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Benjamin Heidgerken, Ph.D.

Chair of the Board

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My Story

I grew up on a ranch in South Dakota and attended for 12 years the only Catholic school in the state west of the Missouri River. One of my best friends during that time was a member of the Lakota Sioux tribe. I received degrees in religion and theology from St. Olaf College (B.A.), Princeton Theological Seminary (M.Div), and the University of Dayton (Ph.D.) and my research is in patristics, Christology, Church history, and theological anthropology, among many other areas.

In 2020, George Floyd’s murder opened wounds in our community that reach back to the beginnings of what we now call America. In the wake, the anger and frustrations of many people overflowed into what Martin Luther King, Jr. referred to as “the language of the unheard.”

In my own life, the months after Floyd’s cry (“I can’t breathe”) included the death of that dear Native American friend from my childhood. His death was not the result of physical violence, but his chronic heart failure was, in my eyes, easily traced through the poverty, broken families, and early death that plagued his family to historic violence committed against Native American populations through many centuries. When my friend was put on oxygen, Floyd’s words became his own: the historic treatment of Native American communities became the knee that made him unable to breathe.

Since these events, I have tried to resolve to be a part of the solution to the problems that plague our society. While predominant narratives across the political spectrum play into what I have sometimes called the “perpetual resentment machine,” the Church has unique resources to bring about what Martin Luther King, Jr. called the “beloved community.” The “beloved community” is, I think, ultimately the same as what St. Paul called the Body of Christ: many parts who look at one another as equally necessary, with God’s grace, in building up and living into the Kingdom of God. Helping to build up the fullness of the Body of Christ is the goal of Many Parts.

The most important resource that the Church brings to this situation is the saints. In my teaching of American religious history at the St. Paul Seminary, I have often championed the stories of the saints as a central means to building up the Body of Christ. Yet I realized that I had never concretely worked to tell those stories to the people around me. When I began selecting saints for the collection, my process centered on identifying saints whose lives involved cultural misunderstanding and conflict. By telling their stories, we learn to imitate the virtues that they displayed in the face of the conflict they experienced.


Ben can be reached at

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