On June 24, 2002, I arrived in Milwaukee on the day before the public announcement that I had been appointed as tenth archbishop of Milwaukee. I was a nervous wreck. I had a big job ahead of me, in an archdiocese I knew little about, in the midst of a time of national scandal, to follow a very prominent and long-serving Archbishop.
But what made me most apprehensive with the prospect of meeting my predecessor. Archbishop Rembert Weakland had a national, actually international, stature; he had just resigned after acknowledging and apologizing for past sins; and, although I hardly knew him, word on the street was that we came from different “theological backgrounds,” which is a euphemistic way of saying that he was looked upon as a “liberal,” I as a “conservative.”
His gracious hospitality that evening, substantive conversation, candid assessment of the challenges awaiting me, and his assurances of ongoing support, made me feel very welcome, and softened considerably the nervousness I was experiencing. But, what really gave me peace and confidence came early the next morning.
I couldn’t sleep, and I was anticipating controversial questions at the press conference. Plus, I was still unsure about how my predecessor and I would get along. By 4:00 a.m. I gave up on sleep. I got out of bed, showered, dressed, grabbed my breviary, and made my way, at about 4:45 in the morning, to the little chapel downstairs… and there sat Rembert Weakland, with his breviary, before the Blessed Sacrament in the tabernacle. My fears evaporated. Between the two of us was a difference in age of about twenty-five years, in weight of about sixty pounds, a variation of theological outlook probably. But it was suddenly and dramatically evident to me that we were one in our faith, our priestly vocation, our apostolic bond, our prayer, and our trust in Jesus, really and truly present in the Most Blessed Sacrament.
From “Miracles Before the Eucharist,” in Born of the Eucharist: A Spirituality for Priests.
Brett Salkeld is a doctoral student in theology at Regis College in Toronto. He is a father of two (so far) and husband of one.