ST. FRANCIS – Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki’s trip to Rome last month was memorable for two reasons: It was his second ad limina visit to the Holy See in which he met with the second pope under whom he has served as bishop, and it was the second consistory he attended as it was the second time his predecessor in dioceses he has headed was named a cardinal.

The archbishop’s first ad limina visit was in May 2004 when he was an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Chicago, and Pope John Paul II was pope. His first consistory was in November 2010, when his predecessor as bishop of La Crosse, Archbishop Raymond L. Burke, was made a cardinal. At the Feb. 18 consistory, his other predecessor, Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan, received the red biretta.

“It was great to see someone with whom you have a personal relationship – and with whom we in Milwaukee have a personal relationship – singled out for that distinction. That really made it great,” the archbishop said about the festivities that concluded his 14 days in Rome.

In a Feb. 23 interview with your Catholic Herald, he praised the “many who stayed for the consistory,” which extended the trip by three days.

“Some of them waited over three and a half hours to get into St. Peter’s Basilica (for the ceremony),” Archbishop Listecki said. “There was tremendous dedication to want to be a part of it – for love of church and their affection for Archbishop Dolan.”

Noting that Cardinal Dolan and the other American to be named to the College of Cardinals, Cardinal Edwin O’Brien, former archbishop of Baltimore and Pro-Grand Master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem in Rome, were alumni and former rectors of the Pontifical North American College, the archbishop said, “These particular alumni were being celebrated so the whole North American College was caught up in the joy.”

Business first

More than a week before the consistory, the bishops of Wisconsin, Illinois and Indiana were taking care of their primary ad limina business – meeting with Pope Benedict XVI.

“We met as a group (by state), and I, as the metropolitan (archbishop), had to give the introduction. I talked about the collaboration among the bishops of Wisconsin, and how there is a real sign of fraternity and solidarity among the bishops. We not only work together, but we really like one another, too,” Archbishop Listecki said.

He said, upon hearing that, Pope Benedict smiled and said, “Collaboration with affection.”

The archbishop said that he talked about the number of things the state’s bishops had addressed and were addressing through the Wisconsin Catholic Conference: immigration reform; the common good and workers’ rights; and Catholic education.

“These were things that helped shape the Catholic mission in those particular areas,” he noted.

The archbishop described the bishops’ meeting with the pope as a “cordial conversation.”

“We talked about the creeping secularization and relativism. We didn’t have to lecture him on that; that’s been a hallmark of his papacy,” Archbishop Listecki said. “He knew about that and how difficult it is to function with a sense of Catholic identity in an area and culture that is more and more secular.”

Each of the state’s diocesan bishops spoke about specific aspects of life in his diocese.

“I talked a little bit about the bankruptcy and how we wanted to fulfill the two aspects I always talk about: to bring some type of resolution to it and equitable distribution of compensation to those who were victims, and to be able to be fiscally responsible in supporting the mission of the church,” Archbishop Listecki said.

He added that in his remarks, he noted, “We are not going to allow the bankruptcy to define us. We understand that we as a church have an obligation to continue our mission. In other areas, it is not going to stop us from carrying out our mandates.”

Congregations and camaraderie

Besides meeting with the pope, the bishops met with representatives from various Vatican congregations, i.e., bishops, clergy, education worship, new evangelization and saints. Each of the congregations took a different approach to the content and structure of the meetings, according to the archbishop.

“A couple of them were specific in how they spoke about our specific dioceses. They asked questions that related to the quinquennial report we had submitted,” he said. “At others we were informed more about the work of the congregation. With others, it was dialogue from the get go.”

The quinquennial report, submitted several months before a bishop makes his ad limina visit, summarizes the work of his diocese during the previous five years.

What Archbishop Listecki termed a “wonderful aspect of the ad limina” was the opportunity “to live and pray and converse with your neighboring bishops.”

“We don’t get a chance to do that other than on issues or when we come together as a conference; otherwise you don’t get a chance,” he said. “Here, you’re walking streets with fellow bishops and you’re talking about your hopes and your visions. And that aspect is wonderful as you can gain their insights.”