Most Reverend Jerome E. Listecki
Archbishop of Milwaukee
As the summer season begins, we have much to look forward to: numerous cookouts and barbeques, family reunions and vacations, to name just a few. Summertime offers a break in the usual routine of our lives. It’s a great time to stop and smell the flowers, to enjoy outdoor sports like golf or baseball, or to take long, casual walks. As we pack away our winter clothing, we retrieve our short sleeve shirts and short pants from our closets, and, before we know it, this outfit becomes our regular uniform of choice.
For many of us, summer is also a time to do something different – something out of the ordinary. Have you ever noticed that many of our relationships begin with something unusual? Shared experiences bind people together. Deep relationships often develop during trips, events or vacations. Each special circumstance becomes the focal point of reference that brings souls together. Performing tasks with others – whether mandatory or voluntary – creates lasting memories.
Thankfully, even with my hectic schedule, the Lord blesses me repeatedly with an ever-growing circle of wonderful people. My interactions with each one – past and present – make me the person I am today. When I look back, it seems that summer, more than any other season, brings back years of memories of those shared experiences.
My life as a priest intertwined with the ebb and flow of each parish I served. In the suburban parish, summer picnics brought families together to celebrate our common Catholic identity. In the city, parish picnics became parish block parties, with barbequed chicken and a few cold beers.
I fondly remember my parish placing me, a brand new associate, in a dunk tank. Oh, I was a willing participant, as each teenager wanted to be the first to hit the target and send me into the water. For one dollar, each one received three balls, three chances to release the lever, and send me into the tank. As I taunted and cajoled the teens, their frustration grew. Their pitches, wilder and wilder, missed the target left and right. I jeered louder and louder, while proudly sitting completely dry.
Then, a little girl cried out to her dad that she wanted a chance to throw at me, Fr. Jerry. He placed a dollar down, granting his daughter’s request. This child, who appeared to be about 6 years of age, took her shot. It was a soft, high, lofty floater – just what you might expect from a kid her age. This high floating ball barely brushed the target, but I suddenly found myself immersed in ice-cold water. The tot’s toss actually hit the mark.
As the years went by, and everyone grew older, parishioners would return to the parish block party or picnic just to recapture memories of days gone by and each year more memories were made by young and old alike.
Yes, it’s a new season, time to change our clothes and our daily activities; maybe even take an unexpected “dunk” into a new adventure. These wonderful summer experiences release us from our routines. What a joy knowing we can create memories and celebrate friendships – fulfilling in the most natural way Christ’s command to LOVE ONE ANOTHER.
Note: this blog originally appeared as the June 19, 2012 "Love One Another" email sent to Catholics throughout the Archdiocese of Milwaukee by Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki. If you are interested in signing up for these emails, please click here.