Another side of new Milwaukee archbishop

Chaplain Jerome E. Listecki, pictured at St. Joseph Church, Wilmette, Wis. (Photo courtesy of Penny Listecki)

The Milwaukee Catholic Herald gave its readers another view of their new archbishop with this story about his military chaplaincy where he  ministered to soldiers in the reserves.

In 1991, when there were more than 500,000 troops stationed in the Persian Gulf, Life magazine planned to do a “chaplain goes to war” story featuring Chaplain Jerome E. Listecki. The then-chaplain was told three times to prepare to join Operation Desert Storm but before he was to ship out, the war ended.

A friend who met the archbishop in the reserves described Milwaukee’s new shepherd as “a good example of what a true priest should be” and fondly remembers that the priest would “wear his military uniform and his combat boots under his vestments.”

Holy Land journey: A full day seeing the needs of Lebanon

By Bishop Gerald Kicanas
One in a series

(Editor’s Note: Bishop Gerald Kicanas (right) of Tucson, Ariz., vice president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, is on a trip to Lebanon, his ancestral homeland, and to Israel and the Palestinian territories, where he will attend an international meeting of  bishops in support of the church in the Holy Land. He has agreed to be a guest blogger for us during the trip.)

DAY TWO: Jan. 6, 2010

BEIRUT, Lebanon — The day began with a hearty breakfast which readied us for what was an informative, engaging, moving and powerful day.

* * *

It began with a visit to the Caritas Lebanon Migrant Center, begun in 1994 to respond to a few Sudanese refugees who faced tough conditions and needed special care. A life-size picture of Mother Teresa greets you on the wall as you enter the office.

Women read and watch TV at the Caritas Lebanon Migrant Center in Beirut in 2008. (CNS/Norbert Schiller)

It means so much to see the church aligned with the poor and the marginalized. Caritas Lebanon and Catholic Relief Services work hard to be present to those struggling and in need of support to assist and to empower them. I feel that same pride with programs in our diocese like Dioceses Without Borders, a cross-border effort to link the Archdiocese of Hermosillo, Mexico, and the dioceses of Tucson and Phoenix in addressing the needs of our community, and the Kino Border Initiative in Ambos Nogales, a Jesuit-born initiative which is serving migrants crossing into the United States and those sent back across the border. This concern for migrants, refugees and asylum seekers is what the church should be about.

In Lebanon, the Migrant Center reaches out to serve people, mostly women, from Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Ethiopia, Nepal, Sudan, Somalia, Madagascar, Bangladesh, Iraq and, of course, the Palestinian territories. When Caritas Lebanon first got involved it had only one office and three people being served. This year there are 10 offices serving 110 people. They also serve a detention center with 500 people housed in a former garage, a bleak place where people struggle to retain their human dignity.

In this file photo from 2008, Hussein and Samina Khafagi share a snack of grapes with their four children in their small apartment in Beirut. They were receiving assistance from the Caritas Lebanon Migrant Center, which is funded by Catholic Relief Services. (CNS/Paul Jeffrey)

Migrant workers in Lebanon, as in other countries, can be subject to exploitation. They are brought to the country by agencies to serve mostly as domestic workers. They are taken advantage of by these agencies and, at times, they can be physically and sexually abused by their employers or their families. They have no rights and are living a kind of slavery. The Migrant Center provides legal assistance, social counseling, medical aid, and they are working to formulate a unified contract that would protect worker rights. They have begun an advocacy program to raise awareness in Lebanon of these abuses. A sign on the wall in the office shows kitchen utensils surrounded by the words that read, “Would you tolerate someone hitting you or mistreating you?”

Continue reading

Year for Priests: Transcending the classroom

By Basilian Father Chris Valka
One in a series

A new year brings a new semester at Catholic Central High School, and while no one is entirely thrilled about the daily addition of snow that plagues the roadways, winter seems to promote a little more stillness, reflection and purity in the mind of my students.  In American Literature, we began a new unit on Transcendentalism – perfect for this time of year.  After a brief introduction, we imagined that our classroom was in Cambridge, Mass.,s circa 1836.  As we sat casually inside, the snow continued to fall outside as we philosophized about life.  They asked:

“What does the afterlife look like?”

“What brings about happiness?”

“What is the relevance of God?”

Happiness, they first determined, is success, which is measured in cash; but then we discussed it further and they concluded that happiness comes from experience.  Most students agreed that happiness comes about through the activities of men and women. Thus, I asked about the relevance of God?

. . . . . silence.

In the middle of so many activities that occur in the world of a teenage boy, I asked, “Where does God enter the picture?”  They agreed that they wanted an answer, but found it difficult to articulate.  “So,” I said, “Let’s simplify it then: Why go to church?”

“For hope,” one young man said.

“So I can learn how it is I am supposed to live,” said another.

And another said, “It is the only place I can find quiet.”

Struck by their sincerity, I asked if they find what they desire in church.  “Sometimes,” they continued, “but often what we learn about in church doesn’t really affect us too much.  Like at Mass, I used to think that the priest was just simply talking to the adults, but then my mom couldn’t remember what the priest said either.  I guess it didn’t matter much.”

“So why go?” I asked.

“Because I hope one day I’ll get it,” he said.

After class, I recalled a production that I did some time ago with Salt + Light Television entitled The Search for Church (the 20-minute video is linked here).  That night, I watched it once again and found that my students reiterated what we discovered through that production – young people really want meaning in their lives, but even at church the message is often clouded.  Yet, young people continue to come and remind the rest of us that our places of worship should ultimately be places of living hope.

My students are learning from the Transcendentalists that there is a time and a place for non-conformity.  For my part, I pray that when the students find what they are looking for in church, it will be because the rest of us have learned from them as much as they have learned from us.

Father Chris Valka, CSB, was ordained a priest for the Congregation of St. Basil last May and is teaching at Detroit Catholic Central High School in Michigan.

Click here for more in this series.