Most Reverend Jerome E. Listecki
Archbishop of Milwaukee
We remember the trips that we take in our lives, and some stay with us with more memories and fondness than others do. A couple of years ago, I traveled along with over 122 pilgrims to the Holy Land. It is important to emphasize that this was a spiritual pilgrimage because the term is liberally used. A pilgrimage is a journey to a sacred place, which means that the spiritual aspects are interwoven into every moment of the journey. It is an act of religious devotion. During pilgrimages, saints are venerated, spiritual intercessions are asked and physical cures are pleaded for. Some pilgrimages are made to offer thanks or even to do penance. I can testify that all aspects of pilgrimages were made by the members of our group.
Many individuals will treat the excursion to sacred places as nothing more than a sightseeing adventure. However, from the very beginning, this trip had all the earmarks of something special. Logistically speaking, you can imagine that moving with 122 people would create its own problems. But, as visitors from a foreign country, the members of this pilgrimage displayed a respectful demeanor to everyone they encountered. As a bishop, I was proud to lead this group. We visited all the major sites: the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, Bethlehem, Cana, Galilee, the Upper Room, the Dead Sea, and many others. Bishop Jim Schuerman, Fr. John Burns, and I each accompanied one of the three buses and took turns rotating our presence to get a sense of the different personalities of the groups.
We offered Mass, celebrated the Sacraments, and prayed often. We walked the Via Delarosa, dipped our toes or floated in the Dead Sea, and enjoyed each other’s company at meals. There is a beauty in sharing moments with good people who quickly become friends. Usually, pilgrimages end with the final trip home and disembarking. There are the typical desires of reuniting together as a group, which may or may not happen. But as I said, this pilgrimage was different. The dinner on the last night of the pilgrimage allowed many to express their thanks and offer their esteem for the various members that accompanied their journey. It was at this dinner that Mr. Marty Loppnow captured the attention of the entire group and declared his intention to become a full member of the Catholic Church. There was a spontaneous response of joy. Everyone felt that they were a part of Marty’s journey to the full embrace of the faith.
The journey for Marty did not end with the return home, but continued on with the assistance of Fr. James Lobacz, as Marty prepared for full admission into the Catholic Church. On Saturday, August 29, at St. Joan of Arc Parish, I confirmed Marty (Joseph) Loppnow in the Catholic Faith. The coronavirus prevented a large number of the pilgrims from joining Marty and his wife, Jane, but his children, family members and St. Joan of Arc parishioners joined him and viewed his Confirmation and reception of the Eucharist. It was as if those of us who accompanied him on the pilgrimage were back with Marty at the Last Supper and Pentecost, living the reality of a life journey. Each one of us claimed a piece of his faith journey, and it made us all grateful to be with him.
At the end of the service, Marty gave public thanks to his parents, family, teachers, friends, children, and wife for being signs of Christ’s presence in his life. We are all pilgrims on life’s journey. We look forward to the ultimate sacred place, the heavenly kingdom, where God’s love knows no end. Until then, Marty reminded us that our pathway is to listen to our Lord and LOVE ONE ANOTHER.
Note: This blog originally appeared as the September 1, 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.