During an exclusive interview with Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, who returned to his former Milwaukee Archdiocese to present the Pallium Lecture on Thursday, Sept. 5, our Catholic Herald learned what the cardinal hopes for the future of the series he started 10 years ago, what he misses about Milwaukee, and got a glimpse into his life in the Big Apple.
Cardinal Dolan said he’s grateful to return to Milwaukee, where he was installed as the 10th archbishop on Aug. 28, 2002.
“I love Milwaukee. I love the archdiocese. I love the people, so any chance I get, I like coming back,” he said, adding that he planned to eat a fish fry and visit family and friends while in town.
He hopes the lecture series continues to expand as it has since its inception in 2003.
“And to be honest with you, I didn’t know it would continue. I just thought, ‘Well, let’s do it this first year to celebrate the pallium, but then it took off and there was such an interest, and the Bradley Foundation was so generous in saying, ‘Let us help you, because this is a project aligned with our mission.’ That it’s been excellent,” he said.
In New York, where he was installed as archbishop on April 15, 2009, before being appointed to the College of Cardinals on Jan. 6, 2012, Cardinal Dolan said he appreciates that people from Milwaukee continue to call, write and, that many, visit him – he invites visitors to Mass at St. Patrick Cathedral, which he usually celebrates at 7 a.m. weekdays and 10:15 a.m. on Sundays.
“I’ll give the ushers their name – they sit up front and then I can chat with them afterwards,” he said.
He said he still likes to get up at about 4:30 a.m. to say his prayers and do his exercises before celebrating Mass at 7 a.m., eat breakfast and then head to the office or an event by 8:30 a.m. Then there are appointments, meetings, visits to schools, Catholic charities or hospitals for events, followed by dinners and receptions and a couple hours of mail before eating dinner with the priest with whom he lives, reading and making phone calls so he can be in bed by 10:30 p.m.
After making his way around New York, he’s realized he misses how Milwaukee was embraceable, even with its large population and geographical area.
“You’re able to get to know the people, you’re able to get around and after nearly six years, I was starting to get to know people, and in New York, it always evades me, doesn’t it, because there’s close to 3 million Catholics,” he said of the archdiocese that is geographically the size of or a little larger than Milwaukee’s.
“Peoplewise, it’s four times as big, and that gets to me, because you know me, I like to get to know people. I like to ask about their families, and that’s a little hard to do in New York, but you try,” Cardinal Dolan said. “Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, whose feast day is today, she said it well – we do one soul at a time.”
The biggest challenge Cardinal Dolan said he has faced in New York is raising the nearly $200 million needed for the repair, renewal and restoration of St. Patrick Cathedral and using it as a catechetical moment to invite people to personal renewal, he said.
Another challenge has been joining the high school and college seminaries.
“Within a 50-mile radius, there were like six seminaries and the two other bishops and I said why don’t we get together, instead of struggling for faculty and funds and students, let’s do the best, so now we’ve got one high school, one college and one theologate, and I’m proud that,” he said. “That was a good thing.”
But he’s not quick to tout what might be considered his accomplishments.
“I’m just proud of what has been accomplished in the Archdiocese of New York through God’s grace and through the elite leadership of my predecessors, and I mean that,” he said. “How blessed to follow people like Cardinal (Terence) Cooke and Cardinal (John) O’Connor and Cardinal (Edward) Egan, who really left me just a great diocese with magnificent traditions. Are there challenges? Yep, there are, but they’re the same everywhere, the same as here – to strengthen and save our Catholic school system, to increase religious ed, not just with our kids, but also with adults. That’s why something like this Pallium Lecture is so important.”
He said he has been humbled and challenged in his role as president of the U. S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
“The USCCB has been a lot more work than I thought,” he said, adding he’ll be kind of happy when it ends in November, though it has been enriching.
“When you’re archbishop of New York, you have a huge diocese that is your major responsibility, but by New York’s nature, you have the international community, you have the press, you have business, you have our Jewish neighbors, you have the United Nations, you have tons of visitors, then the national responsibility of being president of the conference, and add to that, being a cardinal, which means the Holy Father would call upon you for obligations in the church universal, so those are all challenges, but the more we’re called to serve, the more God’s grace is abundant and the more you just bask in the beauty and the radiance of the promise of the church,” he said. “You see a lot of sin and you see a lot difficulty and scandal, you see tons of problems, but as St. Paul said, where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more.” Tracy Rusch, Catholic Herald Staff