None of Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan’s friends were surprised that Pope Benedict XVI appointed him to shepherd the Archdiocese of New York, and by our estimation, those “friends” number nearly 700,000 in southeastern Wisconsin alone. Frequently, people call your Catholic


At left, Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan visits with a resident during a July 2003 visit to St. Ann Rest Home, Milwaukee, operated by the Dominican Sisters of Immaculate Conception. During his time in Milwaukee, Archbishop Dolan developed a reputation for ministering to the sick and grieving through hospital visits and phone calls. (Catholic Herald photo by Sam Lucero)

Herald and begin their conversations with, “I’m a friend of the archbishop’s…” Most times they are people who met him briefly at a confirmation, a church dedication, or some other event where he always had time to meet and greet those in attendance. Because he is immediately engaging, they felt they knew him, as they knew their other friends.

That’s not a bad view to have of one’s archbishop. In fact, that ability to put people at ease, to connect with them and to focus on them and what they had to say, even if only for a few seconds, might have been one of the qualities the Holy See valued when giving him a new assignment.

That engagement extends not only to people who might meet their archbishop once or twice in their lifetime, but also to leaders of communities, businesses and educational institutions who, as part of their work, mingle and serve with religious leaders. Archbishop Dolan fit in well with them, and engaged them not only with his humor, but with his knowledge, perspective and his grasp of and respect for history. He earned the right to be their peer.

Milwaukee was not only his first archdiocese; it was Archbishop Dolan’s first pastorate. Frequently he would speak and write about his role as archbishop as being akin to being pastor of a parish. Thus, it was natural for him to pray with people right on the spot when they asked him to pray for them or somebody else. Phone calls to people whose loved ones had died, unannounced visits to hospitals to console parents of ailing children are some of the ways he touched people’s lives. Asked why he did it, he would reply, “That’s what a good pastor does.” Evidently, the Holy See wants him to do those things in a larger “parish.”

While many who met him consider him a friend, those who know Archbishop Dolan only through his media appearances also have a kinship with him. “He seems like the kind of guy you could sit down and have a beer with” is a common impression. We agree. The archbishop might add, “If it’s not too much trouble, could you make it a Miller?”

Archbishop Dolan is the epitome of how an archbishop should sound on radio and look and sound on TV. He is effective because he is genuine. Reporters, editors and on-air talent know it. People who never met him are captivated by it. The Holy See certainly recognized it and saw the wisdom in putting Archbishop Dolan at the core of the world’s media.


Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan is pictured doing “what a good pastor does,” as he cradles 9-day-old Blaise Augustine Kulla, whose father was an Army reservist serving in Iraq in this July 2003 file photo. (Catholic Herald photo by Sam Lucero)

Arriving in Milwaukee in 2002 at what many might consider the lowest point in the archdiocese’s history, with an archbishop having resigned in disgrace, the sewage of the clergy sexual abuse scandal infecting the church locally and nationally, and with financial challenges clearly before him, Archbishop Dolan would need more than a sense of humor if his ministry was going to be effective. What he brought to the hurting, the wondering, the angry, the confused and all the other Catholics in the archdiocese was a deep faith that the church in southeastern Wisconsin, i.e., the people who remained in the pews, would weather the storms. Frequently quoting Luke 5:4, he would admonish all to “cast out into the deep.” Have faith.

It is no coincidence that two of his best known initiatives – one to evangelize and invite people to Mass, the other to provide a solid financial future for Catholic education and faith formation – are named Living Our Faith and Faith in Our Future, respectively. How apropos as his faith in God is clearly reflected in the work he has undertaken.

Archbishop Dolan is not without critics – those who view his dependence on faith and hope as naiveté, those who maintain that he campaigned for the New York appointment, those who insist his pastoral plans are nothing more than padding for his vitae. A naïve bishop would not refer to the “warts and wounds” found on the Mystical Body of Christ. Campaign? Only an ignorant bishop would dismiss the role of the Holy Spirit in episcopal appointments. His resume of leadership and service stands on its merits; no padding is necessary.

His ministry here and the ministry he will begin in April is well summarized in something he shared in an interview with your Catholic Herald on the fifth anniversary of his installation as archbishop:  “You simply believe everything is in God’s hands, and faith and hope become allied. He never calls us to do something without giving us sufficient grace. You believe everything works out for the good of those who believe. You believe with all your heart and soul that if you are pliant to God’s grace and God’s call, he’s going to see you through.”

Enjoy your new parish, Archbishop. May you be blessed with millions of new friends, and may they be a blessing to you.