February 2, 2021
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
It is Catholic Schools Week and I find myself celebrating Mass almost every day at a different parish school or school system in our Archdiocese. All of us should be proud of the work done by our principals, teachers, school staff, pastors, parish administrators, priests, deacons and parish staff. Their efforts and sacrifices have provided quality Catholic education during trying and unique times. If I can be a bit prophetic, I believe what is happening in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee in the area of education cannot be found anywhere else in the Catholic Church in the United States. I believe the innovative work of our schools will become a model for other dioceses in the country. These models will assist in keeping Catholic schools viable in the years to come.
I am proud to say that I am a product of Catholic education. Besides the academic discipline that the teachers – namely, sisters – instilled in me, they also offered me a vision of the world through the Christian lens. I received an understanding that the responsibility I had to my brothers and sisters came through the Cross of Christ, who died so that we might be saved. Now, in His name, I was charged to live for others because of His love for me. My teachers introduced me not only to this world but also to the unseen world created by God, which is the world of angels and heaven – the world to come. They promoted patriotism and a love for our nation, along with the freedoms and rights that we enjoy. They boldly proclaimed that these freedoms are to be defended even with our lives, if necessary.
We need Catholic education because it proclaims and protects our religious freedom, a freedom which I fear is questioned in today’s society. I have often maintained that you are freer in a Catholic school than in a public school. In a Catholic school, you are free to pray or not. In a Catholic school, you can express your belief in God or not. Studies have demonstrated the importance of Catholic schools to the neighborhoods they serve because of the social responsibility parents and students express to the community.
We are committed to Catholic education in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. Our Catholic universities and colleges have not only recognized the importance of Catholic education, but many have also contributed and collaborated with the Archdiocese. The dedication that our teachers and administrators have exhibited during this pandemic demonstrates that they view the well being of our students as their primary goal. The leadership in the Archdiocese is exemplified by Superintendent Dr. Kathleen Cepelka, whose visionary leadership has created a Catholic school system that is admired by all. As I celebrate Masses through the Archdiocese, one will find Dr. Cepelka or a member of her staff in the congregation.
When I was preaching at St. Peter in Slinger, I reminded the students that I was in their seats, to me, what seems to be yesterday, but in their minds, I’m sure it seems to be ancient history. I told the students that as I matured, I began to realize how many people were supporting me and my education, many of whom I would never know. This realization became a foundation of my life because it taught me that I could pray for those supporters and that God would bless those who shared their treasures with others.
To the grammar school, high school, college, law school and graduate school I attended, all Catholic communities of education that have contributed to my education and formation, may God bless them all. May St. Thomas Aquinas, patron of universities, colleges, schools, teachers and students, pray for us so that we may continue to create communities that LOVE ONE ANOTHER.
Most Reverend Jerome E. Listecki
Archbishop of Milwaukee