“I really came to realize the importance of even just a 30-second phone call to somebody who’s recovering from an illness,” said Fr. Herda, pastor of St. Monica, Whitefish Bay.
This is just one of the many reasons why Fr. Herda, who now has a little black book of his own, said he will miss the archbishop.
“His ability to relate to so many people from CEOs to the common parishioner in the pew, you know, I think that sort of thing will be missed,” Fr. Herda said. “Having an archbishop who was a person that people could relate to – that will be very difficult to replace.”
Many religious men and women said that they are sad to see Archbishop Dolan leave, but are also not surprised. Sr. Marion Etzel, provincial leader of the Sisters of the Divine Savior, said she’s happy that the church acknowledges his great gifts with this appointment.
“I think his biggest gift is that of the personal,” Sr. Marion said. “He’s not afraid to reach out in a crowded room or over the phone to talk to people on a personal level about things that matter.”
When Sr. Marion called Archbishop Dolan to share news with him about the groundbreaking for the new addition at St. Anne’s Salvatorian campus, she was surprised when he called her back later that day.
“At 9:45 at night he still had the energy and the interest to find out the good news of the sisters,” Sr. Marion said. “…he said, ‘You women religious make it happen and I am so happy for you.’ Those words are genuine.”
Many of the clergy recall stories of times when he came to comfort them. Fr. William Kohler, pastor of St. Leonard, Muskego, said his first impression of Archbishop Dolan, when he visited Milwaukee before he was installed as Archbishop, stands out the most.
“He was on his way back to the airport to go to St. Louis and he heard that my mom had died and that the funeral visitation was taking place, and so he stopped by the church on his way to the airport, just to visit,” Fr. Kohler said. “And deeply impressed me that he even knew about it and took time out of his busy and maddening return to St. Louis to take time to stop by. That’s a hallmark of what he does.”
Deacon Dean Collins, a member of Mother of Good Counsel Parish, Milwaukee, said he is grateful for the surprise visits Archbishop Dolan made, first, to give his dying mother the apostolic blessing, and then again when he “appeared” at her funeral Mass.
“I know that he has astounded many people in crisis who suddenly received a completely unexpected visit or phone call from him,” Deacon Collins said. “There were people I had mentioned to him at Mass that were suffering from cancer, who would breathlessly tell me that they had received such a comforting visit or phone call completely out of the blue. They were tremendously uplifted by his genuine warmth and concern.”
Sr. Elizabeth Dingbaum, now a receptionist at Schoenstatt on the Lake in Sleepy Eye, Minn., said she recalls similar memories from when she was a member of Schoenstatt Sisters provincial council in Waukesha. When her mother was in a nursing home, Archbishop Dolan had a special Mass at the nursing home.
“You had the feeling that he really cared about those people,” Sr. Elizabeth said. “…but what always strikes me is, what should I say, his dynamism, his tremendous energy and willingness to listen to people and interact with people … it wasn’t just enjoying the people, but it was also you felt he was trying to lead them higher.”
Deacon Troy Major, a member of St. Francis of Assisi Parish, Milwaukee, said whoever takes Archbishop Dolan’s place has big shoes to fill.
“He was good for and supported the diaconate community,” Deacon Major said. “And he made you feel that … he had a personal relationship with you, a one-on-one relationship.”
Many of the religious share story after story of the ways Archbishop Dolan reached out in a time of personal need. Capuchin Br. Bob Smith, president and CEO of Messmer Catholic Schools, Milwaukee, said he feels pride that the Vatican sees Archbishop Dolan as the person to lead one of the most important dioceses in the world.
“It’s our loss, but you know there’s a bigger gain and a much more critical and larger call that he’s answering,” he said.
Fr. Don Hying, rector of Saint Francis de Sales Seminary, said that Archbishop Dolan’s figure is bigger than life, which is why his leadership and commitment will be missed.
“He came at a moment of crisis and lack of morale and low confidence in the church and just his joy, his strength of faith, his love for the people has really brought the archdiocese to a whole new level of confidence and growth.”
As Archbishop Dolan prepares to take his little black book to New York, the people here won’t forget his everlasting joy, care and love. Fr. John Yockey, pastor of St. Jerome, Oconomowoc, said that the informal and formal moments with the archbishop have been wonderful, and he’s glad that the Archdiocese of Milwaukee will now share that with the church of New York.
“I have never in my lifetime met a bishop who was more pastorally enthused and zealous for the Lord and the good of his people than Archbishop Dolan,” Fr. Yockey said. “I mean, he really is number one in my experience and, consequently, he has been a great inspiration to me personally, and, I know, to many priests, deacons, lay ecclesial ministers, all those leadership in positions.”
Archbishop Dolan will be missed, but the Archdiocese of Milwaukee will go on.
“God has raised up a leader for us, many good leaders for us in the past,” said Sr. Marion. “And God will continue to work. I have no doubt about that.”