In higher education circles they call it the brain drain — the phenomenon of the best and brightest leaving an area for greener pastures. And sometimes in places like Winona, that happens. Folks leave our area for bigger — and arguably — better things.
That may be the case with Bishop Michael Hoeppner, who was installed as the seventh bishop of the Diocese of Crookston last week.
Unlike the heart sorrow that goes along with losing a person to another region, Hoeppner’s exit from Winona — his home — wasn’t with pain, rather excitement and celebration. One of our own made good and has moved on to do holy work indeed. Hoeppner’s exit looks to be for the benefit of those in the upper northwest corner of Minnesota.
In an odd piece of trivial coincidence, Hoeppner isn’t the first Winona priest to head to Crookston. John Hubert Peschges served as bishop of Crookston from 1938 to 1944.
While it will indeed be hard for some Winonans to lose a native son, it’s also a special honor and wonderful calling when one of our own is chosen by the pope to lead a diocese. Hoeppner also served the Diocese of Winona with distinction, rising to the level of vicar general.
Archbishop Harry Flynn’s homily served as good advice — bishop is not only a title of honor but of service. We celebrate the notion that the kindness, charity and compassion that can be found in such abundance in Winona can hopefully be shared with the people of Crookston.
After all, one of Winona’s most alluring and amazing traditions is its philanthropy. It takes care of its own and then looks around to help others. Winona always finds a way to give a little more.
And that’s a powerful testament to the community and an even more important lesson to those of us who call this special place home. We hope Hoeppner, upon embarking on this new journey and calling, will take those things he knew so well here and nurture them within his own diocese.
We also hope that more than just the dazzle and show of the installation — necessary ritual and spectacle — Hoeppner can continue to nurture an ethic of charity and service.
We hope Hoeppner will encourage his flock to become ministers of justice, mercy, compassion and vessels of Christ’s love. Those truly are the pillars of the Catholic church and its most enduring legacy.
By Darrell Ehrlick, editor, on behalf of the Winona Daily News editorial board, which also includes publisher Rusty Cunningham and online editor Jerome Christenson.