Most Reverend Jerome E. Listecki
Archbishop of Milwaukee
It’s interesting to see how the landscape changes around us. I am sure we have traveled with relatives or friends who look at the housing projects and declare, “I remember when this was farmland.” I would often hear from an older friend how a crowded neighborhood mall was once a pig farm. Looking at old pictures, we marvel at the vacant lots that are now filled with a church or community center. The landscape does change.
There is also a change to the social landscape. While having to stay at home, old-time movies would occasionally come on the television screen. I was amazed at all of the smoking that took place in these movies. It seemed that everyone had a cigarette or a cigar in their hands. This would all disappear with the revelation of the link of smoking to lung cancer. In a few decades, smoking would not be allowed, signs would be posted and the cost of a package of cigarettes would increase tenfold. In another movie, a person was being accompanied by his family to the airport, and they went right to the gate to see him off. Now, one must go through security checks and all non-ticket holders are forbidden from approaching any gate. It was 9/11 that changed our airport protocols.
There are also changes in our lifestyles. We take for granted many of the objects that make our lives easier. I studied in Rome from 1979-1983, and the personal computer was not yet on the radar. Yet today, it’s a staple in every home. The cell phone has replaced the landline, and eventually, telephone poles will be a thing of the past. Who would have ever thought (I guess someone did) that you could bottle water and Americans would pay for it? Tap water was good enough for my father, and it’s good enough for me.
It’s probably true to say that this current pandemic will probably contribute to changes in the way we live our lives. Already, technology has advanced in its importance to our everyday lives. Businesses will increase their use of online meetings. Perhaps, items with the label “Made in China” will decrease in the U.S. Some restaurants will close, while others will limit their occupancy. The general public will be more conscious of the use of sanitizing agents. I am sure there will be unforeseen consequences, but of course, they are unforeseen.
As a Church, we exist in a society that is always growing. “This is not your father’s Oldsmobile” (The Oldsmobile doesn’t even exist any longer. It’s gone the way of the Edsel). It’s hard to imagine that St. Paul would recognize our parish communities or that the Church Fathers would recognize the Vatican or that St. Francis Xavier could envision the possibility of missionary activities on other planets (not that far-fetched).
One constant thing is that the Church will adapt to the needs of the people she serves. Another certainty is that the Church will never abandon the commission given by Jesus at the Ascension, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” (Mt 28:19) And, He has commanded us to LOVE ONE ANOTHER.
Note: This blog originally appeared as the May 19, 2020, "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.