Three times each year, Catholic Herald myFaith reporters have a chance to speak with Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki about anything young adults want to know – send a question to be asked anonymously in the next issue to firstname.lastname@example.org. The archbishop recently sat down to talk with myFaith reporters Ricardo Torres and Tracy Rusch, who share his responses, edited by myFaith Staff, below.
1. What is on your reading or listening list?
I’m just finishing, “The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics,” by Daniel James Brown about the gold medal rowing team during the Olympics in Nazi Germany. It’s about the American team from Seattle and their struggles, a book that has a spirit of unbroken in it.
Often during the summer, I take a look at what might be hot and then I usually grab ahold of it, or, I sometimes will take a look at a book that I’ve already read before.
Last year I finished “1984” and it brought kind of a smile to my face just to see the things that they were worried about, some of the things that are happening today.
I would say what’s on my reading list will be whatever new Dean Koontz book is available, because he’s a favorite of mine. Michael Connelly is another favorite. I’m immediately drawn to their style of presentation and really like both of them.
I just finished Stephen King’s latest, “Mr. Mercedes,” and if you’re faint of heart, you don’t want to read that one, because it’s really brutal to begin with.
There’s one, “Odd Apocalypse,” part of a series of books by Koontz on Brother Odd, a character that’s able to see those who have died, but nobody else can. I just got an autographed book by Dean Koontz in the Odd series, which was kind of neat.
2. Are you looking forward to anything this summer?
With my new knee, I’m looking forward to playing golf a little bit again. I’ve been on a hiatus. When I’ve golfed, now and in the past (I had) to make sure one of the foursome is a younger guy who liked to bend over and pick up the ball out of the cup because the knee was bad so it was very painful bending over. But now with the new knee – and it’s getting better and better – I’ll probably be out on the links three or four times rather than just trying to get through once.
Which courses do you like?
I’ve done Brown Deer. I’ve done the Wisconsin Club course. I’ve done the Geneva National, the Geneva Springs. I try to make it every year to the priests’ golf outing, so whatever course they’re on. I’m not a good golfer, but I’m a golfer in that I like the game.
But I tell people if you’re golfing with me, it’s celebrity golf, so I’m not one that’s a stickler at saying, “You see that leaf brushed against the ball, so there’s a penalty stroke!” No, no, no. That’s not me. Or the ball goes into a divot, no you can’t take it out – you take it out of the divot.
I’m not such a stickler for the rules. We’re out there to have fun and socialize and to enjoy. That’s the nice thing about golf — the natural beauty that’s a part of the game.
3. What’s your guilty pleasure during the summer?
I’ll hit Leon’s custard several times during the summer. I’m a lover of ice cream, of custard, gelato. So, I will hit Leon’s a number of times; if that’s a guilty pleasure, then bring it on.
Any special flavor?
Butter pecan. You can’t get any better than butter pecan if you’re really going to taste true custard. That’s the real mark. The other thing is I introduce a number of my friends who come up as guests from either out of town or from Chicago and that’s one of the places I will take them immediately; I will take them to Leon’s for custard and let me say this, I’ve never had anyone who was disappointed. (He also encouraged us to try the turtle sundae.)
4. When we hear discussions about 29-year-old Brittany Maynard, who chose to end her life of suffering with terminal brain cancer using Oregon’s Death With Dignity law, some people say, “Why can’t people make their own choice, especially if they know they’re dying, going to suffer immensely and are losing their quality of life?” What’s your response to that?
There are a lot of conditions you put on that already. What if? What if? What if? Life is a series of what ifs and our responsibility is to live them out.
When someone is confronted with a serious disease, in the minds of many people the best thing to do is just to end the life, period. Just end it.
Well, that’s saying that nothing can be learned yet, there’s nothing that can be witnessed, that there’s no value to life.
What seems to be an easy solution to a painful problem becomes one that denies the value of the life to those people that surround it, to the rest of the community.
Take a look at someone like Fr. Ben Reese. You know many people say ALS, terrible disease, but you just named him as an inspirational story (Catholic Herald’s 2014 Most Inspirational People). Why? Because of his struggle, because of the fact that he, instead of fighting, he embraces his disease in a way that gives a tremendous amount of hope to other people that says my life is worthy even maybe when sometimes in our society we say it’s worthless.
For me as a moralist, I understand that life itself is a gift entrusted to us. We’re stewards of our life; we’re not the masters of our life. And there’s a little distinction: when you say you’re a master it’s, “I generate my life, I decide what I want to do. This is mine.”
When you’re a person of faith and you understand that life is a gift, then you’re a steward and your responsibility is to take care of that life in any way, shape or form that it comes and to understand that God is using you as an instrument to be able to witness that life to others.
What would you say to someone in Maynard’s situation, who is thinking about going her route?
First thing I would say is talk to somebody, because in one sense it becomes a solution for you.
The person might be depressed, and certainly you or I or anyone, we don’t want to make a decision when we’re depressed or we’re in that situation.
So, take what they’re feeling and engage in a discussion with individuals who can help them and offer them another perspective, can offer them a sense of what their life might mean in this particular situation, not only to them, to their family that surrounds them, to a community, maybe to the society as a whole.
The direct taking of one’s life is saying, “I’m in charge, God’s not.” Now, that’s far different than refusing to take life-prolonging drugs or those type of things; that’s different because in that sense what is present there is an acceptance of a person’s situation, saying, “I’m accepting what God has in store for me, but I’m not doing anything directly to end my life. I’m not taking the control away from God and putting it into my hands.”
Individuals have to understand that they’re responsible, not only to themselves but to others that surround them.
I would have that person talk to someone, a priest or a minister, a rabbi, a psychologist to make sure that what they’re doing and how they’re thinking is not something based upon an extremely limited view.
5. Compare Illinois and Wisconsin driving.
Wisconsin people, in general, think Illinois drivers are crazy. It almost seems that when you cross over the state line, although there are speeds posted of 55, if you’re going 70, there are cars that are going past you.
From the perspective of an Illinois driver to Wisconsin drivers, they kind of feel that if you have an Illinois license plate, you’re a tax revenue for the State of Wisconsin. People think that when Illinois drivers come into Wisconsin that they’re quickly targeted for any kind of violations.
I’m saying that when an Illinois driver comes into Wisconsin, an Illinois driver will have a tendency, because he has a tendency to be more aggressive, to be targeted as more aggressive.
Does your driving style change when you hit the state line?
It does. Fr. Jim Lobacz will oftentimes say, if we’re going into Chicago, “You drive, you’re a Chicago driver. You know how to handle the city and you know how to handle the driving.”
There is a kind of sense where you are more aggressive as a Chicago driver than you would be, but when you take a look at it, that comes from coming into a highly intense urban area and so you make decisions much more quickly and when you’re in that vehicle you kind of do things that, let’s put it this way, give you an advantage when you’re looking at four lanes of cars bumper to bumper for miles.