ListeckiHOHI was warned early in my academic career to be careful when writing about apple pie, the American flag or mothers. The subjects are so endearing that anything you might attempt to say with sincerity may come out as trite. Well, fools rush in where angels dare not tread, so here it goes.

Many of us have heard the cries of children in shopping malls, department stores or public parks: “Mommy,” “Ma,” “Mom” or “Mama.” The cries are usually calls for help due to an incidental fall, a threat from an older child or maybe that cry is coming from a child who finds himself or herself lost.

As a young boy growing up in Chicago there was a famous department store, Marshall Field’s. Everyone shopped there. My Aunt Joann, my mother’s younger sister who lived with us, was a supervisor of nine floors at Marshall Field’s. Therefore, all sales at the store were an open invitation to my mother, aunt and sister. I was always dragged along, oftentimes becoming a human coat rack or a mini-watchdog for articles already purchased.

Marshall Field’s had a phenomenal toy section and the store allowed children to try out the toys. I was about 4 years old and it was the Christmas season. The store was jammed and we made our way to the sale section. I drifted over to the toy section and began having a good time playing with the display models. After a while, even little boys get tired of the toys and I looked around and discovered that my mother, aunt and sister were nowhere in my sight. I got that sickening feeling. I was alone. I was lost. So I did the only thing that any smart little boy would do. I started to cry out loud for my mother. “Mama,” I shouted. “Mommy,” I cried as a large group of people started to surround me.

Everyone seemed to encircle me, watching this little boy crying and shouting in the midst of all these adults. It seemed like hours although, in fact, it was but a few seconds. Just then a hand reached through the crowd and grasped my arm and my mother pulled me to herself.


Harry and Alfreda Listecki cuddle newborn Jerome E. Listecki on the day they brought him home from the hospital in March 1949. The archbishop remembers his mother as “a powerful prayer support for every endeavor of family and friends.” (Photo courtesy Penny Listecki)

Actually she had been watching me all the time. Although I left her sight, she always had me in hers.

I have come to appreciate mothers and marvel at their natural protective sense in regard to their children. Many literary figures reflected on the mystery of the mother and child relationship in their works. There is a bond created between mother and child which we males may only view with reverence.

Even the sound of their child’s voice is detected by most mothers, and they can immediately differentiate a cry for help from a cry of injury or a cry of frustration. Of course, there is nothing more consoling than a mother’s voice or her arms around a child in a hug.

The need for a mother is so great that unless we have someone who fills the void – an adopted mother, grandmother, aunt or older sister, we may feel less than complete and, at times, some individuals suffer psychological problems for their entire lives because of that absence.

My mother suffered from a heart condition that curtailed her activities in the later years of her life. Her illness prevented her from helping out her children, relatives and friends like she would have wanted; however, she became a powerful prayer support for every endeavor of family and friends.

There were many times I asked my mother to offer prayers when I was giving a major presentation or facing a critical issue. I lost my mother in March 2002. She died in the arms of my sister. I was thankful to God that she departed this world embraced by her daughter, and when my mother opened her eyes in the afterlife, she was embraced by Mary’s child, her Lord and Savior. There is not a day that goes by that I don’t think about my mother or her impact on my life. I still call upon her to intercede on my behalf before our Lord.

Our Blessed Mother offers to all of us an ability to view ourselves as one family. Popular devotions to Mary, the mother of our Lord, gives us a sense of serenity that only a mother can offer. There have been many times in my life that I found myself calling out to Mary, my mother, and discovered her reaching out to me, her child, and consoling me during times of distress.

Mother’s Day gives us an opportunity to acknowledge the unique relationship we have with our mothers. In addition to the cards, candy and flowers, add a few prayers of gratitude for that special person you call mother. If your mom has passed from this world, take her name before God so that God may extend his love and mercy on her gentle soul.

As an archbishop, I pray this Mother’s Day that Mary the Mother of the church will assist the children of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee in our call to holiness. Pray for us most holy mother of God that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

To all natural or adoptive mothers, and to all those who fill that most needed relationship, Happy Mother’s Day and God bless you!