You grand folks of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee have known and loved him a lot longer than I have, so please pardon my presumption in claiming some special affection here.
My provenance goes back only to Sept. 1, 1972, when I arrived as a new man at the North American College in Rome, there to be warmly welcomed by the friendly class ahead of me, among whom was one Jim Harvey, a second-year seminarian from the Archdiocese of Milwaukee.
While not what you’d call an effusive, backslapping guy, Jim was unfailingly friendly and helpful, and we hit it off from the start. Seems like we had a lot in common: both our dads were named Bob, and had served in the Pacific during the war; both of us were the oldest of five kids, with two brothers and two sisters; both Jim and I had been attracted to the priesthood from an early age; both of us were lifers, entering the seminary right after eighth grade; and the two of us had warm attachments to home, me to St. Louis, him to Milwaukee, to our two dioceses which had fostered our faith in a sustaining Catholic culture of vibrant parishes, great priests, wonderful sisters, excellent parochial schools, and happy homes and neighborhoods.
Oh, we had our differences: he was rather trim, while I was . . . never mind; he was good at golf, thanks to his dad, who ran a driving range, while I wasn’t bad at softball.
Our friendship deepened those years within the shadow of the dome of St. Peter’s and continued afterwards.
None of us were surprised when Fr. Harvey was asked by his archbishop, William Cousins, to enter the Holy See’s diplomatic corps, soon after his 1975 priestly ordination. His wisdom, sound judgment, and sense of discretion, and, of course, his deep
love for Jesus and His Church, made him a natural. What made us happiest is that Jim would never have jockeyed for such a prestigious appointment, and would have been just as happy to remain in his beloved Wisconsin as a parish priest.
It was a snap to keep in touch with Jim because, except for his first two years as a papal diplomat in the Dominican Republic, he spent his years in Rome, at the Secretariat of State. I was able to visit Rome every couple of years, and a meal with Jim was always a highlight.
Then came my return to the Eternal City in 1994, when I served as rector of the North American College for seven years. Jim was right down the street, where he was serving as assessor at the Secretariat of State (the assistant to the Holy Father’s chief-of-staff, the sostituto), and, beginning on March 19, 1998, when he was ordained a bishop, as Prefect of the Apostolic Household, a sensitive and significant duty as appointments’ secretary and manager of daily life for the Holy Father, a duty that tested every talent he had.
When I needed advice on a future faculty member at the seminary, I would turn to Jim, whose years of service and renowned hospitality have given him a real caché of knowledge of priests and their talents. His counsel was always right on target.
Even though Jim was right at the side of Pope St. John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI on a daily basis, he never lost his Midwestern down-homeness and common sense. He would also frustrate us, because we could never get him to tell us insider secrets of working so closely with the Successors of St. Peter. He took discretion, prudence, and confidentiality with the seriousness they deserve. Even his dear mom, Ruth, once asked me, “What does Jim do, anyway?” Her son was not known to talk much about himself.
When Pope St. John Paul II appointed me your archbishop in June 2002, guess who was one of the first people I called? He loved and knew his home diocese, and gave me an appreciation for it right-off-the bat. At his invitation, I even snuck in for an overnight, as Jim — who was home for vacation — showed me around. He even made me drink Miller instead of my preferred Bud, advising me I had better get used to it.
Our friendship only deepened those seven happy years on Lake Michigan. I was thrilled when he was named a cardinal, and let’s just say he was an effective guide to me in the days leading to the election of Pope Francis.
He has an ideal duty now, as archpriest of the Basilica of St. Paul’s, one of Rome’s four major basilicas, where he is in daily contact with the thousands of pilgrims who visit there, able to teach and preach, which he does so well, diligent in his tasks on a number of important Vatican congregations, and able to continue his celebrated skills at hosting old friends like this one.
I close with a memory of then Monsignor Harvey calling me to ask for some names of alumni of the North American College from my days as rector who might be asked to work for the Holy See, as he had been.
“Tim,” he said, “I don’t want a flashy guy who’s in it for himself, but a quiet, reliable, humble fellow who loves Jesus and His Church and just wants to serve well. I want a work horse, not a show horse.”
Jim Harvey is a work horse who, in my book, has won the Kentucky Derby.