Sunday, November 15, 2009

Wisconsin Catholics happy for Bishop Listecki's promotion

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The bishop of the Catholic Church's La Crosse Diocese, the Most Rev. Jerome Listecki, is the next leader of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee.
Central Wisconsin clergy members said Milwaukee's gain is La Crosse's loss.

"I was sad to lose such a fine man and bishop, but also very happy that he's going to be staying close and be in Milwaukee and still have a good influence in our state," said the Rev. Kevin Louis of Saint Peter Catholic Church in Stevens Point.

The Vatican announced Saturday that Listecki, who has led the La Crosse Diocese since March 2005, will be the 11th bishop of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee starting in January. Listecki, a Chicago native, will succeed Timothy Dolan, who was named archbishop of New York earlier this year.

"I am humbled by my selection as the Archbishop of Milwaukee," said Listecki in a prepared statement. "... Although I look forward to responding to the challenges presented by the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, I do regret leaving the Diocese of La Crosse, a diocese that I have grown to love and call home."

Local clergy members said Listecki's personable nature will be greatly missed. Louis served as Listecki's driver for about four months when he was first appointed in La Crosse and came to know him on a personal level. "I was so impressed as I traveled with him -- his real love of our diocese of La Crosse, his real love of people," he said.

The Rev. Tom Lindner of Newman University Catholic Parish in Stevens Point, who's known Listecki since 1991, said he wasn't surprised when he heard the news, since there had been a lot of speculation about the appointment. "I think what people in Milwaukee will appreciate is ... he's rather gregarious. He enjoys being with people," Lindner said. "People appreciate his presence and ... just enthusiam."

The Rev. John Swing, who serves Sacred Heart Church in Nekoosa and St. Alexander in Port Edwards, said Listecki has done a wonderful job in just five years. "Everyone's getting to know and love him more and more. It's hard to let him go now. He will do wonderful in Milwaukee," he said.

His personality was a valuable asset to the diocese, said the Rev. William Menzel of St. Vincent de Paul Parish, Wisconsin Rapids. Menzel described Listecki as "very talented, very personable, very approachable."
"The one phrase I always heard when talking to priests or lay people was 'He's so down to earth,'" Menzel said.

Listecki was committed to the service of people and priests in the La Crosse Diocese. He performed all the confirmations in the diocese, and conducted 50th wedding celebrations, and was at Assumption High School in Wisconsin Rapids on Wednesday for a youth rally.

"He was everywhere," Menzel said. "He always seemed comfortable with people wherever he was." Clergy talked about Listecki's dedication to pastoral planning, and the capital campaign, "We belong to Christ."

"Our own Assumption High School was deep in debt, and that effort brought us to a strong fiscal standing," Swing said. "This year, we've ordained six men to the priesthood, the most we've done in a long time," Swing said. "Since (Listecki) has been here, the number of seminarians and priests being ordained has gone markedly up."

Deacon Jim Landry of St. Lawrence Catholic Church in Wisconsin Rapids agreed the announcement wasn't really a surprise. "At his installation Mass (as bishop), I overhead one of the priests say, 'This is like a breath of fresh air. I think Milwaukee is going to get a great archbishop." Wisconsin Rapids Tribune

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