MILWAUKEE — In light of seven shootings in a span of 10 days, Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki will celebrate a Mass for peace Thursday, Aug. 13, 6:30 p.m., followed by a candlelight vigil at St. Francis of Assisi Parish, 1927 N. Fourth St.
The community is invited to stand together to pray for peace outside the church.
“Perhaps that candle will begin to shine a light, one that produces a confidence that, with God, all things are possible,” Archbishop Listecki wrote in his July 14 weekly communiqué, Love One Another.
“Just as Jesus wept at the death of his friend Lazarus, so we weep in solidarity at the deaths of our brothers and sisters in our city,” he wrote, calling the shootings an “epidemic.” “We call for an end to this violence and the ability of our brothers and sisters to live in peace. To achieve that end, we promise to work together to find solutions for the societal ills that plague us.”
Archbishop Listecki recently called for an urban initiative following the Archdiocesan Synod, to address issues of poverty, unemployment, crime and violence wherever they occur. He named Fr. Timothy Kitzke – co-pastor of SS. Peter and Paul, Three Holy Women, Old St. Mary and Our Lady of Divine Providence parishes in Milwaukee – as vicar general, with special emphasis on urban ministry.
He called for the initiative because the church’s presence in the city is at the heart and core of the Gospel message, and said it’s the church’s mission to bring Christ to every corner of the city and to the entire archdiocese.
“I am calling on our Catholic parishes to be beacons of light that shine in our community,” he wrote. “I want our parishes and schools to be the collective force that creates a culture of peace and hope in southeastern Wisconsin. We begin by challenging the contemporary norm, that violence is simply a normal part of life in the city, in ‘those’ neighborhoods or anywhere. It is not and cannot be.”
Archbishop Listecki said efforts must be united to solve the violence.
“This is not simply a problem of the central city of Milwaukee. This is not a problem of one, but a problem of all; regardless of the city, suburb or rural community in which you live, within our 10 counties,” he wrote. “We need to lock arms and join together to serve the Common Good. This is the task of the church: to bring together those who wish to collaborate for the good of all.”
He said rather than accepting to contain or reduce senseless violence, the church must marshal its elimination efforts, working together to ensure people have jobs that earn living wages, and can own property and take pride in their neighborhoods; quality education provides a way to break the cycle of poverty; and commerce and business thrive in cities as job providers, contributing to the stabilization of neighborhoods.
“We need to strengthen our families, where strong role models are offered to the young men and women hungry for examples of virtue that can only be provided by mothers, fathers, grandparents,” he wrote. “We need to establish a coordinated effort between members of the local community and law enforcement, which would shine a light on those attempting to prey upon the vulnerable within our communities – especially our seniors and the young.”
He also said everyone must be viewed as a contributor.
“There can be no room for those who do not desire a better community for themselves and their children,” he wrote. “In this sense, we will create a new environment because it will require that all sacrifice and take responsibility for a peaceful and stable community.”
Archbishop Listecki admitted that he doesn’t have a solution to violence, but knows that efforts must be united to “affect real change.”
“Sometimes, we don’t know where to begin,” he wrote. “The challenges seem overwhelming. At times like that, I choose to begin where, as Catholics, we begin all things – in prayer. God does not hide himself from those who seek him with a sincere heart.”