More contemporary and cynical minds might affix the practice of holiday gift-giving to commercial and business interests. But, as people of faith, we know that the root of giving Christmas presents goes much farther back — to the very inception of the Feast of the Nativity. One can make a significant connection to the three gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh presented by the Magi from the East, as noted in the Gospel of Matthew. Yet, even before that, the very core of the Mystery of Christmas is itself related to the gift of God the Father bestowing His Son on behalf of humankind to bring about salvation.
It is in this venerable tradition of gift-giving that I would like to share a special “Christmas Present List” to recipients in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. Kindly know that I offer the list with gentle humor and warm affection:
• A swift learning curve for our two new Auxiliary Bishops, me and the Most Rev. James Schuerman, including a special session of instruction with Green Bay Packer quarterback Brett Hundley on how to back up a legendary leader.
• Another building project for Fr. John Hemsing, the Rector of Saint Francis de Sales Seminary, to add more residential space to house even more seminarians with vocations to the priesthood.
• A “Sanitation Engineer of the Year Award” for Archbishop Jerome Listecki for his remarkably successful effort to construct badly-needed latrines to help improve health conditions in our Sister Parish in the Dominican Republic, La Sagrada Familia.
• Another year of stellar Nielsen Ratings for the live broadcast of Christmas Midnight Mass from the Cathedral of Saint John the Evangelist on WISN-TV Channel 12 along with plans for a 24-hour “Christmas Story” type rotation in 2018.
• The offer of national syndication to Father Ricardo Martin and Father Phillip Bogacki for their colorful and insightful podcast of “Two Guys and a Gospel” via their broadcast network, E.I.B. – Exegesis In Broadcasting.
• An “extra recess” or free “snow day” to the students enrolled in the Seton Catholic Schools as a reward for their improved academic scores in response to the hard work of the system’s dedicated faculty, staff and administration.
• Another cover page magazine photo of “Rock Star Priest” Fr. Tim Kitzke – this time including his new duet partner in Urban Ministry, Respect Life Director Anne Haines, and featuring news of their hit singles “Laundry Love” and “53206: Center within the Center.”
• A Pulitzer Prize Award in Literature for Bishop Joseph Perry for his monograph “Black Catholic Prayerful Reflections” leading to the release of the Archdiocesan Pastoral Plan for Black Catholics in February 2018 – followed by the announcement of his new partnership with author John Grisham to write a canon lawyer mystery/thriller series.
• Another year of rousing and inspirational rallies and missions sponsored by ARISE Milwaukee leading to the production of a new chocolate/peanut butter flavored candy bar to highlight “two great tastes that taste great together,” the merger of W.Y.R.E . Ministries and ARISE Missions.
• That record numbers of enthusiastic fans will swarm upon the vicinity of Dallas, Texas, in September 2018 – not for Cowboys football – but for the V Encuentro promoting evangelization in the Hispanic/Latino community.
• The creation of a new App for the Catholic Stewardship Appeal that includes information on the vital ministries supported by the CSA, an easy format for making donations and a unique “Campanile Society” chime to serve as a ringtone on your smart phone.
• The offering of a special “Good and Plenty” indulgence and a free toothbrush to all of the students who make each and every stop in the “Camino of Candy” hosted by the high schools of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee in the annual “Soles for Catholic Education Walk.”
• A resounding offer of heart-felt thanks to the women religious of our childhood and youth, who unselfishly and tirelessly provided accessible and affordable education in our Catholic Schools – accompanied, of course, by a bountiful “spiritual bouquet” of prayers.
• Lots and lots of opportunities for the senior priests of the Archdiocese to help out with the celebration of the Mass, the Sacrament of Reconciliation and the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick – with no expectation at all for attendance at any parish meetings.
It is important to keep in mind, of course, that the most precious of gifts are measured not by their price or cost but by the manner in which they reflect the bond of a loving relationship. May the presents beneath your Christmas tree this year reflect a wide circle of family and friends who surround you with care and kindness in the spirit of the Christ Child, our newborn King.