Most Reverend Jerome E. Listecki
Archbishop of Milwaukee
I started the Advent season with the celebration of the Mass at St. Stephen Parish in Oak Creek. It gave me the opportunity to visit a Church that I most often view from my travels on Interstate 94, but also to publicly thank its pastor, Rev. Richard Liska, for his leadership when it came to building the Church and the congregation. Fr. Liska has decided to retire on the first of the year. He will be missed.
Because I arrived a little early, Fr. Liska showed me the beautiful daily Mass Chapel that utilized the carved wooden altar from the former parish. Its beauty was preserved and offered a sense of comfort that the old was not ignored, discarded or neglected, but rather incorporated into the new Church. In fact, it seemed that St. Stephen parishioners attempted to incorporate every aspect of their former Church into the new, as recognition of its history and the faith of those who established the community.
I enjoyed listening to Fr. Liska’s description of the various details of the Church and the careful thought that went into its construction. In a certain sense, I was listening to the proud Father of a child (in this case, the Church) who was beaming with pride at the accomplishment of its completion.
As I viewed the stained glass window, secured in the vestibule of the Church, I was reminded that the beauty of the past continues in the structures of today. The cornerstones of the other churches, two of which burned down, have been placed in the wall of the entrance with the oldest cornerstone situated underneath the stained glass window in the vestibule. This was a visible reminder that the Church of today is built upon the communities of the past.
Fr. Liska also explained another unique expression of the Church. When it was announced that the congregation would build a new Church, Fr. Liska gave “prayer stones” to each of the parishioners. The stone was a reminder that one should pray for God’s assistance in the completion of the task to build the Church. When Our Lord named St. Peter, he explained that his new name, Peter, was “Cephas” in Aramaic, which means rock, a rock upon which the Church will be built. Then, years later when the Church neared completion and before the altar was set in place, a hole was dug beneath the spot upon which the altar would be set. Father then asked that all the parishioners return their stones and place them into the hole upon which the altar would sit. Forever, this will be a church built upon the prayers of its parishioners.
Perhaps during Advent you could study some aspects of the Church in which you worship? Learn about its symbols, the stained glass windows or the statues. You may find it inspiring.
A Church community reflects a confidence in the transcendence. It is sacred ground. A reminder of God’s love for us and our love for God, which is demonstrated in the way we LOVE ONE ANOTHER.
Note: This blog originally appeared as the December 4, 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 email messages, please click here.