For young men entering the seminary, much of their time is spent studying moral theology, human and spiritual formation, history of the Church and more. However, a lot of what transforms these young men is what they learn outside of the classroom with fellow seminarians and even a few professors.
Both bishops Jeffrey R. Haines and James T. Schuerman made a number of impressions as they cultivated friendships and discerned their future as priests at Saint Francis de Sales Seminary. Bishop Haines attended from 1981-1985, and Bishop Schuerman studied from 1976-1981.
Fr. Mike McDonald entered the seminary the same year as Bishop Haines. Currently a priest serving in his home diocese of Grand Island, Neb., he remembers the first week of seminary spent as just getting to know the 16 other men in first year theology – Bishop Haines along them.
“It was more a matter of getting to know who was who. There were a couple of us from outside of Wisconsin, but everyone else was from the Wisconsin area,” he explained. “I would say that (Bishop Haines) was very studious. He spent a lot of time in the library. I don’t know if everyone even knew where the library was, but he did. He was very serious about his studies and just ready to learn and grow and contribute.”
Steady with his faith, people
Though years have passed since their time in the seminary, Fr. McDonald is certain that Bishop Haines will bring much to the Archdiocese of Milwaukee in his new role as auxiliary bishop.
“When I think of him, I think ‘steady.’ He’s just always been a steady guy, not only with his studies, but also with his love for his family and his love for his faith,” he said. “He’s got a good sense of humor, but he’s just really steady with his faith. I think he’ll bring a lot of education, a lot of knowledge, and a lot of care and concern for other people.”
The announcement about Bishop Haines was not a big surprise to Fr. McDonald.
“I was pleasantly surprised when he was named as auxiliary bishop – he’s just a fine guy,” he added. “The only sad thing about it is that the cathedral will lose a good pastor. But the archdiocese gains a great auxiliary bishop.”
Fr. Glenn Powers, currently the director of Pastoral Formation and Dean of Students at Saint Francis de Sales Seminary, entered the seminary along with Bishop Schuerman in 1976. In addition to studying, they also contributed to the school’s newspaper, “The Perspective,” which ran from September 1971 to May 1980. According to Fr. Powers, Bishop Schuerman had a unique faith “perspective” of his own – one that he continues to share with others.
“At the seminary, things were very structured,” he said, recalling his time there. “It was a basic life of learning and formation at that time. (As a seminarian), you give your life over to those aspects of growth.
“It’s precisely at that moment in time that you kind of get to know the intellectual depth that a person has. For (Bishop Schuerman), it was also beyond intelligence. It was his demeanor of being gentle and kind, forbearing and reflective. I believe that those things ultimately flourished in his life to the point that hebecame a spiritual director here at the seminary later on in his ministry.”
“… a person of God’s own making.”
Attending seminary can bring memories that last forever, according to Fr. Powers.
“The seeds of faith are planted, and I’ve been watching them grow to the extent that they did,” Fr. Powers said, reflecting on Bishop Schuerman’s priestly ministry. “All of a sudden, there is this fruitfulness, at which time it becomes very ripe, this offering, for the Universal Church. It’s wonderful to behold.”
“The priesthood that he has been offered, and now the fullness, of course, that he has been offered now of becoming a bishop, is that he will continue with that perspective of seeing things from their height, and width, and depth, and all from a position or viewpoint that is his own. He is a person of God’s own making,” he added.
Fr. Chuck Hanel, pastor of Queen of Apostles Parish, Pewaukee, attended the seminary from 1979 – 1983 and was friends with both bishops.
“(Back in the seminary), Jim (Bishop Schuerman) and I went up north to northern Wisconsin to spend a couple days at a cabin, and I remember on the way up, my old heap lost its exhaust system,” he laughingly recalled. “I was flat under the car with wire, trying to fix it back up again.” Although Fr. Hanel still remembers the embarrassment he felt at the inconvenience his car situation had caused them, he also recalls how gracious Bishop Schuerman had responded.
“He was obviously very patient and very kind about the whole thing,” he said. “Jim has always been a gentleman, in every sense of the word. Very intelligent, too,” he said. “He was and still is a deep thinker and very kind man, which I think is going to serve him well as a bishop.”
Bishops possess a gentle, healing presence
Even though Bishop Schuerman comes from modest dwellings, it has never stopped him from doing what God called him to do, according to Fr. Hanel.
“He comes from a farm, so he’s someone who grew up close to the land,” Fr. Hanel explained. “To have the courage to go to Europe, to leave home and study abroad, to go to the Dominican Republic as a missionary, he is a man of the hurch in that he’s done all of these things. Whatever he feels he’s called to do, he just does it. He drops his own agenda and does whatever is needed by the Church, including being called to being a bishop. I think he will bring a kindness, a gentleness and a healing presence to the archdiocese.”
Fr. Hanel echoes similar thoughts when it comes to his relationship with Bishop Haines and what he hopes his former classmate will bring to Catholics in southeastern Wisconsin as an auxiliary bishop.
“In a sense, they are very similar in that they are understated,” he said. “They are king and gentle folks; they are not the ones to step out into the limelight.”
Fr. Hanel has also been continually impressed by the pastoral nature of Bishop Haines.
“In his past parish work, he has been an advocate for the poor and an advocate for justice,” he said. “He’s typically held a quiet, behind-the-scenes presence, but also very much supportive.”
Fr. Steven Avella, currently a full-time faculty member at Marquette University, was a professor of Church history at Saint Francis de Sales when Bishop Haines was a student. One thing that really impressed Fr. Avella was Bishop Haines’ ability to write.
“I had many good students there while teaching at Saint Francis de Sales Seminary, but there were two who stood out as exceptionally brilliant. One was Donald Hying, and the other was Jeff Haines,” he recalled. “Jeff was an exceptional student. Jeff was quiet and reserved, but he wrote very, very clearly, and very, very lucidly. I didn’t know until a little while later that he had actually done some work in journalism before coming to the seminary. Occasionally, he wrote things that made circulation.”
A column written by Bishop Haines for the Milwaukee Catholic Herald in January 1990 is one that Fr. Avella continues to reflect on and share with others.
“There was an article he wrote in the Catholic Herald where he talked about observing a man in his first parish, lighting vigil lights,” he recalled. “He went to talk to the man and he said, ‘Tell me what you’re praying for.’ And so the guy pointed out to each vigil light, ‘This is for my wife. This is for the daughter who I lost.’ The linkage of that beautiful little Catholic custom, these lights, represented something given from the heart of a simple man to God. It was just something that Jeff managed to get his arms around and articulate.
“Many of us see very beautiful things in the course of our ministry. We are so lucky, as priests, to see these things. So many wonderful, beautiful people. Someone like Jeff, because of his intelligence and because of his depth, can go in and look at the ordinary experiences of Catholics, and help them make sense of their lives, and help others understand what God is doing around them,” he added.
Leadership, skills, patience
“Even as a young man, he was a person of depth,” explained Fr. Avella. “Not ostentatious, not showy, but when he spoke, people listened. When he said things, people’s ears perked up. When I read his written work, I thought to myself, ‘This guy gets it.’
“Even then, there was a depth and perceptiveness that makes me very happy to hear that he’s going to be a bishop,” said Fr. Avella. “I always hoped he would become a bishop, because his leadership, his skills, his patience, his ability to hang in there and work with things. The fact that he was utterly unpretentious – that he’s not a careerist or a climber. He was just somebody whose bread and butter was to serve God’s people.”
“In our line of work, we have leaders. But not all leaders have the charism of leadership,” Fr. Avella added. “This guy is a natural. I had this admiration for him as a student, and it has persisted all these years.”