Many of us are creatures of habit and our sphere of influence usually doesn’t extend beyond our immediate territory. We know who the Catholic pastor of our parish is. However many probably wouldn’t know the Catholic pastor of the parish in the next neighborhood or town.
It’s true also for bishops. Who is the archbishop of Milwaukee? I hope for many it’s like asking who’s buried in Grant’s Tomb. But I have been introduced as Archbishop Timothy Dolan a few times. As I said, we are all creatures of habit.
We are blessed to have wonderful bishops in the State of Wisconsin. The area is called the province and, as archbishop, I am what is referred to as the metropolitan. It is my responsibility to call together the bishops of the province so that we can, from time to time, confer on matters which may be of importance to all of the Catholics in Wisconsin.
The five dioceses of Wisconsin are Green Bay, La Crosse, Madison and Superior with Milwaukee being the archdiocese. It is my privilege to work in collaboration with the four bishops who head the various dioceses of Wisconsin. They are Bishop David L. Ricken of Green Bay, assisted by Auxiliary Bishop Robert F. Morneau and Bishop emeritus Robert J. Banks; Bishop William P. Callahan of La Crosse; Bishop Robert C. Morlino of Madison; Bishop Peter F. Christensen of Superior and I am ably assisted by Auxiliary Bishop Donald J. Hying and Auxiliary Bishop emeritus Richard J. Sklba.
We recently met as the Wisconsin Catholic Conference. John Huebscher is the executive director of the WCC, assisted by Kim Wadas and Barbara Sella. They maintain our oversight in relationship to the State Legislature. Bills are proposed and laws passed that affect the Catholics of the state. The WCC assists the bishops in understanding the impact of legislation and any potential direction of the legislators that may influence the Catholic Church and its teachings.
Can you imagine the areas of state governance, i.e., the schools, hospitals, budgets, that affect social welfare and issues which impact on the functioning of the churches throughout the state? Just recently we needed to address the issue of concealed carry. The legislators, in enacting the law on concealed, carry exempted schools and other institutions but failed to exempt churches, synagogues and mosques. Perhaps this offers to all of us an opportunity to teach the importance of sacred spaces in our society and the necessity to create areas where even potential violence is to be discouraged.
Contrary to popular belief, we, as bishops, seldom have a chance to visit and discuss the events and programs of our dioceses. I enjoy the company of the bishops of our province and consider them friends.
The Beatles gave us many memorable songs, but one that I like in particular is “I Get by With a Little Help from My Friends.” It is certainly true but in the case of the bishops of Wisconsin, it’s more than “a little.” Their insights help me to understand the problems facing us as the Catholic church of Wisconsin and to celebrate the great works being accomplished by so many priests, religious, deacons and lay faithful.
As the archbishop of the province I took upon myself the task of visiting each of the dioceses of our province, to meet their staff, to thank them for their work on behalf of the church and to the offer the sacrifice of the Mass with their bishop for the sake of their diocese. I believe that our being together is a sign of unity that is symbolized in the pallium that I wear as the archbishop of Milwaukee.
So far I have visited the dioceses of Green Bay and Superior. They were delightful visits, allowing me to associate faces with names and to hear of their hopes and dreams for the Catholic Church in Wisconsin as we move toward the future.
There is another visit that the bishops of the province must make together. Feb. 9-16, 2012, has been assigned by Pope Benedict XVI as the “ad limina” (to the entrance) for Region VII, which is the region that the province of Wisconsin is a part along with Illinois and Indiana. An “ad limina” is a pilgrimage to the tomb of the Apostles Peter and Paul. In canon law it is required that every bishop render an account to the pope of the condition of his diocese and this is expected every three to 10 years. The last “ad limina” visit for the bishops of our region was in May 2004. It was my first, and at that time I was an auxiliary bishop in Chicago under Cardinal Francis George.
Since it is a pilgrimage, we had the ability to bring a number of lay faithful who visited the various beautiful basilicas and churches of Rome, offer our prayers for the good of family, friends and the diocese and enjoy the wonderful food of Italy. There is time to visit with some of the bishops in an informal setting.
If your schedule permits, consider joining us in our journey to the tombs of SS. Peter and Paul. I know that it will be a memorable time. There is plenty of work in preparation for the “ad limina” but the task is made easier by the anticipation that we’ll be in Rome with some good friends.