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Head of Catholic schools for Lincoln diocese announces plans to phase into retirement
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Head of Catholic schools for Lincoln diocese announces plans to phase into retirement

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Take a look at the number of Nebraska students enrolled in home-school for the 2021-22 school year and how it compares to previous years.

Matthew Hecker, chief administrative officer of schools for the Catholic Diocese of Lincoln, announced this week he will phase out of his role over the next three years.

Matthew Hecker

Matthew Hecker

Hecker, the former dean of students at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, will help the diocese hire an assistant in the coming months who will eventually take over his role when he retires in 2024.

Bishop James Conley and the diocese will begin a search this fall, Hecker said, in hopes of identifying a pool of candidates sometime this winter or spring. 

Hecker, 64, said the transition will allow him to take on more duties as the diocese's first permanent deacon after he was ordained in May, including assisting Conley with planning and diocesan programs. 

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"The time is right," Hecker told the Journal Star on Wednesday. "That diaconal identity I have now is being able to serve the bishop and the diocese in other ways besides just the schools."

Hecker was originally named the diocese's superintendent of schools when he was hired in 2018 after Msgr. John Perkinton announced he was stepping down.

But Hecker later asked Perkinton to stay on as superintendent to serve as a liaison with the Nebraska Department of Education and parishes while Hecker took over the day-to-day administrative reins in the newly created role of chief administrative officer.

"It's just been a really good partnership," Hecker said.

Before he came to UNL in 2003, Hecker held various college administrative positions, including as associate dean of students at St. Olaf College in Minnesota; vice president for student development at the University of Mary in North Dakota; and vice president and dean of students at Benedictine College in Kansas.

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Hecker, who hails from Denver, began his career as a youth director and high school teacher before earning degrees in counseling and education administration. 

The Diocese of Lincoln, which covers the southern portion of Nebraska, serves approximately 7,600 students in its six high schools, 23 elementary schools and special needs program.

Hecker said Catholic education is more important than ever, especially in the context of many of the cultural battles being waged over thorny subjects such as Nebraska's health education standards.

"That kind of points to the importance of not just Catholic, but private, Christian education," he said. 

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Contact the writer at zhammack@journalstar.com or 402-473-7225. On Twitter @zach_hammack

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K-12 education reporter

Zach Hammack, a 2018 UNL graduate, has always called Lincoln home. He previously worked as a copy editor at the Journal Star and was a reporting intern in 2017. Now, he covers students, teachers and schools as the newspaper’s K-12 reporter.

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