Bishop Jeffery R. Haines still considers himself a parish priest. From serving as an intern priest for St. Nicholas, after his ordination in 1985 to becoming the rector for the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist, Milwaukee, Bishop Haines never suspected he would become an auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee.
“I never thought of myself as a bishop, I don’t have a doctorate, I’m not a professor, I’m a parish priest,” said Bishop at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist. “The thought of being a bishop is rather intimidating, but one of things that Archbishop Listecki said to me before I became rector of the Cathedral was that he choose me because I was a parish priest, he said that ‘I want the Cathedral to be a parish that is connected to a priest with a pastor’s heart.’ And perhaps that is one of the qualities they wanted to see in a bishop, too. That gives me comfort and excites me when I think of the intimidation of the job.”
“I’m not a spokesperson,” he continued. “I’m not an intellectual, I’m a parish priest but maybe that’s it, they want a bishop with a pastor’s heart in a bigger church.”
Bishop Haines will be ordained to his position, along with Bishop James T. Schuerman, on March 17 at his present parish as the Archdiocese of Milwaukee added a pair of auxiliaries.
Before Bishop Haines, 58, (Oct. 6, 1958) became rector of the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist in 2011, he was hesitant to take on the responsibility of the assignment.
“I came up with eight reasons on why I didn’t want to become the rector of the Cathedral. Archbishop Listecki listened and said those weren’t good reasons. He said ‘just try it, I think you’re going to do OK,’” said Bishop Haines.
From his experience as rector of the Cathedral, he learned the importance of trusting the direction of the archbishop, which he feels will support him in his new role as an auxiliary bishop.
“The direction of my ministry is at the direction of the archbishop. As an auxiliary bishop, you are ordained to help him in his ministry. We can see where he wants it to go because we are coming out of the synod and the pastoral priorities that come from there which are folded nicely into his three priorities which are Catholic identity, evangelization and stewardship,” said Bishop Haines. “I can see that’s the direction he wants me and Bishop Schuerman to go. I’ve been blessed by the fact I had a unique privilege of being able to witness the unfolding of the synod, because I was on the planning and implementation commissions, so I have the grace of that insight and can feel its heartbeat.”
After ordination in 1985, Bishop Haines was appointed Associate Pastor of St. Nicholas in Milwaukee. In 1987, he was given additional responsibilities as Associate Pastor of Holy Redeemer Church in Milwaukee. In 1991, he was appointed Associate Pastor of St. Eugene Parish, Fox Point. In 1996, he was appointed Pastor of St. Frances Cabrini Parish in West Bend. He was granted temporary leave to study canon law at Catholic University in 2002. However, he returned within the year to become Temporary Administrator of St. Patrick Parish in Whitewater. In 2003, he returned as Pastor of St. Frances Cabrini Parish in West Bend, and was given additional responsibility as Assisting Priest of Immaculate Conception/St. Mary’s, West Bend in 2004. In 2011, he was appointed Rector of the Cathedral.
For Bishop Haines, he feels his experience from working with local parishes of the archdiocese will help him understand the needs of the archdiocese.
“I’ve been lucky enough to go around different parts of the diocese and know they are unique with their own gifts and wonderful people, so the thought of going around to all the different parishes and getting to know all the people is really neat,” he said. “One of the things that happened during the (recent) holy year that was a really neat experience for me was the holy doors, not just at the Cathedral, but there were 10 holy doors, one for each deanery. We decided at the Cathedral, instead of them coming to us, why don’t we go out and visit them? We had a two-day bus tour and visited every holy door. It was a fascinating experience, it gave me a sense of the diocese.
“I’ve been on archdiocese committees and commissions for years but that was the first time I experienced, in less than 48 hours, every deanery and every segment of the diocese. For me, when I think of my new role and what it’s going to be like I think of that experience, you get a flavor of the diocese and its vibrancy of faith in life.”
Born in Milwaukee to his parents, Jim and Maureen Haines, Bishop Haines was baptized at St. Elizabeth Parish, Milwaukee, before the family moved to New Berlin in 1965. There, he attended Holy Apostles Parish and Grade School, New Berlin, and graduated from New Berlin West High School in 1977. He began his college studies at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, before transferring and graduating from Marquette University in 1981 with a degree in theology. He attended Saint Francis de Sales Seminary for graduate theological studies from 1981-1985, earning a Masters of Divinity degree.
For Bishop Haines, the most important aspect of his new ministry is to recognize and appreciate the concerns of the people of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee.
“For me it all starts with listening and accompanying the people. Especially with becoming a new bishop, I have to listen and know the hearts of the people. What are their hopes and dreams? What are their struggles? I need to know their gifts and put them to use to share and spread the mission of the Gospel,” he said. “In the early days it will be listening, connecting and building relationships with the people and helping them form the vision. We have the broad parameters laid out in the pastoral priorities, the Bible and the mission of the church. But that has to get lived out in unique ways depending on the times and the environment in which the seeds will be planted.”
For me, I got to figure out how can we make this work here. It’s what I always did in a parish; people would say what’s your vision for the parish. I would say it’s the Gospel and the sacramental life of the church but what that’s going to look like in this parish I don’t know yet. I have to know their hopes and dreams and then I’ll start to help them make it a reality. It’s my goal to help the people and make the Gospel come alive in our archdiocese.”
Bishop Haines hopes to remain active at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist, but he knows his new role will alter his priorities.
“As rector of the cathedral I appreciated the fact that Bishop Donald Hying (now Bishop of Gary, Indiana) was willing to live here, I think it helps the status of the cathedral to have a bishop there,” he said. “I was thinking I wasn’t going to be the bishop, so my goal was as soon as they named the bishops I was going to call them and say would one of you like to live in the rectory of the cathedral so we could have a bishop’s presence. Well now that’s me, I will have a discussion with myself and raise my rent.”
Whichever direction his new ministry will take, Bishop Haines relies on the same advice he learned from the seminary.
“One of the professors from the seminary said the people will teach you what kind of priest they need,” said Bishop Haines. “For me now, I think it’s the same way now as an auxiliary bishop, the people will teach me how to be a bishop and how they need me to serve them. They always did when I was a pastor and I know they will again.”