Most Reverend Jerome E. Listecki
Archbishop of Milwaukee
Last Sunday afternoon at St. Dominic Catholic Church in Brookfield, many were treated to a wonderful presentation by Bishop Emeritus Richard J. Sklba on “What Does God Require of Us?” This was a reflection given in anticipation of the annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. Bishop Jeff Barrow (Greater Milwaukee Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America), Bishop Steven Miller (Episcopal Diocese of Milwaukee) and I were respondents.
Bishop Sklba’s work in the field of ecumenism is well known and highly respected. He presented the historical development in the area of ecumenism and his own personal work in developing relationships and dialogue with the many Christian, Jewish and other religious groups.
It was obvious that this was a bishop who not only understood the academic nature of ecumenical work but lived the mission entrusted to every baptized Christian that all may be one. He focused on the need of every Christian to be open to change directed by the Holy Spirit. We can be transformed through honest prayer.
Bishop Sklba shared that Pope John XXIII asked everyone who was present at the solemn opening of the Second Vatican Council to take an oath to be faithful to the teachings of the Council whatever they would be. This statement was a demonstration of the pope’s supreme confidence in the Holy Spirit’s guidance of the Church. Bishop Sklba, as a young priest student in Rome, was there in the Basilica of St. Peter and took that oath. As a priest and bishop, he has been faithful to the pope’s request.
Many treat ecumenism as a “nice thing” to do, but not an essential part of the Church’s mission. Yet, one of the documents of the Second Vatican Council was Unitatis Redintegratio (Restoration of Unity). This Decree on Ecumenism requires Catholics to be involved in the work of seeking unity among the various Christian denominations. This doesn’t mean surrendering our identity as Catholics but to understand our requirement to build the body of Christ, His Church fulfilling the prayer of the Lord, “that all may be one.” (John 17:21)
Bishop Sklba has been working in Ecumenism for more than 50 years. He is respected as a church leader, friend and brother by many religious leaders of our community. During that time, I know he has seen progress and experienced frustrations, but the work of ecumenism is achieved not according to our time frame but rather according to God’s will. It is our responsibility to be faithful to the task and trust in God.
The Decree on Ecumenism recognized the difficulty of Christian unity and cautioned that unity transcends human energies and abilities. Therefore, it places hope entirely in the prayer of Christ for the Church, in the love of the Father for us, and in the power of the Holy Spirit. “And hope does not disappoint because the charity of God is poured forth in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” (Rom. 5:5) As we approach the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, let us manifest a respect for our Christian brothers and sisters and a willingness in Christ’s name to LOVE ONE ANOTHER.
Note: This blog originally appeared as the January 15, 2013 "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.