Three times each year, 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 Staff reporter Tracy Rusch, who shares his responses, edited by myFaith Staff, below.
1. Who is a hero in your life?
If everybody realizes I have a number of priests, men and women religious, bishops, popes who are heroes, if we could push that off to the side, then I can talk about a few others:
M. Cherif Bassiouni, Emeritus Professor of Law, DePaul University College of Law, Chicago
He was my criminal law professor as well as my international law professor and Cherif was instrumental in the collaboration for the constitution of the International Criminal Court of Justice, part of United Nations. He was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.
He was a man who always had clear vision, always respected the law and always presented himself in a manner to all of the students with a level of reasonability and so it was always a joy to go into his class because you were treated with the respect that sometimes other teacher-student relationships were not always given.
Minnie Oresta Minoso, a White Sox ball player who was one of the first people of color to enter into Major League Baseball. Not only was he extremely talented, but he had a joy about the sport that was just contagious. He’s one of the few ballplayers to ever play in five decades of the sport.
When I was receiving my first holy Communion, I asked for one gift. It was an autographed baseball of my favorite player, Minnie Minoso, and my Uncle (Sylvester) who was a police officer and my sponsor at confirmation, had friends who worked “the dugout” and they got me a ball signed by Minnie, which was really cool.
Dick Butkus, middle linebacker, Chicago Bears, 1965-1973
He was a person who was raised in the community right next to mine on the south side of Chicago. I would occasionally see him at Russell Square Park, when he was in high school playing, as he became a legend in the NFL. The wonderful thing about Butkus is his talent was so superior that it modeled the intensity of professional football, but at the same time, he never pounded his chest to talk about how great he was.
In high school, I had a number of really wonderful teachers, but one who made an impact on me was a person by the name of Harold Hild.
He had a special creative writing class in the minor seminary that only a number of individuals got an invitation to be a part of; I was fortunate enough to be a part of that class, and he introduced us to an appreciation of literature and the development of our own ability to write creatively that I’m forever grateful to.
He was a wonderful teacher who inspired a love for his subject.
Abraham Maslow, a famous psychologist, had a theory called self actualization and he had a whole list of criteria of people he believed to be self actualized, and there were some that posited that this is a rarity.
Well, I really challenge that because I met a lot of self actualized people, individuals who because of the integration of faith into their lives have lived this life with a larger vision than just what they can get out of it and that includes my family, my friends, individuals who have been my students, my teachers, and they become my heroes for what they contribute to me in giving me the enthusiasm that I have about life and about my faith.
2. What’s a memorable moment you shared with Pope Benedict XVI?
When we had the ad limina, being the archbishop of the metropolitan (in the Wisconsin Province), I have the lead in terms of addressing the pope. I’m sitting here and the pope is sitting there (across from him).
He was very gracious and greeted every one of us and when I came in they said, ‘This is Archbishop Listecki from Milwaukee, your holiness.’ And he looked at me and he says, ‘Oh, Milwaukee,’ he says, ‘Marquette, huh?’ and the pope had visted Marquette, so it was immediately a connection for him about his time.
He was a scholar so he was invited to give an address there and he remembered that time. So, there was a real sense of I know where you live, from the pope. It put a smile on both of our faces as it did to the other bishops in the room.
3. What is your favorite vacation spot?
The couch, watching videos. It’s my sister’s home, I have this big, double easy chair, you know you can lean back – it’s like a reclining couch, so I enjoy throwing a video that I haven’t seen onto the screen because I love movies. A lot of people have said do you like to go to the beach, or do you like to go to the mountains, or do you like to go to the forest? I quickly say, “I like to go to the couch.”
4. Do you have a nickname?
My family always referred to me as Jerome, so it’s always Jerome, which is strange for a lot of people because as I continued on in college and later, was ordained as a priest, it was always Jerry, Fr. Jerry.
The closest thing to a nickname that I had was divulged when I was in the theologate with three of my classmates.
When we had the orders of ministry, my mother came a little bit early and after the ceremony we had a party in the corridor. My mother was preparing for the celebration after the institution of one of the ministries and I was walking with three of my classmates down the corridor and my mother needed something from me so she came out of my room and shouted down the corridor, “Jeromeee,” (e added for emphasis) and my classmates looked at each other and mouthed the word, “Jeromeee.”
That was my mother’s kind of affectionate name for me. Now my extremely closest friends, especially those in the priesthood who kind of know that they’ll sometimes call me up and say, “Hey Jeromeee, how are things going?” in order to emphasize that.
5. Did you ever have a serious girlfriend?
No, I didn’t. I was kind of an S.R.O. (strict rule observer), so I was in the seminary when I was 14 and so as a result you didn’t have a “serious” relationship, but I’ve been blessed in my life with a tremendous amount of close women friends that I’ve had since the time I was in high school right through college, in the theologate, early on in my priesthood.
Women, girls, were not always appreciated for the gifts or the talents that they had and I made it my task personally to make sure that I tried to highlight that. A lot of times they were more intelligent than their male counterparts in high school and I would oftentimes see them downplay their intelligence or their talents.
Maybe it’s part of the maternal instinct to bolster the guys or maybe the male egos, and I wouldn’t allow them to do that because it was hiding a light under a bushel basket. As a result, I would be engaged in a lot of things that they were trying to accomplish or do in terms of creating things for charity or things for the grammar schools or their outreach, but because of that, I have been fortunate to develop a lot of very close friendships with women.