Shortly after the announcement was made by Pope Benedict XVI on Oct. 24 that Milwaukee native Archbishop James M. Harvey would be elevated to the rank of cardinal, Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki ordered a bouquet of flowers.
The flower arrangement, appropriately decorated with tiny red cardinals, was sent to the soon-to-be cardinal’s mother, Ruth Harvey, a member of St. Margaret Mary Parish, Milwaukee, along with a card reading, “Congratulations on giving birth to a cardinal.”
The honor bestowed on Cardinal Harvey is one for all Milwaukeeans to celebrate, according to Archbishop Listecki, who said he first became aware of Cardinal Harvey in the late 1970s when both were students in Rome, he at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome and Cardinal Harvey at the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy.
“This is a tremendous distinction not only for Archbishop Harvey and for the tremendous work he has done, but it honors the priests of the archdiocese. A native son being elevated to the rank of cardinals, I think, is basically a vote of confidence in the faith of the people of the archdiocese on a lot of different levels,” said Archbishop Listecki in an interview in his office a week before he was to leave for the consistory. “Although it’s a distinction truly given to one person, it’s a reflection of the environment in which he was brought up, his relationship to the priests of the archdiocese. We all share in the honor.”
In sending the flowers to Ruth, Archbishop Listecki said he credits the Harvey family with giving him a sound faith formation.
“Ruth is a real sweetheart and has given a grounding to Archbishop Harvey. Truly the apple does not fall far from the tree,” said Archbishop Listecki. “He is rooted in the love of family and the love they have for Jim is the basis and foundation that allows him to devote himself to the church.”
In the early days, Archbishop Listecki said he knew Cardinal Harvey “more peripherally than personally.” He knew him to be a sensitive individual who was devoted to the matters of the church. He had “tremendous organizational ability and tremendous memory recall,” said the archbishop, explaining he could take a request “almost on the fly. Jim has that innate ability to remember those things and respond to them, which is important in leadership,” he said, adding his love for the church and love for the pope was without question.
Once Archbishop Listecki became a bishop, he got to know Cardinal Harvey better during trips to Rome, and, as archbishop of Milwaukee, he found in Cardinal Harvey a man who was a father-figure to the Milwaukee seminarians in Rome.
“He is always a gracious host and for our seminarians, when they are in Rome, they can talk to him about any number of things. He treated them like a father and that relationship is so appreciated by them,” he said, adding, as their bishop, he also appreciated knowing someone was looking out for them.
According to Archbishop Listecki, Cardinal Harvey would regularly meet with the Milwaukee seminarians, call them often and be a source of fatherly advice.
Since becoming archbishop of Milwaukee, Archbishop Listecki regularly dines with Cardinal Harvey and his mother during Cardinal Harvey’s annual summer trips to Milwaukee.
“He has a love for Milwaukee. He’s never lost his love for the archdiocese and when he comes back in the summer, he attends the seminary golf outing,” said Archbishop Listecki. “Basically, I would say the greatest singular mark of Jim is that he’s never lost his love for the archdiocese, which is why we should rejoice in the selection of a truly native son.”
Cardinal Harvey commands a respect because of his devotion and love for the church, according to Archbishop Listecki.
“Without a doubt, when Jim is present you have a sense he’s a person who loves the church, loves the Holy Father and will do nothing but bring a sense of pride to the priesthood,” said Archbishop Listecki.