Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki celebrated the last of six regional Masses of Thanksgiving on Sunday, June 9, at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist, Milwaukee. (Photos by Greta Taxis)

Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki celebrated his last of six Masses of Thanksgiving for his time serving the Archdiocese of Milwaukee on June 9 at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist. The series of Masses was offered as an expression of gratitude to God for the bond between the archbishop and his flock, the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, as he prepares for retirement.

About 275 people were in attendance for the Mass, and they heard Archbishop Listecki note that of the four ends of prayer — adoration, petition, contrition and thanksgiving — “thanksgiving” is the most underutilized.

“When I first arrived here 14 years ago, we prayed that our Lord would be with us as we were confronted by the challenges presented to us, and in the sacrifice of Jesus, we placed our trust on his altar,” Archbishop Listecki said. “Now, 14 years later, it’s only fitting that we gather together, marking those years we have experienced his blessings and offer our gratitude to God.”

During his homily, Archbishop Listecki elaborated on a few of the blessings, as well as the challenges, that will be a part of his legacy. First and foremost among those challenges was confronting the difficulty of bankruptcy and clergy sexual abuse.

“The clergy sexual abuse weighed heavily on our hearts,” he said. “We needed to address our victims, ensure the protection of our children and allow the archdiocese to continue its mission. We knew the process would not be easy, and the length of time uncertain, but what we did know is we would do so with prayer and patience.”

In 2014, Listecki called for a Synod, bringing together individuals from the entire local Church and representatives from the ecumenical community to establish priorities for the next 10-15 years.

“I wanted the entire ecclesial community to know that we would be pursuing the mission entrusted to us by Jesus, whether we had 10 cents or $10 billion at our disposal,” he said. “It was truly a moment that ignited our Church and renewed our commitment.”

While these two issues alone would have been challenges enough for his 14 years, it was years later Archbishop Listecki and other leaders were confronted with COVID-19. Churches were closed by governmental mandates and the priests, deacons, religious and lay leaders had to work creatively to keep worship and the Eucharist available.

“They used social media, met in parking lots, wore masks, implemented social distancing and used any other means necessary,” Archbishop Listecki said. “It was during that time that I was distinctly made aware of the importance of the Eucharist to so many of our Catholics who missed receiving Communion.”

Listecki noted that today congregations and assemblies have returned to pre-pandemic numbers.

Among the many other blessings of his tenure, Listecki highlighted achievements in stewardship, vocations and Catholic education. These include:

  • The $150 million Love One Another campaign, which is nearing completion and will assist in securing the mission of parishes, schools, the seminary and Catholic Charities into the future.
  • Growth in the seminary, which 14 years ago housed 12 men and today houses 86.
  • Innovative and creative Catholic schools with students testing a year and a half ahead of their public and private counterparts.
  • Catholic Charities maximizing resources and collaborating with appropriate charitable programs to help the needy.

“We have so much to be proud of; but it’s not pride in ourselves, it’s pride in what God has done through us,” Listecki said. “These past 14 years have been a blessing, but now it’s up to us to take the blessings and through evangelization to call our brothers and sisters to meet Jesus in his church and for ourselves to grow in our commitment to Christ.”

Archbishop Listecki will continue to serve as archbishop until Pope Francis accepts his retirement when a new archbishop is named. As requested in Church law, Archbishop Listecki submitted his retirement when he turned 75 in March. Those who attended the Mass of Thanksgiving were invited to join the archbishop for a reception following Mass. Many were grateful for the opportunity to express their appreciation for Archbishop Listecki.

“He had so many tough responsibilities,” said Monika Wiese, of Menomonee Falls, who attended the Mass of Thanksgiving with her son Eric.  “Any one of those would have been difficult. His witness, the fortitude he had, just relying on God’s strength to lead through really difficult times was courageous and admirable.”