‘Because they asked me’

In 1962, Archbishop William E. Cousins invited then-Fr. Sklba, serving as an associate pastor at St. Mary, Elm Grove, to meet with him.

“‘We’d like to send you away for more graduate study,’” Bishop Sklba recalled the archbishop telling him. The priest thought it would be for the study of canon law as the archdiocesan tribunal wanted another canon lawyer.

“He and I talked a little bit, and I made the mistake of saying, ‘Archbishop, what do you need?’ And he said, ‘I need Scripture. I really need Scripture.’”

Fr. Sklba told the archbishop that given the need to know various languages, he would be “afraid of that,” but they continued to talk.

“Here’s what he said: ‘If you are willing to give it a try, I would be grateful. Try it for a year. If you are not happy, let me know, because if you are not happy, you will not do good work,’” Bishop Sklba said, adding that was “a marvelous piece of wisdom” that he shares with many people.

“Scripture was the last thing on my screen. How did I get into it? Because he asked,” the bishop said. “And I learned rather quickly that it fit, like walking into a clothing store and putting on a suit coat and saying, ‘This fits.’”

‘Honey Bear’ teaches love for Scripture
In 1965, with completion of nine years of study, including the Gregorian University Pontifical Biblical Institute and the University of St. Thomas Aquinas, both in Rome, Fr. Sklba returned to Milwaukee and became a professor in Old Testament theology at Saint Francis Major Seminary. He said that there were professors who might have been more demanding than he was, but he didn’t see himself as a “pushover.”

“They tell me this story from my first month in 1965. When I came in they gave me the name, unbeknownst to me, of ‘Honey Bear.’ Then I gave my first exam and they changed it to ‘Grizzly Bear,’” he recalled while laughing.

Whether he was teaching at the seminary or at Sacred Heart School of Theology, he put the following at the top of his course syllabus: “The purpose of this course is to provide the necessary background to understand the Scriptures and to come to love them.” …

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