ARCHBISHOP JEROME E. LISTECKI
On May 4, a cool Saturday morning, I entered a boat skippered by the Sea Scouts at the waters surrounding Discovery World, to make my way up Lake Michigan then down the river, tracing the footprints of my predecessor Bishop John Martin Henni, as he arrived in Milwaukee to take charge of his new assignment as Bishop of the Wisconsin Territories (all of Wisconsin, the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and portions of Minnesota).
My journey was a Sunday stroll in comparison to my predecessor’s. I began my journey by getting into a car and driving 15 minutes to the boat dock. However, John Martin Henni, who served as a parish priest in the diocese of Cincinnati, began his journey to Milwaukee on April 19, 1844, via stagecoach; then five days later on April 24 he made it to Cleveland. He continued to Detroit, and from Detroit he took the steamer Madison (ironically that would be the name of Wisconsin’s Capitol when Wisconsin would become a state four years later in 1848). One hundred and seventy five years ago when Bishop Henni got off the boat, he immediately walked to St. Peter for Mass.
When I arrived at the pier next to Pere Marquette Park, I was greeted by Dr. Michael Lovell, the first lay president of Marquette University, the gospel choir of Marquette University and a number of priests, religious and lay parish leaders. I was wearing the house cassock (black cassock trimmed in red) with a throwback black hat that resembles the hats worn by the Amish, stylish for the 1800s.
It was fitting that Dr. Lovell represented Marquette University, because it was a vision of Bishop Henni that quality Catholic education would be offered to this new Catholic community.
Bishop Henni would enter into an agreement with the Jesuits in order to provide quality Catholic education, which would later lead to the first Catholic college. Other religious communities of women and men would join Henni in building schools, hospitals, orphanages, parish communities and providing welfare for those in need. I publicly thanked Dr. Lovell for Marquette’s commitment to provide Catholic education, and expressed my hope that Marquette would partner with me in addressing various Catholic issues that affected our community.
I reminded the community that was present in Pere Marquette Park that “faith” is the soul of the city. The desire of people to profess and celebrate their faith, and the willingness of the Catholic community to sacrifice in order for the Church to grow, is the principle which makes our community great. It’s following the gospel mandate of Jesus to love one another.
In a similar manner to that of Bishop Henni, we also began our procession to the Cathedral of Saint John the Evangelist for the celebration of the Eucharist. Bishop Henni knew the future of this new diocese was tied to a trust and confidence in God. In the procession, many people proudly carried banners representing their parishes or organizations. During Bishop Henni’s time, there was no cathedral. But there was a dream for the future.
Bishops Haines and Sklba and other priests celebrated a liturgy, whose intention was offered for the participants in this 175 Alive day. At the homily, I wanted to hold out for the congregation the image of “family.” The Church throughout its existence has been like a family, recognizing the precious and sacred moments in the lives of her members (birth, reconciliation, weddings, professions, illnesses, death, etc.). The Church, through the administration of the sacraments, helped to form the spiritual life of her faithful. Through Baptism, we are made brothers and sisters through Jesus Christ.
At the end of the liturgy, we moved to Cathedral Square to continue our celebration. It was there that we prayed the prayer composed for the 175th anniversary of the archdiocese. The day had a parish festival feel. The music was provided by the Squeezettes, a polka and popular music band. Hungry individuals visited the food and beverage trucks. The banners were placed on display. I and others were impressed at the creative creation of banners that represented our various communities. A good number of people took the opportunity to participate in guided tours of the Cathedral. Every individual is a member of two parish communities: their personal parish and the cathedral, the mother church of the archdiocese.
Three-on-three basketball games offered competition for those looking to expend their energy. I begged out of the challenge.
After three hours of enjoying the celebration, I made my way to Mother of Good Council parish to address the Siri Lankan community that was offering a Mass for the victims of the terrorist bombing that took the lives of more than 250 people and wounded more than 400. This was a stark reminder of the price of our profession of faith. These individuals were targeted merely because they were Catholic Christians.
There is a term in the Christian social teachings of the Church that reminds us that we are one. It was a favorite term of St. John Paul II called solidarity. This concept was an expansion on the understanding of the encyclical Mysticis Corporis, the Mystical Body of Christ. It has its roots in the teachings of St. Paul, who reminds us that we are the Body of Christ. The massive violence experienced by our Catholic Sri Lankan community was a wound on the Body of Christ. We are the members of Christ’s Body. Therefore, this was an attack on us. There is no justification or rationale for this brutal action. The Sri Lankan Catholic Community chose to reach out in prayer, calling upon God for peace and healing. As shepherd of our archdiocese, I reminded them that our prayers are joined to theirs because they are our brothers and sisters.
Bishop John Martin Henni may not recognize the Archdiocese of Milwaukee today but he would understand and support the Church that celebrates and comforts those who call upon the Lord and profess their trust in Jesus Christ during times of joy and sorrow.