Today, the Most Reverend Jerome Listecki was installed as the 1tth leader of the Milwaukee Diocese. If you're a lover of trivia, you can also file away this little tidbit: Listecki is also the first Polish Archbishop in Milwaukee, succeeding a line long dominated by the Irish and Germans.
At the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist, Archbishop Pietro Sambi (the Vatican's Papal Nuncio, or chief diplomat), bestowed on Listecki, 60, the crosier - a symbol of Listecki's role as the shepherd of Milwaukee's Catholics. Given that he's being installed at time when religion and politicis are at loggerheads on the national scene, the significance of the crosier is particularly weighty.
He comes to Milwaukee amidst high praise and higher expectations. In an interview aired on WISN 12, Listecki's predecessor, Archbishop Timothy Dolan, praised Listecki saying, "He’s got remarkable piety…but he’s as down-to-earth as can be" and that Doaln considers Listecki "a good friend."
Marquette University's Associate Professor of Journalism, Dr. William Thorn, discussed the ecumenical work Listecki faces:
What Archbishop Listecki will have to do is continue that, find his particular role in that larger dialogue. On another level it’s very interpersonal because he will meet with those leaders of the other faiths one-on-one and work with them in individual situations.
Not only will Listecki have a high standard to meet in following Dolan and working with other faiths to the betterment of the community, he will be responsible for managing a diocese with 210 parishes and 643,000 Catholics, 137 schools, 9 hospitals, 8 cemeteries, and dozens of social outreach programs. This is no mean feat.
Reflecting that massive responsibility, both the Gospel reading (John 21:15-19) Listecki's homily focused on his Episcopal motto: Life is Christ.
The Church presents the Truth in Charity. It is the truth of the teaching that maintains our right relationship with Jesus. Our teaching on the dignity of the human person embraces life from the moment of conception to natural death. It reflects the love of life entrusted to us. This sacredness, which reflects the “imago dei.” The image of God. It is this very life for which Christ came into the world, to suffer, die and rise. In our social principles our care for the poor and neglected is mandated out of a love of neighbor grounded in the love of God.
As Benedict the XVI teaches: It is first and foremost a responsibility for each individual member of the faithful, but it is also a responsibility for the entire ecclesial community at every level: from the local community to the particular Church and to the Church universal in its entirety. As a community the Church must practice love. In our protection of marriage and family life an environment is created for the responsible transmission of the faith.
Adherence to the Church’s teaching is not always easy. However, one must sacrifice for the truth. In this sacrifice we demonstrate our love. It is interesting to note that John Paul the II was applauded by the Western societies when he critiqued the godless communism of the east for their lack of individual rights and freedoms, yet those very same western societies turned a deaf ear to his warnings of the destructiveness of radical individualism, consumerism, materialism and relativism.
Prior to his installation, Listecki praised the diocese as one whose “vision has been very clear over the years…The church’s very foundation and roots is that it has been instituted by Christ. And the Holy Spirit. If you don’t understand that the Holy Spirit is involved, you’re missing the whole thing; you’re missing the truth of the church.”
After the Installation Mass is when the real work begins. Listecki faces a great deal of other, serious work:
Among Listecki's first priorities as archbishop, Callahan said, will be meeting with his priests and helping parishes find new ways to collaborate and better use their limited resources. Like his predecessor, he is expected to be a strong supporter of Catholic schools and the local seminary, St. Francis de Sales.
Listecki also will assume leadership of the archdiocese's $105 million capital campaign, which has collected about $28 million so far, from $92 million in pledges, since it was launched in the fall of 2007.
In addition, the Milwaukee archdiocese is facing a number of clergy sex abuse lawsuits that could potentially bankrupt it.
In facing these challenges, Listecki must draw on his prodigious background and leadership experience to direct the Milwaukee diocese through the coming years, and he vows to do so: "I am truly humbled by my appointment as the 11th Archbishop of Milwaukee," Listecki said in a statement shortly after his appointment. "I pledge that I will do my best to fulfill the confidence our Holy Father Benedict XVI has placed in me to shepherd the archdiocese."