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Hovda, Robert W.


Priest, writer, editor, leader in the liturgical movement; b. Wisconsin, April 10, 1920; d. New York City, Feb. 5, 1992. Raised in Minnesota, Hovda discovered the social gospel in the Methodist youth movement. By the time he left high school he was a member of the Socialist party, and in college he discovered the connections being made between liturgy and social justice. As a conscientious objector during World War II he came to know the Catholic Worker movement; before the war ended he had entered the Roman Catholic Church and was attending the seminary in Collegeville, MN. Hovda was ordained for the Diocese of Fargo and served for ten years in North Dakota parishes.

Drawing on his pastoral experience and interest in the liturgical movement, he began publishing in Amen, Commonweal, Worship, and Liturgical Arts. Teaching and campus ministry followed. In 1965 Hovda began thirteen years as an editor at The Liturgical Conference in Washington, DC. The liturgical, social and ecumenical directions of the conference mirrored Hovda's own developing thought. His monthly essays, published in Living Worship and in several books, especially Manual of Celebration and Strong, Loving and Wise, were of critical importance to implementing the reforms of Vatican II. Environment and Art in Catholic Worship, a document of the Bishop's Committee on the Liturgy, was written largely by Hovda.

In the 1980s Hovda lived in New York City, doing parish work there and extensive speaking around the United States. He continued his writing in the "Amen Corner" for the journal Worship. Hovda was an outspoken advocate of the ordination of women, the rights of homosexuals, and a host of causes that flowed from his conviction that the exalted equality Christians are meant to experience at the eucharistic table is a model for their only politics, in church and out. Until his death, he continued to insist in every forum that the liturgy both inspires and expresses those apparent opposites, human freedom and human solidarity.

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