Nearly two dozen members of the Native-American community Congregation of the Great Spirit warmed up the crowd during a drumming circle at the beginning of the traditional solemn vespers service. Afterward, a contemplative-looking Archbishop Listecki was officially welcomed by Bishops William P. Callahan and Richard J. Sklba, as well as Fr. Carl Last, rector of the cathedral, and ushered into the church to bless himself at the baptismal font and then the crowd in a sprinkling rite.  

The ceremony was filled with prayerful songs and canticles such as “A Light Has Shown” and “Canticle of Mary” sung by the cathedral choir and members of the archdiocesan choir, guided by cathedral music director Michael Batcho.

“We welcome you. May the Lord who appeared bless you and sustain you forever,” Bishop Sklba said during the homily. “I’m sure that leaving the priests and people of La Crosse is not easy for you.”

In keeping with the theme of Epiphany, Bishop Sklba assured Archbishop Listecki that “In some mysterious way, you have become this year’s ‘Gift of the Magi’ to us.”

The archbishop, with reverence and good humor, conveyed his feelings to those who came to welcome him. 

“They say that just before the end of your life, your life flashes before you. Well, you don’t have to wait until the end of your life: just become the new archbishop of Milwaukee,” Archbishop Listecki laughed during his closing remarks.


Bishop William P. Callahan leads the vespers service at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist on Sunday, Jan. 3. To the bishop’s left are Bishop Richard J. Sklba and Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki. (Catholic Herald photo by Ernie Mastroianni)

“When I’m seated in that chair I will be mindful of all those who have gone before me and of all those who will follow me,” he said, nodding to the cathedra. “Together we place our trust in God, whose love knows no bounds.”

Collin Francis Easton was one of hundreds that braved the cold weather to welcome Archbishop Listecki. While he had never been to a vespers service such as this, he was excited to see how the night would progress.

“I would imagine that the archbishop has had an input in what is going to be done tonight and so I’m excited to see the prayers that he has chosen,” he explained. “I think he’s a great man of faith and charity and I’m excited to see what he’s going to do to bring evangelization to Milwaukee.”

“It is my fervent prayer that together we may work to bring those who are in our communities closer to God,” Archbishop Listecki said. “…I thank you for your prayers tonight and in the future, prayers that remind us to whom we belong and the source of our strength.”