Most Reverend Jerome E. Listecki
Archbishop of Milwaukee
It‘s hard to imagine the journeys of St. Paul. Right now, I’m following in the footsteps of St. Paul. Of course, there is a difference. This past Saturday, I flew to Greece, and I am currently travelling aboard a beautiful cruise ship, surrounded by 50 of my brother priests, deacons, my sister, cousins, friends and faithful of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. All 50 participating in this pilgrimage create an environment that is faith-filled and pleasurable.
St. Paul’s struggles throughout his voyages were filled with conflict, challenging pretenders and laying the groundwork for the fledgling Christian communities. Hopefully, unlike St. Paul, I will not be shipwrecked, flogged, stoned, imprisoned, and beheaded (although some have said I lost my head years ago).
When I think of St. Paul’s persistence in the face of opposition, I find myself dismayed in the statement of some people saying how difficult it is for them to attend Mass on a Sunday – it is too far, I have other things to do, I need my sleep, etc. Yet, nothing stood in the way of St. Paul evangelizing in the most severe and difficult regions and situations. There was urgency in proclaiming the message, and no easy way to do it.
This pilgrimage will offer me a new appreciation for St. Paul’s letters. Letter writing is an art. I often appreciate the letters I have received, and with the decline of cursive writing, emails have offered a more immediate response. But, it is great opening an envelope (except from the IRS), and hearing from a friend who is sharing his or her life with you. St. Paul offered no excuses.
The secondary patron of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee is St. Francis de Sales, also no slouch in the area of letter writing. In his letters, he directed hundreds, even thousands of individuals seeking to live a life of holiness. The majority of the time, he directed them not in face-to-face confrontations, but through letters.
Letters can challenge you, cheer you up, let you know you’re loved, console you, or even inspire you. When I was the bishop of the Diocese of La Crosse, I received a letter from one of our most respected priests, Monsignor Charles Blecha, 95 years of age, and a priest for over 67 years. The letter was unsolicited, and contained his reflection on the direction of the diocese. After his praise and suggestions for the diocese, he stated that his one regret was that he was not 40 years younger to help me accomplish the vision I had set forth for the diocese.
The letter was as good as an Oscar coming from this senior priest. It strengthened and reinforced my resolve to be a better bishop, and boldly go forward. However, in the end, it was God’s determination that we both would be called in different directions – Monsignor Blecha to heaven, and I to Milwaukee. Don’t hesitate to share your thoughts. It can mean the world to family and friends.
There are many problems that face us as a Church today – cultural, financial and doctrinal. However, St. Paul faced those same problems. He addressed them with courage and confidence in Christ. As I walk on this pilgrimage, I’ll place my small feet in his big footprints, knowing that as a Church, it all begins with LOVE ONE ANOTHER.
Note: This blog originally appeared as the June 19, 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.