Most Reverend Jerome E. Listecki
Archbishop of Milwaukee
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
I live in a residence on the seminary grounds referred to as the “Brother House.” It is reputed to be the oldest building on the seminary grounds. That’s saying a great deal if you consider that the seminary was built “antebellum” (before the Civil War). It was preserved and renovated in the early 1990s by Archbishop Weakland who then established it as the “Archbishop’s Residence.”
The Brother House was the residence for a group of diocesan religious brothers who lived in community and whose ministry was the care of the orphan boys of St. Aemilian Orphanage. St. Aemilian Orphanage was named after the 16th Century Italian saint, St. Jerome Emiliani (“Aemilianus” is a Latin version of Emiliani) who founded orphanages in his native Italy. It was Bishop John Martin Henni who established this orphanage end entrusted it to the care of the Franciscan Tertiaries.
The difficulty for the sisters was always in the care of the orphan boys who grew more troublesome as they aged. A group of men not dedicated to ordained ministry, the Franciscan Tertiaries, desired to serve God and the Church in a committed religious life. They established a type of diocesan religious community of brothers whose ministry was devoted to serving the boys in St. Aemilian Orphanage.
I share this information with you not to emphasize that I live in the oldest building on the seminary campus, or to highlight the other “St. Jerome,” but to consider the great and sometimes forgotten work of the diocesan brothers who served in quiet commitment to the needs of the Church.
The Archdiocese of Milwaukee has been blessed by the great work of the religious communities that have served us so generously over the years. The women religious ministered in every area of archdiocesan schools, hospitals, parishes and religious education. The men religious have staffed our parishes, high schools, universities and nursing homes, etc.
Most people might view men religious as ordained, but not all are ordained. Those not ordained are referred to as “brothers.” Our religious communities of priests – the Jesuits, Franciscans, Dominicans, SDS (Society of the Divine Savior), Camillians – all have religious brothers. They are a treasure to the success of the mission. If you have a penchant for history, “In the richness of the Earth” and “Confidence and Crisis” by Rev. Steven Avella, Marquette University Press, will take you on a journey from 1843 to 1977.
Pope Francis declared May 1 the recognition of religious brothers. Joining our prayers to those of Pope Francis, we offer our gratitude for the presence of religious brothers in our archdiocese and throughout the world. A religious brother is not a cleric, but he is also not a lay person. Rather, he is a member of consecrated religious. He takes vows of chastity, poverty and obedience, and lives in community; this is a special calling.
It is important for us to present this option to young men looking for ways to serve the Church in community, but not as ordained. A religious brother assists in the work of the ministerial task to which he is assigned. Many superiors and priests will testify to the support they receive from their community brothers. This year, our Lenten Mission activity was support for the Blackfeet Reservation, pastored by Rev. Rod Ermatinger. He is assisted in this monumental task by Brother Dale Mooney, a religious brother from the De La Salle community.
There is little doubt in my mind that religious brothers are a quiet force in the Church, and their witness demonstrates a confidence in God’s direction that leads us to LOVE ONE ANOTHER.
Note: This blog originally appeared as the April 24, 2023 "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.