maryangelaThe morning this publication was to go to the printer, local Catholics awoke to the news that their beloved Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan will be heading east to become archbishop of New York.

Likely many had the reaction of my 9-year-old daughter, Alicia. “They can’t take him,” she said incredulously of the man she’s met a few times at events such as a Catholic Herald tailgate party, a confirmation and a Harley Fest Mass.

And of all places — New York? After all, this is the city that, as John Zablocki, a parishioner at St. Alexander, Milwaukee, pointed out, has recently taken Brett Favre and CC Sabathia from us. And now, Archbishop Dolan.

From a selfish standpoint, Catholics in Wisconsin will miss him. He’s been a vibrant presence in our local church, often popping into parishes, sometimes unannounced. Blessed Sacrament parishioners are still buzzing over his appearance one Friday evening a few years back when he dropped in for a Lenten fish fry and Blessed Sacrament’s famous macaroni and cheese, a menu item added specifically at his request.

His leaving will leave a void in our publication, too, as he’s been a regular contributor to our Catholic Herald Kids’ page, found on page 11 of this month’s issue. Once Archbishop Dolan began writing to kids on a regular basis in our paper, several other bishops across the country followed his lead and the kids’ page, created by Mario Macari, is now syndicated in several other Catholic papers.

While it’s hard to see him go, his new position affords him an even larger stage on which to spread Jesus’ message. Archbishop Dolan’s love for the church, his Catholic faith, his priestly vocation and his passion for Catholic education, among other things, has never been in doubt. His enthusiasm and passion for the church is contagious. As a reporter, it’s been fun to cover him these past seven years, as he has a wonderful way of making people feel good about their faith and their Catholicism.

While he’s a dominant personality, able to work any crowd with the ease of a politician, Archbishop Dolan often connected with people away from the limelight. There are so many stories of his pastoral approach felt through phone calls made to grieving families or families facing illness or bedside visits he made at area hospitals. Recently, he was the catalyst behind an adoption of a baby girl by a Kewaskum Catholic family. Archbishop Dolan put the families in touch and even baptized the infant, Gianna.

This month’s Catholic Herald Parenting features an example of the archbishop’s pastoral outreach. After a visit to Ireland in 2006, Archbishop Dolan was impressed with the Saint Patrick Centre in Downpatrick and since his return to Milwaukee, has supported the establishment of a Friends of St. Patrick organization in Milwaukee. One joint project of the new group and the Irish center is a children’s book on St. Patrick, “The Story of St. Patrick,” featured on Page 6. Read how Archbishop Dolan visited a local Catholic school to read to them from the book and to teach them about the Irish saint and his faith.

The book offers a glimpse into the Irish culture. Throughout his time in Milwaukee Archbishop Dolan, often by example, embraced the various ethnic backgrounds of its people.

That’s the message Annemarie Scobey-Polacheck and Jim Pankratz also encourage in their columns on Pages 4 and 9, respectively. As Scobey-Polacheck writes, beautiful bridges do form across cultures, and teaching our children to cross those bridges will make society a better place.

While in the near future, we’ll have to listen to Archbishop Dolan’s messages of bridge building, faith and love from a distance as he carries out his ministry in the Big Apple, take his leaving as an opportunity to talk with your children about some of the gifts he brought to Milwaukee Catholics during his stay. We were blessed to have had him as our spiritual shepherd and should take the opportunity as Catholic parents to pass along to our children his messages of hope and love and his enthusiasm for Jesus Christ and the Catholic Church.