Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki signs his letter of resignation on the morning of March 12 in his office at the Mary Mother of the Church Pastoral Center in St. Francis. (Photo by Larry Hanson)

No matter where his life and career have taken him, Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki always seems to return to the shores of Lake Michigan.

From growing up on the south side of Chicago to serving the past 14 years as the archbishop of Milwaukee, the lake has always looked over his shoulder.

He made note of that on the morning of Tuesday, March 12 — his 75th birthday — when he submitted his letter of resignation to Pope Francis, as requested in canon law.

“I feel a little older because I’m reminded of my age, but very grateful,” Archbishop Listecki said. “Looking back, there’s a wisdom in the Church that at the age of 75, the spirit is willing but the flesh is sometimes weak. There’s a wisdom to the Church in turning one’s resignation in at age 75. I feel great gratitude for being able to shepherd and lead the archdiocese for 14 years.”

As of press time, there had been no response from Pope Francis, but the most common outcomes are not accepting the resignation but asking an archbishop to stay on him until his successor is appointed or accepting it right away and appointing a temporary administrator. The process for selecting a successor is expected to take several months.

His letter, sent to the Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, Cardinal Christophe Pierre, to be forward to the pope, sets in motion the process for the pope to select the next shepherd in southeastern Wisconsin.

In his resignation letter, Archbishop Listecki noted the archdiocese weathered five and a half years of bankruptcy proceedings and returned to financial stability, held a Synod in 2014, filled Saint Francis de Sales Seminary to capacity, seen the respect for Catholic Charities grow and increased the Catholic school population.

“I hope my legacy is I served as a good archbishop, faithful to the needs of the archdiocese and especially serving people, calling them to lives committed to holiness,” Archbishop Listecki said.

Mentioning the pin he always wears, Archbishop Listecki reiterated in a post-signing press conference he was most proud of the 2014 Synod, noting it shaped the vision and priorities for the archdiocese for the next 10 to 15 years.

“I’m married to the archdiocese,” Archbishop Listecki said, as he recalled being asked about the problems facing the archdiocese near the beginning of his term. “Being married, we accept what comes into play. I think, first and foremost, I’m thankful for that love. I always tried to do what was necessary in terms of leadership. In any role of leadership, you make decisions and there’s not everybody that’s going to agree.”

When asked about what qualities he would like to see in his successor, Archbishop Listecki said the perfect successor died on the cross 2,000 years ago. He did say he hopes it’s someone who’s a great priest with a good heart who wants to serve.

“(I would tell him) you’re getting a great archdiocese,” Archbishop Listecki said. “When I came here, one of the great shocks I had was the Archdiocese of Milwaukee was filled with people with great faith, tremendous faith. I was shocked by that because I knew what the archdiocese was going through. To see that level of faith, it gave me the strength and courage to (do what I needed to).”

And now we wait.

“Being the shepherd, I’m not released from my responsibilities, so I hope I can lead the flock in the right direction (while I’m still here),” Archbishop Listecki said.

In the April 18 issue, the Catholic Herald will feature an oral history on some of the biggest moments of Archbishop Listecki’s time in Milwaukee.

In addition, the Catholic Herald will publish a special section introducing his successor just before he is installed.

To advertise in any of these special keepsake sections, contact Jenny Mullen at 414-769-3477 or