Most Reverend Jerome E. Listecki
Archbishop of Milwaukee
As a child, I remember paging through old family photo albums. I would often come across a picture of someone who was dressed in clothes of an era long since passed. I would ask my mother, father, aunt or uncle who the person was, and they would inform me that it was a great uncle or aunt or great grandfather or grandmother. I would immediately want them to tell me their story. I was fascinated by their struggles and the contribution that they made to the family. I was proud to be connected to them and know that their accomplishments were the foundation for the life I enjoy now. Their pictures were in the family album because others cherished and appreciated the good that they had contributed.
When a bishop is appointed to a diocese, he is charged with being the leader of all of the Catholics, as well as the representative of the Catholic Church to the Christian community and the larger society of that territory. Although every bishop has his origin in a particular cultural community (for instance, mine would be Polish American), my responsibility is to the peoples of all cultural origins. As I page through the history of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, I know of its German foundations. In fact, Saint Francis de Sales Seminary is one of the oldest seminaries in the entire nation and was founded to serve the German immigrant community. In the beginning, classes were taught in German and Latin.
Many of the European communities (the Poles, Italians, Irish and others) settled in what we now know as the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. They brought with them their priests and religious communities to serve the needs of the immigrant population. They celebrated and preserved their cultural heritage. Every ethnic community has special celebrations that enrich the larger society and the Church. It is hard to imagine not having a St. Joseph’s table or St. Patrick’s Day. Currently, the Spanish-speaking community is the largest minority population and this is evident throughout the archdiocese. Although Spanish is a language common to many Latin American countries, Colombians differ from Mexicans, who differ from Ecuadorians, etc. Each possesses its own cultural celebrations and expressions of devotional faith.
The archdiocese expresses its family identity through the peoples who profess the Faith. On Sunday, October 11, I had the privilege of celebrating a Mass for the Asian Pacific Islander communities at St. Martin of Tours Parish in Franklin, Wisconsin. It may come as a surprise to some, but the Asian community is the fastest-growing Catholic population in the world. I have come to know various witnesses of the Faith, the martyrs in those various communities who proclaimed the love of Christ and produced baptisms and members of the Catholic Church.
The Mass is an annual celebration of Asian Unity (Chinese, Filipinos, Koreans, Vietnamese, Hmong, Kieran, Myanmar, etc.) that normally takes place at Mater Christi Chapel at the Mary Mother of the Church Pastoral Center. This year, because of COVID-19, the Mass was offered outside at an altar constructed at the base of Our Lady of Vietnam in St. Martin’s Cemetery. Participants wore masks and socially distanced themselves charitably, respecting the concerns of their fellow worshippers. There were still a few people in the native dress of their country, which is always a treat to see. Native languages were also used for the Prayers of the Faithful during Mass.
This year, I was robbed of admiring the parade of colorful dresses that our Asian communities display and the various statues and pictures of Our Lady which express the particular devotional practices of these Asian Communities. Hopefully, next year will be COVID-19 free, and we will be able to celebrate and enjoy all of the traditional foods after the Mass. However, at least this year we were able to dine with Christ as one family called to LOVE ONE ANOTHER.
Note: This blog originally appeared as the October 13, 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.