While he awaits word from Pope Francis on his retirement, Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki continues his work at the archdiocese. (Photo by Chris Plamann)

If there is one thing those close to him have learned over the past 14 years about Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki, it’s that he’s a humble man who tends to shy away from the spotlight.

In the month since submitting his retirement paperwork to Pope Francis on March 12 when he turned 75 years old, Archbishop Listecki has received even more attention and praise.

“I’m grateful for the kind words and I see the kindness in many people,” Archbishop Listecki said. “I would just rather continue doing the work until we celebrate the new person who’s coming. It’s been difficult to always answer questions you have no control over. You have to live in that uncertainty.”

With the timetable for naming a successor shrouded in mystery, the archbishop is in a state of limbo, still administering over the day-to-day operations of the archdiocese and serving at what he is at heart, a priest.

“It’s always interesting when someone comes up and says, ‘You have little time left; what are you going to do?’ I’ll say, ‘Are you talking to my doctor?’” Archbishop Listecki said. “My sense is I don’t put (retirement) before me. Do I think about (retirement) occasionally? Yeah, certainly. I have to think about where I’ll move to, those kinds of things. Since there’s nothing in the offing, I think only about doing my job day to day to accomplish what I need to accomplish for the good of the archdiocese.”

During many interviews with secular media outlets over the past month, the archbishop has been asked repeatedly what he plans to do in his retirement, and his answers have always come back to being a priest and continuing that ministry.

“There will be an adjustment, I’m sure,” Archbishop Listecki said. “Free time has never been much of my life. I’m sure there will be things that fill what is considered free time. My hobbies are people. What I hope this will do is allow me more time to spend with friends and family, and stuff that I have not had time to be able to pursue.”

As a lifelong fan, however, it doesn’t seem like Archbishop Listecki is in a hurry to get to any Chicago White Sox games.

“It would be interesting to go to a Sox game, but they’re doing so poorly, I don’t know if I’d want to waste my money,” Archbishop Listecki said.

Bristling when told he has led an interesting life (priest, soldier, lawyer), Archbishop Listecki said he doesn’t plan to write a book on those topics.

“I find more my encounters with people interesting, so from that aspect … I don’t find myself that interesting,” Archbishop Listecki said.

The one topic he would and has considered writing about is his perspective of Church leadership and governance.

“It’s different than the corporate world, so I thought if I did write a book, it would be about those things that a bishop needs to consider in order to carry out the best for his diocese or archdiocese,” Archbishop Listecki said. “Maybe 10 rules of engagement in governance.”

The things he has to consider before making a decision are so different than what one would believe or expect.

“Good leadership is not necessarily doing it yourself; it’s choosing the right people to put into positions,” Archbishop Listecki said. “I would talk of my experience with the right people, for which I all of a sudden get the credit, but really, it’s these individuals who are performing that you’ve seen talent in them. My sense is the best leader is not the one who does it all themselves but who chooses the right people to carry out the task and mission.”

As someone who has lived a life with experiences as rich as he has, travel isn’t high on Archbishop Listecki’s list of priorities for retirement.

He would like to visit Mount Rushmore, and he said his sister, Penny, would like to take an Alaskan cruise.

“Personally, I’m not much of a traveler. Even though I’ve done a lot of traveling, all of them have been in relation to something I have had to do, so it’s not like I was visiting. The traveler’s soul is not a part of me.”

While there may be some anticipation and anxiety around him and what the pope is going to decide over the coming months, Archbishop Listecki isn’t that worried about it. He’s just going to keep his head down and keep doing the work, even if he’s getting more accolades and compliments than he may be comfortable with.

“I enjoy doing what I’m doing. It’s not that I feel tied down; I feel blessed to have had this position.”