RACINE — Monica Darga, a member of St. Edward Parish, did not expect to be singled out during Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki’s Mass Monday Feb. 1, at St. Paul the Apostle Parish, but then again, it isn’t often that a Chicago Bears fan receives a handmade Green Bay Packer blanket as a gift.
“Where is Monica Darga?” asked Archbishop Listecki, holding up the green and gold fringed blanket. “I just want you to know that although this is green, I can’t wear it during Mass.
Darga laughed, and quickly retorted, that while the colors were liturgical, the archbishop was right; it just didn’t fit for Mass.”
“Well, the G stands for great, right?” laughed Archbishop Listecki.
Darga had planned to make him a Bears blanket, she explained, but ran out of time and used fabric on hand.
“At least the colors are liturgical, and that should make up for the fact that he isn’t a Packer fan,” she joked.
Darga appreciated Archbishop Listecki’s demeanor, humor and ability to be down to earth, especially during his homily.
“He is just like the guy next door,” she said.
The Mass was the last of six regional welcome celebrations throughout the Milwaukee archdiocese since Archbishop Listecki’s installation Jan. 4. The 1,000-seat church was packed to near capacity with Catholics from Racine and Kenosha counties, including a 13-member honor guard comprised of Knights of Columbus from Racine and Kenosha councils.
Looking around the crowded sanctuary, the new archbishop shared a story about another archbishop scheduled to celebrate Mass at noon.
“He arrived 20 minutes early, was dressed, vested, put on his cross, miter, got his crosier ready, and watched the sacristan frantically running around the church, looking out the windows and acting nervous,” said Archbishop Listecki. “Finally, it was about three minutes before 12, and the archbishop said, ‘Fred, what is going on?’”
The sacristan confessed that he was shocked that so few people were in the pews for Mass, and was embarrassed to tell the archbishop. Finally, the archbishop asked the sacristan whether he publicized that he was celebrating Mass that day.
“’Well, no I didn’t,’ confessed the sacristan, ‘I just figured that word would get out,’” said Archbishop Listecki to buoyant laughter. “So I am glad that word got out in Racine that I was coming because we have a great turnout.”
Earlier in the day, the archbishop celebrated Mass and visited with students at St. Joseph School in Kenosha and during his homily, he shared the meaning of his crosier. While he said he didn’t plan to share the same message with those at St. Paul, some of the message bore repeating.
“This bishop’s staff is entrusted to me like a shepherd to keep the sheep on the right path,” he explained, holding his staff high. “It is a sign of protection and if the wolves come the shepherd will use this to keep them at bay – even it means killing them by bopping them on the head. I am not afraid to use this if it means saving your souls. But I need your support to protect and guide souls and keep them on the right path.”
The Gospel from John is among the archbishop’s favorites and was used in his installation Mass. In the passage, Jesus asked Peter three times if he truly loved him.
Yet Archbishop Listecki explained that Jesus was not really talking to Peter, “he was talking to us. The living word of God is touching the hearts of the faithful. No matter what the age, those are words for today.”
It is incomprehensible to fathom God’s creation of our universe, the galaxies we can see and that go unseen, and realize that God also created every molecule of our bodies and his creation is infinite, said Archbishop Listecki.
“We should be on our knees giving praise to God for the beauty and gifts of his majesty,” he said. “We are called to re-establish our relationship with God. We are called to sacrifice as Christ sacrificed and to reach out in love to each other. I pledge to do my best as your archbishop, to guide you, direct you and stand before the Lord in love and service.”
When the archbishop processed down the aisle, Margaret Matter, a member of St. Paul the Apostle, thought Archbishop Listecki looked a little stern and serious – until he spoke to the crowd.
“He was just great and had such a good sense of humor,” she said. “I liked him right away.”
Her husband Tom agreed, and added, “I think he will do great things for the archdiocese; I was quite impressed.”
Srs. Mary Michael Butler and Anne Marie Cheikh, both Carmelite Sisters of the Divine Heart of Jesus and employed at St. Joseph Home for the Aged in Kenosha, are optimistic about the direction of leadership under the new archbishop.
“I think he will bring a beautiful new dimension to our archdiocese,” said Sr. Mary Michael.
They agreed that he is charismatic and humorous, and pray that the archdiocese will be drawn together in Christ and become more unified as a community.
“I am impressed by his deep spirituality because that is most important,” said Sr. Anne Marie. “He is a good, special and prayerful man.”
Jim Riese, member of St. Mary Parish, Kenosha, and district governor of the Serra Club, was impressed after a brief meeting with the archbishop. He anticipates continued spiritual growth, and an increase in vocations for the archdiocese under his strong leadership.
“I don’t think he will rock the boat, but he is conservative and personable,” said Riese. “I think for now the archdiocese will continue on an even keel, but will continue to move forward. He is a wonderful, prayerful guy.”