It’s cold…. I mean really cold! And I am not even a meteorologist but I did stay at a Holiday Inn last night.

One thing that warms my heart in this frigid weather is the reminder that on Jan. 4 in this New Year of 2014, I celebrated the fourth anniversary of my installation as the 11th Archbishop of Milwaukee.

I know it maybe a cliché but, “Where did the time go?” Charles Dickens’ novel, “A Tale of Two Cities,” begins “It was the worst of times, it was the best of times.”

There are many events that have happened to us as an archdiocese in the last four years. Some have furthered our faith and strengthened us as a church; others have challenged us to live more fully the faith we profess recognizing our failures.

After spending a year adjusting to the new surroundings, learning names, getting my bearings in the directions to parishes and integrating the history of the archdiocese, I decided on my first anniversary to declare bankruptcy.

I did this in consultation with various experts after analyzing our position and acknowledging the failure to reach a resolution in our attempted mediation with the plaintiffs’ attorney (Oct. 2010).

This was a serious move, approached with confidence in God and prayer. I needed to rely on the great faith of the people of the archdiocese and build on the commitment made by so many in the past which created the greatness of this archdiocese.

The pastoral letter (January 2013) “Who do you say that I Am” was in a certain sense a reminder of the greatness achieved by the priests, religious sisters, brothers, deacons and lay faithful. Armed only with the Gospel, they built the archdiocese and established its proud history.

I was privileged to receive the pallium (June 2010) from Benedict XVI and then returned to Rome (February 2013) for an ad limina visit, a report to the pope on the state of the archdiocese. Along with other Milwaukee pilgrims, I stayed to attend the consistory at which my predecessor, Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan, was elevated to the College of Cardinals.

In July 2011, I was honored to ordain Bishop Donald J. Hying as our auxiliary. It is truly a unique privilege as a bishop to ordain men to the priesthood and diaconate, but it is a rare occasion to ordain another bishop which means passing on the apostolic succession. I am grateful to the Holy See for choosing such a wonderful auxiliary as Bishop Hying.

So many major gatherings, confirmations, anniversary celebrations, meetings with religious have offered me an opportunity to encounter the living faith and share in the struggles of courageous men and women.

Our evangelization summit which percolated with enthusiasm signaled a new era of outreach. Our youth ministry summit highlighted the collaborative efforts of young men and women dedicated to serving the youth and sharing and preserving the faith.

Our attention to the greater global needs with the work of our missions, especially in our relationship to La Sagrada Familia in the Dominican Republic which I visited in 2012, Catholic Relief Services and parish commitments to serve the poor, are signs of the Gospel being lived.

Those involved with the pro-life movement have recognized our responsibility to the unborn and are willing to witness to a society indifferent to life. I was proud to march in Washington in January 2013 with brothers and sisters in this movement and will offer Masses this year in support of the March.

The dedicated ministers who work in the area of marriage and family life ministries assist couples to understand the need for the transcendent in the love that is shared. I support them in their crusade to strengthen marriage and family life against the cultural attacks they experience in our society.

The plan for an archdiocesan Synod was announced on Pentecost 2013. I am excited about having our people participate in envisioning our future. I look forward to Pentecost 2014 and the combined efforts of our delegates.

It has been four years and I can testify I have witnessed saints in the making in the lay men and women of our archdiocese, our bishops, priests, deacons and religious. I want you to know that you are the reason I fell in love with our church and you are the reason I am so hopeful.

In the last four years, I have grown four years older so I say to you what Robert Browning wrote in his poem, “Rabbi Ben Ezra”:

“Grow old along with me! The best is yet to be, the last of life, for which the first was made. Our times are in His hand who saith, ‘A whole I planned, youth shows but half; trust God: see all, nor be afraid!’”
Thanks for helping me to know Milwaukee as my home.