Archbishop Jerome Listecki celebrated his 14th Catholic Schools Week Mass on Feb. 1 at Catholic Memorial High School, Waukesha. (Submitted photo)
Archbishop Jerome Listecki couldn’t help but turn to the final words of King David to his son in what was likely to be his last Catholic Schools Week homily as archbishop.
As a Catholic Memorial High School student proclaimed in the reading for the day, King David on his deathbed told Solomon, “Keep the mandate of the Lord, your God, following his ways.”
Archbishop Listecki noted that, like David, he is coming to a big ending. The archbishop will submit his retirement letter on his 75th birthday next month on March 12 as required by canon law.
“In a blink, the time has gone by,” he said. “When did that happen?”
Archbishop Listecki celebrated the all-school Mass on Feb. 1 with about 1,000 Catholic Memorial students, staff and visiting middle school students and teachers from Waukesha Catholic; St. Anthony on the Lake, Pewaukee; and St. Leonard, Muskego.
Like David, Archbishop Listecki said, he wanted to pass on some words of wisdom to people he loves and cares about — “namely, you.”
The archbishop said his message was the same as David’s more than 2,000 years ago.
“When you follow what God wants you to do, things will be fine — they’ll be wonderful and you’ll be on the right track to fulfill what God wants from each and every one of you,” Archbishop Listecki said.
He reminded the packed gym that each person has a unique story, but each has the same end in mind — to be with God.
“Everything along the way can hopefully help us to achieve that goal,” he said.
Archbishop Listecki pointed out that the seniors at his first Catholic Schools Week Mass at Catholic Memorial in 2010 are now adults in their 30s. Many may be married and have children of their own who they are sending to Catholic schools.
“Just like that — overnight, that happens,” he said.
Today’s experiences in Catholic schools with peers, teachers, administrators and priests become the fond stories of tomorrow.
“I know that for a fact, because when you get as old as I am, and you celebrate with individuals who were students back in high school with you or sometimes in grammar school, what do they do? They reminisce about the stories,” Archbishop Listecki said.
He touched on the day’s Gospel, which noted that Jesus sent out his disciples in pairs to spread the Good News.
“He wants that faith, that mission, to be reinforced.” Jesus knows that good friends encourage one another, Archbishop Listecki said, such as when two friends are studying for a test.
Jesus is a friend, too. “Jesus is there. He is there for us and with us because, ultimately, we belong to him. The beauty of Catholic school education is that it helps us be formed and fashioned by that sense of Christ’s presence.”
He had the following groups of people stand up for thanks and applause — teachers, other school staff and other leaders present. He also introduced others who helped celebrate the Mass: Fr. Matthew Widder, pastor of the four parishes of the Catholic Community of Waukesha; CMH alumnus Fr. Dan Janasik, pastor of St. Leonard; Fr. Aaron Laskiewicz, pastor of St. Mary, Hales Corners; Fr. Arul Ponnaiyan, pastor of Holy Apostles, New Berlin; Fr. Mark Niehaus, CMH chaplain; Dcn. Dennis Petrie, St. Anthony on the Lake; and St. Francis de Sales seminarian Timothy Sanchez, who is spending a pastoral year with the Catholic Community of Waukesha as part of his formation.
Archbishop Listecki noted that some of the priests by his side were still in the seminary when he arrived in Milwaukee in 2010, and some have served at several parishes since then.
“What’s their job? To help you discern and understand Christ’s presence in your life, to help you celebrate the fact that, as all through this process, as the days go by and the years go by, you do not walk alone, but you walk with Christ all the time,” he said.
“How quickly time goes by. But of the things that are constant is basically their dedication, dedication to Christ, their service and love for his people,” he said.
Archbishop Listecki left the students with these last words: “I said at the very beginning, you make us proud. You help represent us. Realize that you carry forth Christ’s identity into the world and help us to be the Church. Continue to understand how important and how special that is and be confident and know that you are to enjoy the moments you have here now, because as you blink, suddenly you will be sending your children hopefully to Catholic schools.”