Bishop Hebda's Coat Of Arms

Description of the Coat of Arms of H.E.
The Most Reverend Msgr . Bernard Anthony Hebda
Bishop of Gaylord, MI – U.S.A.

In accordance with the heraldic tradition of the Roman Catholic Church, the Coat of Arms of a Bishop is normally composed of:

- a shield with its charges (symbols) coming from family, geographic, religious and historical meanings and/or referring to the name of the Bishop;

- a golden processional cross, with one traversal bar, to represent the rank of the Bishop, “impaled” (vertically) behind the shield;

- a wide-brimmed green pilgrim's hat ( galero ) with 12 attached tassels, (six on each side, with one in the top row, two in the second and three on the bottom);

- a scroll with the Bishop’s motto, written generally in black and appearing below everything.

For his shield, Bishop Hebda has chosen a gothic shape, frequently used in Roman Catholic Church heraldry, and a processional cross with five red stones to represent the five Wounds of Christ.


(Mark 9:8)

For his motto Bishop Hebda has chosen “Only Jesus”, found in the English translation of the ninth chapter of the Gospel of Mark, in which the Evangelist recounts the Lord’s Transfiguration. The phrase is accentuated in a prayer written by the Venerable John Henry Cardinal Newman, much admired by Bishop Hebda . The prayer, moreover, is offered every morning by the Missionaries of Charity, according to a practice established by their Blessed Foundress , Mother Teresa of Calcutta. The Motto was chosen to remind Bishop Hebda of the exemplary humility, obedience and fidelity of the Missionaries of Charity, who had a profound influence on him in the course of his years in Rome as a student and priest. It is intended moreover as a reminder that the Episcopal ministry of teaching, sanctifying and governing is ultimately to lead the Faithful to an encounter with Christ Himself.

Blazonry (heraldic description) of the Coat of Arms of Bishop Hebda

“Impaled . Dexter: Azure, a chevronel Argent between two six-pointed stars of the last in chief and a crosslet Or in base, all within a wavy bordure of the second. Sinister: Or, an elderberry tree fructed , all proper, issuant from a fess chequy Azure and Argent and surmounted by a seven-pointed star of the second.”


In the right side of the shield (to the observer’s left, because that in the heraldic shield one needs to consider the right and the left from the perspective of the soldier who, in ancient times, held his own shield) we find represented the Coat of Arms of the Diocese of Gaylord: the “argent” wavy bordure, recalling that the Diocese is nearly surrounded by the two Great Lakes, Michigan and Huron, and the Straits of Mackinac . The two “argent” six-point stars are reminiscent of the stars that appear on the crest of the Carmelite Order, recalling that the Church of Gaylord is under the patronage of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. The two stars also represent the Dioceses of Grand Rapids and Saginaw which yielded territories to establish the Gaylord diocese in 1971. The “ chevronel ” (a reduced-in-width form of the “chevron”, one of the most ancient heraldic pieces) surmounting the “or” (golden) Cross, was chosen to symbolize the new presence of the Church of Our Lord in the City of Gaylord, the city highest in elevation in Michigan’s lower peninsula; indeed, the “chevron,” whose shape recalls the truss of a roof, has been adopted in heraldry since the time of the Middle Ages to symbolize the building where the population assembles; for Catholics this building is the Church.

In the left side of the shield (the observer’s right) we have the personal arms of Bishop Hebda.

Predominant is the image of the elderberry tree, which “cants” or serves as a visual pun that plays on the Bishop’s name. The surname Hebda bears obvious similarity to “ bez hebd ”, the Polish term for the type of elderberry tree that is widespread in the area of Southeastern Poland from which Bishop Hebda’s paternal grandparents emigrated. This name is also particularly common among those who lived and worked in the vicinity of the vast lands of the Norbertine Monastery of Our Lady of the Assumption founded in Hebdów in the XII century.

The elderberry tree is included on the coat of arms both to give honor symbolically to the Bishop’s parents and family as well as to represent the Bishop’s episcopal ministry. Given that the elderberry tree is one of the first plants to show signs of life after winter , it has often symbolized the hope for a season of fertility, of gifts and of graces. Being strong and fruitful and requiring little for sustenance, the elderberry has also been identified with constancy and pastoral zeal, fundamental traits expected of any Bishop. In addition, the berries of the tree are reminiscent of the beads of the Rosary, recalling that the Bishop, named to the episcopacy on October 7th, the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, has entrusted his episcopal ministry to the Blessed Mother under that title.

The tree bears four clusters of fruit, one for each of the Cardinal Virtues, prudence, justice, strength and temperance , which will sustain the pastoral activity of the Bishop.

Over the elderberry tree appears an “ azure” star , the shining symbol of Mary, to underline that Bishop Hebda has placed his new pastoral ministry under Her maternal protection. The symbol also recalls that the monastery at Hebdów was dedicated to Our Lady of the Assumption

The “azure” and “argent” fess chequy is taken from the coat of arms of the Diocese of Pittsburgh. Placed as the foundation for the elderberry tree, the juxtaposition recalls that Bishop Hebda has his roots in the Diocese of Pittsburgh and has drawn his strength from that local Church.

The background is gold, the most noble metal, and is symbolic of the primary virtue, Faith; it is faith, in fact, that provides the strength which will support the pastoral ministry of Bishop Hebda.