Most Reverend Jerome E. Listecki
Archbishop of Milwaukee
Last Friday, I traveled with Bishops Haines, Schuerman and Sklba, and Fr. Jim Lobacz to Chicago’s Holy Name Cathedral, where Blase Cardinal Cupich ordained three new bishops for the Archdiocese of Chicago. I always consider it a priority to attend the ordinations of bishops in our region. In addition to that priority, two of the three priests to be ordained were former students of mine at St. Mary of the Lake Seminary in Mundelein, Illinois: Fr. Kevin Birmingham and Fr. Jeffrey Grob.
It is a shame that many Catholics never get an opportunity to attend the ordination of a bishop. The beautiful ceremony emphasizes the office and the new responsibilities for those receiving ordination. I could not help reminiscing. Almost 20 years ago, Francis Cardinal George ordained me a bishop in this same Cathedral. I wondered if married people attending a wedding reminisce their marriage. On the day of my episcopal ordination, I was the only priest being ordained a bishop at Holy Name Cathedral. The Cathedral holds 2,000 people, but it was filled to capacity with standing room only. Now, because of the pandemic and social distancing, the numbers of attendees were very limited. Still, even if the ordination were held in a chapel with just a dozen people, it would be the Church celebrating the continuation of apostolic succession. The call of Jesus to the original Apostles, entrusted with the mission, continues today.
Similar to marriage, I had no idea where the future of my vocation would take me. I stood before the congregation and pledged my service. Another former student from my days at St. Mary of the Lake Seminary, Bishop Ron Hicks, reminded me that at the end of my ordination ceremony, I proclaimed my love for the Church. Intrigued by the fact that he remembered the statement I retrieved the talk. Here is what I said in my thanks at the end of the ceremony:
I love this Church. I thank God for the privilege of my vocation and the various opportunities of encountering the Spirit in the lives of so many. Now this Catholic Church that I love, has called again, and I responded, remembering the insight of St. Augustine, who said to his people, “For you, I am a bishop, but with you, I am a Christian. The first is an office accepted, the second a grace received; one a danger the other safety. If I am happier, by far, to be redeemed with you, than I am to be placed over you, I shall, as the Lord commanded, be more completely your servant. Please pray that I may discharge the administrative duties assigned to me with prudence, the teaching office with clarity and understanding, and the pastoral responsibility with compassion.”
For the sake of the Church, I am changed. I now wear a ring; I now wear a hat, a mitre, and I walk with the crozier, a fancy cane. And, with the Cardinal’s direction and your support, I am ready to use them for the good of the Church.
My love for the Church has only grown throughout the years and many of you have contributed to that love. I had no idea where God would take me when I started the journey 20 years ago, but I have seen His face in you and your commitment to LOVE ONE ANOTHER.
Note: This blog originally appeared as the November 17, 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.