July 21, 2020
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
This last month, I discovered a new way to lose weight. Of course, I cannot take the credit; it was my sister, Penny, who commissioned me to clean out the garage and the crawl space of my family home. Now, in most instances, the job would be at most a two-day affair to take out the stuff in the garage, sweep it out and put it back, and, similarly, organize the crawl space. But, this task took a full five days because both the garage and the crawl space were the go-to storage areas for the last 30-plus years. I have moved four times in the last twenty years – from St. Mary of the Lake Seminary to St. Ignatius; from St. Ignatius to Vicariate I in Libertyville; from Libertyville to the Diocese of La Crosse; and, from La Crosse to my current home in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee – and Penny collected 39 years of teachings materials both in the parochial and public schools. The collection would have been the envy of any episode of Storage Wars, and believe me, I thought about contacting the network for a bid on the project.
One thing that I immediately learned about my family is that saving one memorable object is good, but having two of the same is better, and of course, multiples are the best. You may think I might be exaggerating, but I counted no less than a hundred Rubbermaid bins, and each one had to be examined for its contents. I am sure the same rationale that generated the collection is the same that motivates most of us. Let me name a few thoughts. “I’ll put this aside and get to it later.” Of course, later never comes and now 25 years have passed. “I think I know someone who will be able to use this.” A name was supposed to emerge, but it never did. “This has a little nick or just needs a slight adjustment and it will be very useful.” It remained unrepaired. “This would be great for Christmas, Easter or Halloween.” But, the bins became stacked and disappeared as holidays disappeared. The list could go on, and you can add your own explanations, but, inevitably, it creates the pile-up and becomes the task at hand.
There was a mountain of pictures of family members throughout the ages – my father in the Marines, my grandfather in his Army uniform, my grandparents’ wedding pictures, my sister and I at play with cousins – and there were a ton of pictures with St. John Paul II at various stages of his pontificate. There were, of course, hundreds of pictures of people we couldn’t identify.
My sister and I joked that if we died in a simultaneous accident, then whoever would be responsible for clearing this mess would be yelling, “what were they thinking!” I did gain a monetary treasure. No, it wasn’t that pot of gold hidden by some relative of the past; rather, it was $2.87 in change. This would have been a good sum in 1786, but it doesn’t quite have its worth in 2020 and doesn’t even amount to slave wages for five days of manual labor in today’s world. But, as I said, working in temperatures of the mid-90s (94 degrees average), you do lose weight. I don’t expect Jenny Craig, Slim Fast, Weight Watchers or any of the “poundage pounders” to take my formula, but it does work and will soon be erased with two visits to Leon’s (double scoop of butter pecan).
The various charitable outlets in our area were the recipients of some brand-new and some slightly used objects. It felt good to know that the stored articles found a good home and would help some deserving individuals.
Cleaning out the storage space reminds me that there is spiritual storage to which I must pay attention. I need to celebrate the moments of grace that have occupied my life and make room for whatever spiritual experiences God has in store. So, I’ll mark my spiritual bins with a reminder to LOVE ONE ANOTHER.
Most Reverend Jerome E. Listecki
Archbishop of Milwaukee