The Archdiocese of Milwaukee continued to wend its way through Chapter 11 reorganization throughout 2013. Key decisions, including a ruling from the U.S. District Court that more than $50 million held in trust for the perpetual care of Milwaukee Archdiocesan cemeteries can’t be used to settle bankruptcy debts and a settlement with Lloyd’s, London and London Market Companies, hinted that resolution of the case may be drawing closer.
Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki wrote his first pastoral letter, “Who Do You Say That I Am?” and convoked an Archdiocesan Synod to be held Pentecost weekend, June 7-8, 2014, to set forth a vision of the future and determine priorities that will guide the local church.
Internationally, the church welcomed Pope Francis, the first Latin American pope and first Jesuit pope, in March.
Following is a month by month look at the major stories of the year, as reported by your Catholic Herald.
■ U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Susan V. Kelley offers an opinion in a hearing on Jan. 11 that neither the First Amendment nor the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act protects the more than $60 million in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee Catholic Cemetery Perpetual Care Trust. The cemetery trust attorneys had 14 days to file objections to it, and then the attorneys for the creditors’ committee had 14 days to file a response before the matter went to the U.S. District Court where Kelley’s decision could be fully or partly accepted or rejected.
■ The Archdiocese of Milwaukee, in partnership with the University of Notre Dame’s Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE), launches an initiative to reinforce the effectiveness of Catholic elementary schools on Jan. 29. ACE will conduct an 18-month, in-depth assessment of the 26 Milwaukee urban Catholic elementary schools as part of the “Catholic Schools for Milwaukee: Light for the Future.”
■ Catholic Herald reporter Ricardo Torres offers daily coverage in blogs and Tweets from the March for Life in Washington, D.C., with Pro-Life Wisconsin Jan. 23-27 that coincided with the 40th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion. About 2,000 Wisconsin residents attended, including Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki for the first time, joining between 500,000 and 650,000 people who marched to the Supreme Court steps on Jan. 25.
■ The archdiocese, nearly 25 months into the Chapter 11 bankruptcy organization, files a motion Jan. 24 asking U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Susan V. Kelley to allow it to suspend payments to attorneys and consultants for the creditors’ committee, continuing to pay its own attorneys with money from its insurance carriers, because it is running out of money. The cost of the proceedings has totaled more than $9 million.
■ St. Joseph School, Big Bend, a K4-8 school which was to close at the end of the academic year due to a tight budget, decreased enrollment and low teacher salaries, will remain open and continue its 60-year commitment to Catholic education thanks to families who banded together to fight for it.
■ With 85-year-old Pope Benedict XVI’s announcement Feb. 11 that he will resign at the end of the month because he doesn’t have the energy to exercise his ministry over the universal church, 11 U.S. cardinals will be eligible to vote in the papal conclave, including former archbishop of Milwaukee, Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York; Cardinal James M. Harvey, a Milwaukee native and priest of the archdiocese; and Cardinal Raymond L. Burke, a native of Richland Center, a priest of the Diocese of La Crosse and Archbishop Listecki’s predecessor as bishop of La Crosse.
■ Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki writes his first pastoral letter, “Who Do You Say That I Am?” that asks the question Jesus asked of his apostles at Caesarea Philippi (Mt 16:15), and focuses on the church as mystery, sacrament and communion. The 8,500-word document was made available to pastors Feb. 6, released to parish staffs in March and to the entire Catholic community in fall.
■ The Rosary Evangelization Apostolate, founded by Dick and Terry Boldin, celebrates 10 years. Created in response to Pope John Paul II’s Apostolic Letter issued in 2002, “The Rosary of the Virgin Mary,” the apsotolate is a call to holiness through the promotion and praying of the rosary to bring peace to the world and society and to foster Christian family values.
■ U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Susan V. Kelley rules upon three motions Feb. 21 – two filed by attorneys for the debtors (archdiocese) and one by the creditors (abuse victims). Kelley approved an archdiocesan motion to continue making payments, as it has done the last two years, to 11 victims with whom settlements were reached prior to the start of the Chapter 11 reorganization, and ruled in favor of the archdiocese on a motion that suspends payments to professionals involved in the case; the motion made by the creditors’ committee sought to sequence claims arguing that they should decide if insurance money exists to cover claims before litigating the claims, but archdiocesan attorneys noted that more information about the validity of the claims would be needed before calling upon insurance companies to pay.
■ Wisconsin’s Roman Catholic bishops urge members of the Wisconsin Legislature to support Gov. Scott Walker’s proposed expansion of the parental choice program, existing in the Milwaukee and the Racine Unified School District, to include nine additional communities, as well as the creation of a Special Needs Scholarship Program that would provide state-funded scholarships for children with special needs to attend a public or private school of their choice.
■ The bells of St. Peter Basilica toll, confirming “Habemus Papam,” Wednesday evening, March 13; Pope Francis is the first pope from Latin America, the first to choose the name Francis after St. Francis of Assisi, and the first Jesuit pope.
■ The Congregation of the Sisters of St. Dominic celebrate 150 years in Racine. The yearlong celebration began in May 2012.
■ The Archdiocese of Milwaukee announces it will publicly release approximately 3,000 documents that contain details about clergy sexual abuse and will post them to the archdiocesan website, archmil.org, by July 1. Documents, taken from priest personnel files, files of the bishops and vicar for clergy and other sources in the archdiocese, include the depositions of Archbishop Emeritus Rembert G. Weakland, Bishop Emeritus Richard J. Sklba and Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, taken in the Chapter 11 proceedings.
■ Marquette University holds a vigil April 5 for James Foley, a graduate of MU captured in November 2012 while working as a freelance journalist covering Syria’s civil war. His parents, John and Diane Foley, members of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Parish in Rochester, N.H., attended the vigil.
■ No criminal charges are filed against Salvatorian Fr. Robert Marsicek, shared pastor of St. Pius X Parish, Wauwatosa, and Mother of Good Counsel Parish, Milwaukee. The order removed him from public ministry during Holy Week after a teacher at Wauwatosa Catholic School, sponsored by St. Bernard and St. Pius X parishes, reported alleged questionable behavior. Wauwatosa Police found insufficient evidence regarding a second allegation of inappropriate behavior filed in a report April 22.
■ The School Sisters of St. Francis announce April 22 that the St. Joseph Convent in Campbellsport, a retirement/nursing home facility that employs 125 people, will close at the end of 2014 – a decision that came during development of the province’s 2013-2014 budget and the availability of resident vacancies in other provincial retirement facilities. The 90 sisters living there face transfer to the religious community’s facilities in Milwaukee.
■ Archbishop Listecki ordains four priests at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist, Milwaukee, on May 18: Frs. Philip Schumaker, Arul Ponnaiyan, John Paul Mitchell and Patrick Burns.
■ St. Patrick School, a pre-kindergarten to eighth-grade school in Elkhorn, will close after providing 55 years of education, because of declining enrollment. The school had 58 students, down from 60 the year before, and projected 54 for the following year.
■ The Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary Help of Christians at Holy Hill in Hubertus celebrates its 150th anniversary with new bronze doors featuring six panels with bronze relief sculptures by Italian sculptor Cody Joseph Swanson.
■ Archbishop Listecki convokes an Archdiocesan Synod to be held Pentecost weekend, June 7-8, 2014, to set forth a vision of the future and determine priorities that will guide the local church. An 18-member Synod Preparatory Commission will oversee the consultation process.
■ Wisconsin Catholic bishops release the third edition of their pastoral letter on end of life health care decision-making and advance care planning, “Now and at the Hour of Our Death,” May 29, voicing their concern and compassion for those facing critical health care decisions, and sharing a moral and ethical framework for making them.
■ St. Mary School, a K3 through eighth- grade school in Sheboygan Falls, closes because of declining enrollment after providing Catholic education for 63 years to about 7,700 people. The parish will look into offering 3K to second-grade education.
■ Our Lady of the Lakes elementary school, a pre-school to sixth-grade school in Random Lake, closes June 12 because of declining enrollments and budget concerns.
■ Six thousand to 7,000 pages of documentation related to clergy sexual abuse in the archdiocese, taken from archdiocesan priest personnel files, the files of the bishops, the vicar for clergy and other sources within the archdiocese, as well as Bishop Richard J. Sklba’s deposition on what occurred, will be made public July 1.
■ Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker July 5 signs into law a bill that requires women who want an abortion to get an ultrasound of their unborn child and doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of an abortion clinic.
■ Saint Francis de Sales Seminary sells out tickets for its 11th annual dinner, which will feature Cardinals Timothy M. Dolan and James M. Harvey.
■ The Milwaukee Archdiocese’s committee for the Catholic Campaign for Human Development distributes more than $37,000 in June to support five projects working to eliminate the root causes of poverty: Agape Community Center; Dominican Center for Women Inc.; Milwaukee Center for Children and Youth Inc.; Casa Romero Renewal Center and Southside Organizing Committee.
■ A memorial Mass is held for Fr. Jan Kieliszewski, 66, pastor of Nativity of the Lord Parish, Cudahy, a victim of suicide.
■ Cardinal James M. Harvey, a Milwaukee native, partcipates in a vespers service at the Mater Christi Chapel at the Cousins Center in St. Francis Aug. 2, during his first return to Milwaukee since being elevated to the rank of cardinal. The service featured the work of four local composers: Brian McLinden, David Sanders, Fr. Charles Conley and Jeffrey Honoré.
■ A U.S. District Court rules that more than $50 million held in trust for the perpetual care of Milwaukee Archdiocesan cemeteries can’t be used to settle bankruptcy debts.
■ All Saints Parish, Milwaukee, announces it will celebrate St. John de Nepomuc Church’s 150th anniversary in September, hosting Cardinal Harvey and giving him a homemade quilt featuring images of the cardinal and the parish he attended as a boy.
■ Cardinal Dolan donates the pallium he received in 2003 as archbishop of Milwaukee to the Holy Hill Shrine, Hubertus.
■ The Newman Center at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee celebrates 50 years of serving students on campus.
■ St. Mary’s Springs Academy, Fond du Lac, and St. Joseph Catholic Academy, Kenosha, are selected by the Department of Public Instruction to join 23 other private and faith-based schools and school systems offering families outside of Milwaukee and Racine the parental choice program.
■ A memorial service is held on the National Day of Remembrance for the Aborted Unborn, Sept. 14, at Holy Cross Cemetery in Milwaukee where the pro-life community buried the remains of more than 1,200 aborted babies in 1988.
■ Cardinals Dolan and Harvey, and 850 guests, participated in the 11th annual Saint Francis de Sales Seminary dinner, held for the first time on the seminary grounds.
■ Cardinal Dolan delivers the 10th annual Pallium Lecture, a catechetical series he started in 2003, on Sept. 5 at the Milwaukee Theatre, whose 4,000 seats were filled well before the night began.
■ St. Katharine Drexel Church, Beaver Dam, puts finishing touches on a new parish center, fulfilling a desire to bring the church, school and parish center to one site.
■ Marquette University begins its search for a new president following the resignation announcement of Jesuit Fr. Scott Pilarz, 24th president of the university, to pursue new apostolic work.
■ St. Mary’s Springs Academy, Fond du Lac, announces a $21.3 million expansion and renovation that will house the K-12 school on one campus.
■ The former Holy Name Seminary in Madison, a neo-colonial revival landmark that welcomed its first students in 1964 and has served as the Bishop O’Connor Catholic Pastoral Center since the seminary closed in 1995, may be transformed into a multi-family housing community, which would save $500,000 annually.
■ U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Rudolph T. Randa affirms the bankruptcy court’s ruling that since Claimant A-282 had settled his sexual abuse claims against the archdiocese for $80,000 after participating the the archdiocese’s voluntary mediation program, he could not undo the settlement so the claimant could extract more money from the archdiocese.
■ Catholic schools in the archdiocese will adopt Common Core learning standards, continuing to focus on and strengthening the infusion of Catholic teachings in all courses.
■ More than 7,000 people participate in the inaugural Soles for Catholic Education 2-mile Walk Nov. 2 at Mount Mary University, Milwaukee, raising more than $322,000 by participants for tuition assistance or marketing for the schools.
■ Mercy Housing Lakefront will govern and manage St. Catherine Residence, housing for up to 157 women in suite-style apartments founded 119 years ago by the Sisters of Mercy, who will retain co-sponsorship.
■ The archdiocese “reached in principle” a settlement with Lloyd’s, London and London Market Companies, both of which operate under London Market Insurers (LMI), that will be part of the plan of reorganization that the archdiocese will file with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court Eastern District of Wisconsin.
■ The local Filipino community turns to prayer after Super Typhoon Haiyan devastates the central Philippines Nov. 8, killing tens of thousands and leaving about 600,000 people homeless.
■ Pope Francis has called for a 2014 extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the family and in preparation, a 39-item questionnaire about promotion and acceptance of Catholic teachings on marriage and the family is being circulated.
■ Fr. Ireneusz Chodakowski of the Massachusetts-based order, Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception, and pastor at St. Peter Parish, Kenosha, has been cleared by the Kenosha Police Department of any illegal activity following an investiation into a post made to his personal Facebook page.
■ The University of Notre Dame’s Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) marks 20 years of service with its Fighting for Our Children’s Future National Bus Tour, a cross-country effort to raise awareness of the impact that Catholic schools have on children and society and to celebrate the role they play in formation and social transformation. The bus stopped at St. Anthony School on Nov. 18; the elementary school has been a partner with ACE for three years and recently was evaluated by the program.
■ Midnight Mass is telecast live at midnight on Christmas Eve on WISN-TV, Channel 12, for the first time since 1995.
■ Alverno College announces a $30 million renovation project that will feature a Nursing Simulation Center, a suite of new classrooms, meeting areas and a conference room, Crossroads Café and Food Court Servery, to be completed in phases, by fall 2015.
■ St. Katharine Drexel Parish, Beaver Dam. celebrates the 10th anniversary of the merger that joined St. Michael, St. Patrick and St. Peter in 2003.