Today, the Milwaukee Archdiocese made history as Jerome Listecki became the 11th Archbishop ever since it's inception in 1844. In Sunday's Crossroads of the Journal Sentinel, Milwaukee Historian John Gurda wrote on the historical significance of today's installation. Back in the 1900s, there was a war of words between the Milwaukee German and Polish Catholics. The Polish Catholics blasted the German dominance of the Milwaukee's Church hierarchy to the point where they turned to two devout Catholics who were members of the Polish community, the Kruszka Brothers (Michael and Wenceslaus) that physically traveled to Rome to lobby the Pope in appointing a Polish archbishop. However, the current Archbishop Messmer wrote in 1905, "The longer I think it over, the more it seems to me a dangerous experiment at this stage to give the Polish people a bishop, for the very reason that we will be considered the bishop for all of the Poles of the US" (quote from John Gurda's JS article "Listecki installation a victory in a forgotten war, Jan. 3, 2010) and not for the rest of the Catholics. In 1913, the Vatican, in responding to mounting pressure, appointed Milwaukee's first Polish Auxiliary Bishop, Edward Kozlowski , and on the day of his installation, more than 50,000 Polish Catholics greeted him.
It's not until 96 years after Kozlowski was appointed the first Polish Auxiliary Bishop, the Vatican (particularly Pope Benedict XVI) selected Bishop Jerome Listecki, the first Milwaukee Archbishop of Polish descent. At last, the Polish Catholics of Milwaukee can rejoice in welcoming him as the first Archbishop with Polish roots. Also, everybody should celebrate our new Archbishop of Milwaukee no matter where their heritage originated. May God Bless Archbishop Jerome Listecki in his new assignment.
Fore more on the conflict between the German and Polish Catholics, there are two good books to read, Faith and Fatherland by Anthony Kuzniewski and In the Richness of the Earth: A History of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee 1843-1958 by Marquette University Associate Professor of History and an Archdiocesan priest, Fr. Steven Avella.
Here is the list of the Archbishops of Milwaukee and their years of service
John Martin Henni-1844-1881
Frederick Xavier Katzer-1890-1903
Sebastian Gebhard Messmer -1903-1930 (Messmer High School)
Samuel Alphonsus Stritch-1930-1940 (later Cardinal of Chicago, Cardinal Stritch University)
Moses Elias Kiley-1940-1953
Albert Gregory Meyer-1953-1958
William E. Cousins-1959-1977 (Cousins Center, once the HQ for the MKE Archdiocese, now for sale)
Rember G. Weakland-1977-2002
Timothy M. Dolan-2002-2009 (now Archbishop of NY)
I hope that citizens across Southeast Wisconsin can show their tremendous friendship towards Archbishop Listecki and wonder if he his looking forward to Polish Fest this Summer? Thanks for reading!