On Friday afternoon, July 1, in a historic first, the 2022 General Chapter of the Congregation of Holy Cross elected Br. Paul Bednarczyk, C.S.C., as Superior General. Br. Bednarczyk, who served as the Vicar General and First Assistant during these previous six years, is the first brother to serve as Superior General in the Congregation’s history.
“I am humbled and grateful for the confidence and trust of my brothers in Holy Cross for allowing me the privilege to serve as their Superior General,” said Br. Bednarczyk.
Blessed Basile Moreau, the founder of Holy Cross, envisioned a religious family in which all the members—priests, brothers, and sisters—despite the differences in their respective vocations would share a common dignity as religious. (When the Holy See approved the Congregation of Holy Cross as a congregation of priests and brothers on May 13, 1857, it required that the sisters be split off as their own congregations with their own separate governance structure.)
This fundamental equality between priests and brothers is at the heart of the Congregation of Holy Cross’s identity, charism, and mission. The Congregation’s current Constitutions put it this way: Holy Cross is a “religious congregation composed of two distinct societies of religious, one of religious priests and one of religious brothers, bound together in one indivisible brotherhood.” The priests and brothers of Holy Cross work, pray, and live united by a “common founder, tradition, rule, government, way of life, and mission” (1:6).
The structures of the Congregation have long reflected this commitment to the common dignity of its priest and brother members. For example, both General Chapters as well as the General Council are composed of an equal number of priests and brothers, excluding the Superior General who presides.
Due to the Church’s Canon Law regarding mixed religious communities of priests and brothers who had privileges as “clerical institutes,” however, only a priest could serve as the Congregation’s Superior General. Past General Chapters of the Congregation had petitioned the Vatican to allow a brother to serve as Superior General, but those requests never received a response.
On May 18, 2022, however, the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life announced that Pope Francis had granted an exception to Canon Law, allowing the Vatican Congregation to approve “discretionally and in individual cases” the election of a brother to serve as the Superior General of mixed religious congregations. This “rescript” opened the way for the 2022 General Chapter to elect a brother as the Congregation’s 14th Superior General, and the General Chapter did just that, electing Br. Bednarzcyk. His election was confirmed Monday, July 4, by the Vatican.
“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,” said Br. Bednarzcyk.
Br. Paul Bednarczyk, C.S.C., was born in New Haven, Connecticut, and is a 1975 graduate of Notre Dame High School in West Haven. Inspired by the brothers and their vocation at Notre Dame, Br. Bednarczyk entered the former Eastern Province of Brothers in 1975 and began his formation at Moreau Hall on the campus of Stonehill College in Easton, Massachusetts.
He professed his First Vows in 1979 in Sacred Heart Church in Bennington, Vermont, and later his Final Vows in 1985 at St. Joseph Center in Valatie, New York. During this time, Br. Bednarczyk graduated from Stonehill College with a Bachelor’s Degree in English and from Fordham University in New York, New York, with a Master’s Degree in Religion and Religious Education.
After 12 years working as a teacher, administrator, and campus minister at Bishop McNamara High School in Forestville, Maryland, and Notre Dame International School in Rome, Italy, Br. Bednarczyk served as Vocation Director for his province for nine years. He also worked for three years as Formation Director and served several terms on his Provincial Council.
In July of 2002, Br. Paul assumed the role of Executive Director of the National Religious Vocation Conference (NRVC), where he oversaw this professional organization of religious vocation directors consisting of over 900 members in 15 countries. Within this capacity, he served as a consultant to the U.S. Bishops Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations. Br. Bednarczyk spearheaded four major studies on religious vocations, the most famous being the 2009 NRVC/CARA Study on Recent Vocations to Religious Life.
He has served as a member of the Advisory Board of Praesidium Religious Services, the Corporate Board of Holy Cross Family Ministries, and on several international Holy Cross commissions. Br. Bednarczyk has published several articles on vocation ministry. In addition to his retreat work, he has been invited to give workshops in vocation ministry throughout North America, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand.
Br. Bednarczyk was serving as Executive Director of NRVC when the 2016 General Chapter elected him the Congregation's First General Assistant and Vicar. He was still serving in that position at the time of his election as the Congregation’s 14th Superior General, succeeding Fr. Robert L. Epping, C.S.C. He will assume responsibilities at the Congregation’s Superior General at the close of the General Chapter on July 8.