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 The archbishop recently sat down to talk with myFaith Staff Reporter Ricardo Torres, who shares his responses, edited by myFaith Staff, below.

1. Why did you feel that you needed to appoint someone, Fr. Tim Kitzke in this case, to be vicar general for urban ministry and what do you hope this ministry accomplishes?

Fr. Tim Kitzke has served as vicar general for urban ministry since July 1, 2015. (Catholic Herald photo by Allen Fredrickson) The first thing, even in reflecting on it, we know there are significant problems with the urban areas. Our parishes are situated there. Our parishes often reflect the ethnic foundations that have long since gone to the suburbs. The economic situation of those urban areas are another understanding. At the same time, we were looking to do a Catholic schools initiative called the Seton Catholic Schools which would look at the education in the urban areas and bring it under some kind of governance. We had to do something that would balance and help create an environment outside of the school for these individuals if we were truly serious about reaching out and helping them. The ability to raise the consciousness and focus on the problem is a wonderful aspect that’s given to the church. People listen to the church.

You need someone who has the energy and the relational connection to the city to be able to be a spokesperson, not only to direct attention to the problems but also to create the relationships necessary to help ease the tension to problems. No brainer, the guy in the city that’s most known is Fr. Tim Kitzke. He’s well liked. He has tremendous energy.

He has an ability to reach out. He evokes confidence in people who work with him. He has a heart for the city and you need that. You don’t need somebody who’s going to sit in a chair in the office and say ‘yup, we have problems in the city.’ He lives in the city.

I appointed him with gravitas. The urban problems are often addressed by parishes and individuals outside the Milwaukee area. They come down to the soup kitchens. Well Fr. Tim now has authority as vicar general to relate not only to the area he’s assigned but to be able to take that and relate it to everyone else. I need someone who has a vision to understand that what’s done here in Milwaukee might also be done in other urban areas that we have: Kenosha, Racine, Fond du Lac to a lesser extent. But you have urban areas in Sheboygan. Some of the problems that we’re addressing here might be able to be addressed in some of those other areas and we’ll learn as we continue to go on.

So what do you hope this ministry accomplishes?

I’m not an idealist. I don’t think that just because Fr. Tim Kitzke has been named vicar general suddenly the church has said that all urban problems will be whipped away and we’ll go on to the next one. It’s foolish and idealistic at best. But what I do hope is that this will move the needle toward a more positive direction. I hope people become more aware of the “environment of violence” that the people in our communities have to face and address the questions of poverty.

One of the things that’s expected by a religious leader is that everything is grounded in a spirit that’s guided by prayer. I can already see Fr. Tim doing it. He’s had a Mass for peace; he’s had a Mass for first responders. When you do those things, people now make the connection that those problems are not just social problems that we can brush aside, those are problems that affect people of faith because as people of faith we’re called to reach out to brothers and sisters in need. There’s a need there.

2. MLB spring training is just around the corner and as a lifelong, diehard Chicago White Sox fan, did you find yourself rooting for the Chicago Cubs against the New York Mets in the playoffs?

No, no, the easiest answer to that question is no, of course not. I rooted for the Mets. Most people outside of the Chicagoland area would not understand that. Lifelong Southsiders, Northsiders would totally understand that.

My favorite team is the Chicago White Sox and my second favorite team is whomever is playing the Cubs on a given day. Any Southsider, and true diehard White Sox fan would feel that way. Any Cubs fan would pretty much feel the same way. But Southsiders would never presume to speak for Cubs fans at all. I did feel sympathetic to them when they lost four straight against the Mets. To those of my friends in Chicago who are Cubs fans I said, “Don’t worry, there’s always next millennium.”

3. What are your top five restaurants to go to during Lent when you can’t have meat on Fridays?

I probably eat as little as I can on Fridays during Lent. I’m not a big fish fan. The Red Circle Inn located in Nashotah is the oldest restaurant in Wisconsin. It’s a little more pricey. The Harbor House in Milwaukee, they do a lobster potpie which is really, really wonderful.

The next one would be the Packing House, which would be midrange price-wise. The Packing House has a huge drive-through fish fry during Lent. You’ll have cars on the street waiting for their fish fries. The Polonez Restaurant that was an Archbishop Tim Dolan favorite. They have wonderful potato pancakes. Kegel’s Inn has a good fish fry. And of course, my throwback, Red Lobster.

4. If you could write a letter to your 20-year-old self, what would you say?

Dear Jerome,

God has a plan for all of us. And because of that relax. Enjoy the experiences that are presented to you. Study. Enjoy interacting with your friends; they have something to contribute to you. Develop a prayer life and make it part of your discipline every day.

Appreciate your family and friends. Your moments of encounter are only given for a short period of time. But in all of your life you will never meet individuals who are more dedicated to you than those who love you.
Be a person of gratitude. Don’t ever take for granted the things presented to you, given to you, afforded to you are done arbitrarily but rather through the grace of God and the benevolence of people who provided for you, like teachers, family and friends.

Future Jerome

5. Is it wrong to turn down an offer to be more involved in the church, extraordinary minister of the Eucharist, lector, etc., if I don’t feel ready?

The simple answer is no, it isn’t. But a person should feel honored that they’re being asked because they see something in their witness to the faith, their embodiment. However when you assume a responsibility you’ve got to hold yourself accountable to that.

You can’t just say ‘yeah I’d like to be a lector and go up and read,’ but being put on the schedule and ‘I can’t show up for this … I can’t show up for that.’ Basically it has to be a priority in your life. So that’s why I would say in discernment you say you don’t want to participate, it’s not that you’re causing an affront to the church or to the community it’s really because you’re ready to assume an accountability that goes along with that. And when I say no, no. If you decide that’s not a ministry you don’t want to be involved in and you don’t want to do, the key factor is you’re in church every Sunday. You do whatever you can to support your parish community. The ministerial roles come from someone seeing you as a good witness and so often there’s an outreach, an invitation to participate in a ministry. There’s no obligation. There is an obligation to attend Mass every Sunday.