Most Reverend Jerome E. Listecki
Archbishop of Milwaukee
I must admit, because of the coronavirus I am finding myself engaged in activities that would not have normally grabbed my attention. I guess I am a bit of a sentimentalist. In my office, I have many memorabilia dealing with sports, prior engagements and a large number of pictures that have been collected over the years as a deacon, priest, bishop and archbishop. I find it hard to toss pictures. These pictures were taken and sent to me because of events, sent by families and friends at Christmas, and of course, sacramental occasions. You can imagine, over the 46 years, all of the Baptisms, First Holy Communions, Confirmations, weddings and anniversaries.
Sometimes, I would date them, and other times mark the back with names – especially when looking at a picture of a baby who will not be recognizable in a few months. I put all of the pictures in boxes with the idea to return to them later. Occasionally, I would see the boxes of pictures and think, “I really should go through them to sort them out.” But, because of tiredness, or perhaps sloth, I just kicked the can down the road, thinking I would get to them later.
Years get away from us all, and that is certainly true for me. On a normal evening, you would find me participating at an anniversary, public address or a Confirmation Mass, all of which would have me away from my residence. The task of sorting out the pictures was rationalized by “out of sight out of mind.” So, now being in the residence, the boxes seemed to be screaming at me, “Sort me out now!” – a little like Audrey, the man-eating plant, in the musical “Little Shop of Horrors.”
On every psychological testing administered to me as a seminarian, I scored very low on external organization. You don’t want me to organize your offices, or your files for that matter. But, please don’t confuse the external with the internal. A person might look at my life and say, “What a mess. How does he get anything accomplished?” However, I know where everything is, and have a high degree of internal organization that I rely upon every day.
When going through the boxes of pictures, I felt a little like Jimmy Stewart (George Bailey) in “It’s a Wonderful Life.” I was not depressed, but reviewing my life in the pictorial form made me appreciate just how blessed I have been. I examined pictures of friends who have enriched my life and have shared with me their families as we celebrated precious moments of happiness afforded to us in this life.
Some of my relatives and friends have gone to God and, as you can imagine, I stopped and uttered a few prayers for them. But, for a brief moment, we were back together enjoying God’s goodness that brought us together. In other instances, I looked at pictures of my young friends whose weddings I celebrated and who I later baptized their babies. I was so proud to claim a portion of their lives, knowing that I am a better person for my relationship with them.
Another set of pictures were taken at my ordination as a priest, and later as a bishop. I know that the majority of these pictures existed because of my life in the Church, and even though I have not seen many of these people for decades, they are family in my mind and have remained embedded in my heart.
I know that in the life to come, God will provide for us the fullness of understanding of what we meant to one another in our journey through this life, and how it has contributed in realizing God’s presence. It is said that a picture is worth a thousand words, but really, only three are important: LOVE ONE ANOTHER.
Note: This blog originally appeared as the June 30, 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.