Most Reverend Jerome E. Listecki
Archbishop of Milwaukee
Last Thursday at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Milwaukee, we celebrated Catholic education at a dinner with over 700 people in attendance. There was a spirit that could only be attributed to those who know the value and the contribution that Catholic education makes to the development of our young, and to the stability of the community.
John and Norma Herbers co-chaired the event. They have long been tremendous supporters of Catholic education, and were vital to the success of the event. One could feel the energy in the room.
Daniel J. Scholz, Ph.D., Interim Vice President of Academic Affairs at Cardinal Stritch University, was the keynote speaker and gave an inspiring talk, touching on the significance of the welcoming environment that Catholic education creates. This environment is presented as an option to individuals to live this sense of belonging for their life. We sometimes forget how we represent the Church and the faith we profess. Interestingly after the dinner, a person came up to me and told me that she became a Catholic because of the way she was treated by the students and faculty in the Catholic school she attended. We need to be reminded that we are ambassadors of our faith which, for many of us, was formed in the early years through Catholic education.
For instance, every year during the Lenten season, I return to my memories of the religious sisters who were my teachers in my parish grammar school. They reminded me of my responsibility to the poor and needy of the world. In the beginning of Lent, we were given mission banks to help children in missionary territories. They reminded me of the blessing I have been generously given by God, and how I am called to share. They encouraged me to pass up those Hershey almond candy bars to deposit that dime into my mission bank instead. We made tiny sacrifices so that others might receive life-giving benefits.
As the spiritual leader of the archdiocese, I realize that we are called to teach. We are blessed to have Dr. Kathleen Cepelka and her staff, who have envisioned different models in an approach to provide accessible and affordable Catholic education. Many realize that the innovative approach that the archdiocese is taking under the direction of Dr. Cepelka assures that students will have a Catholic environment. This will help them answer not only their academic problems, but the life problems they will face as adults.
There are outstanding individuals who have dedicated themselves in support of Catholic education. At the dinner, we honored three of them with the Elizabeth Seton Award: Ellen Bartel, educator and president of Divine Savior Holy Angels (DSHA) High School; Fr. Ken Omernick, pastor of St. Charles Parish in Hartland; and supporter of his Catholic primary school, Dan Horton, of the newly created Siena Catholic Schools of Racine. All three have demonstrated that leadership, vision, and hard work produce successful results, which benefit the students today, as well as those of tomorrow. These are just three of our many leaders. However, it is important for us to acknowledge those contributions, and say thanks to them and the vast number of others who make Catholic education possible.
In a world that often promotes rugged individualism, our school communities remind us that our Lord directs us to LOVE ONE ANOTHER.
Note: This blog originally appeared as the February 27, 2018 "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.