LINCOLN (SNR) – Bishop James Conley announced April 9 that Matthew Hecker, Ph.D. of Lincoln, has been chosen as the new superintendent of schools for the Diocese of Lincoln.
Dr. Hecker will officially begin his new position July 2.
Dr. Hecker has spent more than 30 years in education. He began as a parish youth director, and then served as a high-school teacher and coach, later earning degrees in counseling and educational administration.
He served in college administration in several states for more than 20 years, most recently at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, as dean of students.
In a letter introducing himself to the schools, Dr. Hecker said, “one of the single best ideas in all of Christendom was and continues to be Catholic education.
“The world is filled with darkness,” he continued. “Faithful Catholic education is a ‘light set on a hill.’ It is a powerful means in which to assist parents with the job of equipping students to bring light into the darkness and as a means of helping secure their salvation.”
Praising the success of the diocesan schools, he acknowledged the significant challenges currently facing schools in the diocese and elsewhere.
“The task,” he said, “is to steer what is arguably the best Catholic school system in America through new challenges, while remaining faithful to its historic and extraordinary vision and mission.”
Msgr. John Perkinton has served as superintendent of the diocese’s 32 schools for the past 27 years.
In a column about Msgr. Perkinton’s service as superintendent, Bishop Conley said there is “simply no way to adequately thank him for his ministry as superintendent. Msgr. Perkinton has given, and will continue to give, his heart, mind, and strength to obeying the Lord’s commandments, and to teaching those commandments, speaking the truth with love.”
Bishop Conley initiated a nation-wide search for the position of diocesan superintendent of schools last fall, which led to a number of applicants, both locally and throughout the country. A search committee, directed by Dr. Courtney McCashland of St. Peter Parish in Lincoln, conducted a thorough and extensive process of interviews and vetting of the candidates.
“The final candidates were highly qualified to serve as superintendent,” said Bishop Conley.
“After participating in the process, conducting interviews, discussing each candidate with the committee members, weighing through recommendations, and taking all to the Lord in prayer,” he said he “reached a decision that I trust will be the best fit for our diocesan schools and for the future of educational excellence, viability, and holiness in southern Nebraska.
“Our hope was to find a leader with experience as a system-wide administrator, imbued with a love for Jesus Christ and his Church.”
Dr. Hecker will use the remaining weeks of this academic year to travel around to as many schools as he can, to introduce himself to administrators, teachers and students.
The Diocese of Lincoln’s 32 schools serve more than 7,600 students in grades Pre-K through 12, and employ more than 530 lay teachers, 45 priests, and 36 women religious who teach.
Dr. Hecker and his wife Dani are members of St. Joseph Parish in Lincoln. They have three children and two grandchildren.