Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki, a 1975 alumnus of Mundelein Seminary and a member of our board of advisers, recently shared this reflection on his memories of his own ordination ceremony and the privilege of serving as a parish priest and bishop in the years that followed.
On the morning of May 14, 1975, my 37 classmates and I entered the chapel at St. Mary of the Lake Seminary in Mundelein, Illinois, and emerged two-and-a-half hours later as ordained priests of the Archdiocese of Chicago.
It was the end of a 12-year journey – from beginning in 1963 at one of the Quigleys, the minor seminary through Niles College of Loyola University in Chicago, and ending at the major seminary of St. Mary of the Lake in Mundelein. At times, it seemed like a forever goal. Some of these individuals were men that I had spent a full 12 years of my life. We had weathered crises and challenges, successes and failures, but always with the ultimate goal of ordination.
The seminary always came alive with ordinations – the beautiful lake, the piazza of the Immaculate Conception, where the first blessings would take place, and the special luncheon prepared for family and friends of the newly ordained in the seminary refectory.
Many of us spent a year in parishes as deacons, so staff and parishioners came out to witness our transformation into priests. The chapel could only hold 1,000 individuals, so 700-800 individuals were outside – but the weather was beautiful that day, with blue skies and billowy, white clouds.
Many of us immediately felt the fraternity of the priesthood. There is one part of the ceremony in which the priests are invited to impose hands, uniting themselves to the action of the ordaining bishop. Because the number of those to be ordained, priests had to wait outside the chapel until the appropriate moment. As the auxiliary bishops finished imposing hands, the doors of the chapel opened and hundreds upon hundreds of priests filed in to impose hands. To me, it felt like I was on my knees for an hour, but it was worth every moment.
After the ceremony, the newly-ordained were ushered to form a circle around the piazza where family and friends received the first blessings. I can tell you that a great deal of tears were shed capturing the sacrifices that were made to reach this goal. Tears were also shed for those who died (grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters and friends) and had longed to be physically present at our ordination. But, we shared spiritually with them at this time, as we know is possible for all believers who trust in the resurrection of Jesus.
Today’s feast (May 14) is St. Matthias. He was chosen to replace Judas. We don’t know much about him, but he was chosen. Forty-four years ago, my classmates and I were chosen. History may not record much about us, the ordination class of 1975, but I can testify that it has been a privilege to serve in the name of Christ and His Church.
During those 44 years, I have been honored to meet saints, and also sinners who became saints – civic officials (presidents, secretary of states, governors, foreign dignitaries), educational giants, men and women religious leaders and Catholics who have lived their faith with a commitment to Jesus Christ, without any desire for personal gain. My priesthood has been enriched, and I am a better person for having the privilege to serve the Church these last 44 years – and for the last 10 years in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. I thank you for making my priesthood so special. I live in gratitude, and reflect on what is proclaimed in today’s Gospel from John 15:16-17.
“It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you. This I command you: LOVE ONE ANOTHER.”
Most Reverend Jerome E. Listecki
Archdiocese of Milwaukee
Reprinted with permission from the Archdiocese of Milwaukee