During the closing Mass for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee’s year-long 175th anniversary celebration on Sunday, Nov. 24, at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist, Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki noted the passage of time

It was appropriate, considering the archdiocese spent the past 12 months putting a spotlight on the passage of time since it was founded in November 1843.

“It is our moment,” he said. “It is our challenge. It is our blessing.”

He asked the assembled faithful at the Cathedral what society would say about this moment in the years to come, how history would judge this moment.

“Hopefully, they will say, ‘See how they loved God and how they loved one another,’” Archbishop Listecki said, echoing one of the main themes of his almost 10 years guiding the flock in southeastern Wisconsin.

In addition to unofficially closing the book on the anniversary celebration (the official closing was the ringing of the bells scheduled for Thanksgiving morning), the Mass also served as the introduction and induction of the 32 members of the new Archdiocesan Order of Catechists.

The archbishop asked the new members of the order to make several promises before the witnesses in attendance, including, “… commit yourself to prayer, community and service with the Order of Catechists.”

During the oath of fidelity, which was administered by Archdiocese Chancellor Barbara Anne Cusack, the new members of the order, promised, among several items, “In fulfilling the charge entrusted to me in the name of the Church, I shall hold fast to the deposit of faith in its entirety; I shall faithfully hand it on and explain it, and I shall avoid any teachings contrary to it.”

The Mass was held on the Feast of the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, commonly shortened to Christ the King.

The Gospel reading, Luke 23:35-43, shows Jesus on the cross, being mocked and suffering. Archbishop Listecki noted the contrast with how the world perceives a king  with how Jesus perceives himself.

“He chooses to embrace a cross to fulfill the will of God … and free us from sin,” Archbishop Listecki said.

One hundred seventy five years ago, Wisconsin was a remote outpost on the western edges of the frontier for settlers, but the truth of the people who would soon establish schools, hospitals, charities and parishes is the same truth we face today.

“Why did our predecessors come to this territory?” Archbishop Listecki asked. “Why did they establish schools, hospitals, charities and parishes? Why did they struggle against religious bigotry and persecution? Why did they struggle against economic oppression and social upheavals? The simple answer is to proclaim Jesus and to follow his mandate to preach, teach and baptize in the name of the father, of the son and the Holy Spirit. Our ancestors knew that Jesus and his Church offered, not only to Catholics but to all, a clear direction for living responsibly in the world and the world to come.”

During his comments, Archbishop Listecki consistently returned to his theme for the event: that we face a challenge as followers of Christ and as much as times change and the years keep coming and coming, the truth remains the same.

“It is our time to affirm our allegiance to Jesus, and our pledge to continue his mission,” Archbishop Listecki said. “The world has often attacked the Church. Those attacks have come from outside within. The source of the attacks hasn’t changed in 2,000 years. The challenge that faces us today is much more subtle. It’s not the direct attacks, but the indifference. At this moment, we accept the challenge and are confident he has given us the answer: his son Jesus Christ, who has made peace by the blood of the cross. There have been challenges in the past, but in this 175th year, we accept our challenge: To live our faith according to the Gospel, to seek the forgiveness of sins.”

The Mass was a much more subdued affair than the one that opened the celebration through southeastern Wisconsin’s Church, but it is not closing the book on the archdiocese’s history; rather, it is a bold step into a new chapter in our history.

“In this 175th year, we declare that God loves us,” Archbishop Listecki said.