritual writers have reminded us that trust is the foundation for growth in love for our unseen God or for our visible neighbor.
The reign of God was and will continue to be more fully experienced in the St. Cloud diocese because of the seven years of trusting leadership that a healthy and holy man named Jerome Hanus gave to us. All of us who are or will be in positions of leadership, whether as parents, employers, teachers, managers or pastors would be wise to trust others as Jerome Hanus trusted us.
Memorable bishop leaves room for Spirit
Bishop Jerome Hanus of St. Cloud, MN
National Catholic Reporter, Dec 2, 1994 by Nic Dressen