A familiar face has rejoined the staff of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee.

Lydia LoCoco, who spearheaded the Nazareth Project more than a decade ago, was appointed as the first director of community relations for the archdiocese by Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki. She began her new role on July 8.

“We want to be a neighbor and a partner to every one of the communities in the archdiocese,” LoCoco said. This role is another outreach to “build and renew a vibrant Catholic culture in Milwaukee and in the ten counties of our archdiocese.”

“How can we be a good neighbor? How can we collaborate with you? We want to reach out and work within and with our communities.”

Archbishop Listecki said, “I believe we can increase the Church’s presence in our community by building stronger relationships with government and civic community leaders, institutions, businesses and organizations. The Catholic Church has an important and rightful role as a leader in the community — both in metro Milwaukee and other areas of our archdiocese.”

LoCoco’s newly created position will be responsible for creating and maintaining those positive relationships, acting as a liaison to the inter-faith and ecumenical groups, representing the archdiocese in civic community settings, and developing a sphere of influence that positively reflects the Church’s mission and ministry.

Essentially, her role is “chief friend-maker,” she said, as it focuses on pursuing the archdiocese’s goal of being a positive influence and a good neighbor.

“We are anchors in those communities and I want to say to those in business, ‘You have a vested interest in having us stay, and we have a vested interest in reaching out and being partners with you.’”

What might this vested interest derive from? A shared mission.

“We all want to see Milwaukee grow and thrive, and we want to see good schools, clean water and happy people,” she said. “Our shared mission is to those who are in need of housing, food, shelter and simple caring.”

In addition to fostering relationships with leaders and organizations, “I want to tell them ‘thank you,’” because “we are all in the same game.”

With 13 years of service in the archdiocese and a Doctor of Ministry degree from the University of St. Mary of the Lake at Mundelein Seminary in the Archdiocese of Chicago, LoCoco is primed to rebuild the positive presence of the archdiocese as a female leader in the Church.

“I think it is important to have a female face,” she said, because it demonstrates the fullness of the faith to the secular world.

The Church values the gift of the feminine genius, and priests and bishops are significant representatives of the faith, but not the only face. Female leadership empowers and strengthens the outreach of the archdiocese and its service to this community.

This is a great time to be Catholic and engage our culture, she said. Milwaukee is an “immigrant city, built by faith … but the Holy Spirit is not done with us yet.”

“We are in a great place to ignite the city.”