About Monsignor James D. Habiger

“To dream alone is an illusion, but to dream together is the beginning of reality.” - Portuguese Proverb

Legacy Statement for the Joseph and Edith Habiger Institute for Catholic Leadership

“Forty years ago, I served as a priest in Winona, Minnesota. On one occasion I was invited to come to the College of St. Teresa for a lecture by John Howard Griffin. The lecture was funded by a grant to the College from the Warner Foundation. Mr. Griffin had, through chemistry, changed his white skin into darkly colored skin. As a black man he then traveled for some months in the southern part of our country. He experienced the “Jim Crow” laws first hand. Racism was his constant companion. After his travels as a black man, after his experience of the difference of the accident of color can make in our society, he wrote his book, Black Like Me.  Before my encounter with Mr. Griffin and his book, I had no experience with people of color. I grew up and served as a priest in all white communities in southern Minnesota. Like Dives in Luke’s gospel I didn’t even notice Lazarus. But now, after Mr. Griffin and his book, I could not ignore the obscenity of racism. . . .   It is my hope, in setting up the Joseph and Edith Habiger Institute for Catholic Leadership, that resources will be available to bring talented and enthusiastic  dreamers to our communities who would press us to be dreamers too - and thus bring about the beginnings of the Kingdom in our time and place."

- Monsignor James D. Habiger, February 2004


Monsignor Habiger dedicated financial resources, time, and talent to build communities where people would be challenged to be servants of the common good, giving people a "memory of the past, a perception of the present, and a plan for the future."  Monsignor Habiger would often quote from the book of Proverbs “….without a vison the people perish.” (29:18) The fund in honor of his father and mother is the means by which the Institute gathers together men and women willing to work on a plan for a brighter future for all.