Former Chicagoan Installed as New Milwaukee Archbishop

Archbiship Jerome Listecki equates journey to "Dancing With the Stars"

Archbishop Jerome Listecki took over as leader of some 640,000 Catholics in southeastern Wisconsin Monday, expressing humility and saying his biggest fear was that he would not do a good job.

"Can I, in terms of my own abilities, rise to the occasion?" Listecki said after his installation service Monday. "That's where faith has to kick in because then faith has to come in and say, 'Well, somehow God put us here and put us together and is going to give us the ability to respond to the challenges.'"

The 60-year-old came from the La Crosse, Wis., diocese, with about 202,000 parishioners in 165 parishes in western Wisconsin, where he had served since 2005. The Milwaukee archdiocese has 211 churches.

The Chicago native is also a retired lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army Reserves.

He takes over from Timothy Dolan who was installed April 15 as archbishop of New York. Describing Dolan as a good friend, Listecki said his predecessor was well-loved in the community and would still be archbishop if parishioners had a choice.

In his homily, Listecki said he left room in the bishop's seat.

"I wasn't making room for my guardian angel, but for Archbishop Timothy Dolan," he said.

"And if the chair will hold both of us, I know he will always have a place in the hearts of the people of Milwaukee."

He also told the crowd at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist in downtown Milwaukee that many bishops and priests were more deserving of his position, being more intelligent and talented.

"I say this not with a false sense of humility, but merely as a fact," he said.

He compared his journey to that of the celebrities and dancers on the reality TV show "Dancing with the Stars" who have to get to know each other's strengths and weaknesses to succeed.

"I apologize if I tend to step on your toes, but I am confident that we will grow in God's love and our performance will be a witness to his presence in southeastern Wisconsin," he said.

Listecki stressed the need to protect marriage and family life. He said church teachings on human dignity "embrace life from the moment of conception to natural death."

He said: "Adherence to the church's teaching is not always easy. However, one must sacrifice for the truth."

Cardinals Edward Egan of New York, Francis George of Chicago, and Adam Maida and Edmund Szoka of Detroit were among the U.S. church leaders in attendance, along with nearly two dozen bishops and archbishops.

Listecki has been more outspoken on political issues than Dolan. He once admonished House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for her interpretation of Catholic teachings on the beginnings of life, and criticized the University of Notre Dame's decision earlier this year to honor Barack Obama. He has also spoken out against the group Young Catholics for Choice, which was working with a Wisconsin family planning clinic to promote access to emergency contraceptives. This fall, he also testified before a Wisconsin legislative committee, arguing against a bill that would make it easier for victims of clergy sex abuse to sue their perpetrators.

He told reporters Monday that he's been shocked to be labeled as a political bishop: "I don't have any pony in the show," he said.

Nevertheless, he said he will continue to speak out against anything that is contrary to the beliefs of the Catholic church.

Doug Barnes, 50, of New Berlin, was representing St. Aloysius in West Allis at the ceremony. Afterward, he said he wants Listecki to continue speaking out on issues like abortion and birth control.

"He needs to continue to promote our Catholic faith and what we stand for as Catholics," he said. "If that means maybe sometimes upsetting some people that's OK. We need to go forward and show what our faith really is."

Copyright AP - Associated Press
Contact Us