Charity, faith strengthen archdiocese, Dolan says

The Archdiocese of Milwaukee is doing well, according to Archbishop Timothy Dolan, who cited the region's growth in church membership and expansive community involvement.

Dolan addressed a crowded ballroom in the Wisconsin Club, 900 W. Wisconsin Ave., on Wednesday with a message of encouragement and growth.

"We are strong, we are hopeful, we are faithful." Dolan said. "The (Roman Catholic) Church is alive and growing."

According to Dolan, 275,000 Catholics worshipped at the 219 parishes in the archdiocese in the past year. Eleven thousand people, 1,000 of them adults, entered the Church in the archdiocese last year by the sacrament of baptism, he said.

Dolan also spoke on the Church's role in healthcare, education and charity.

The Church is the single largest healthcare provider in the region, he said, and is a provider of excellent education to students via the 124 grade schools, 13 high schools and five colleges with Catholic affiliations in the archdiocese.

Dolan praised the archdiocese for its charitable efforts.

"Our vast system of Catholic charities reaches out to those on life's roadside," he said.

On the issue of finances, Dolan was less specific.

"We're not rolling in dough, but we're paying our bills," he said. The archdiocese is "fiscally sound," Dolan said, and is in a position to remain that way thanks to "prudent" decision-making and planning.

In his speech, Dolan also emphasized paying attention to measures of the archdiocese's health that cannot be measured.

"We are first and foremost about the heart, the soul, the matters inside," he said. "The real stadium of the Church's mission is in the heart."

After his speech, Dolan was grilled by an audience member who claimed he was the victim of childhood sex abuse by a former priest of the archdiocese. The man politely but insistently asked Dolan why a group of sex-abuse survivors he said he represented hadn't heard from Dolan or his lawyer since October, and what the archdiocese planned to do if they had to pay out money for settlements with survivors.

Dolan responded that he would try and get in touch with the man's group again and that he would need counsel on how to fund reparations if they were needed.

Dolan's speech was part of The Peter Favre Forum, a monthly meeting of Catholic business professionals. The forum is co-sponsored by the Marquette University College of Business Administration.

This article appeared in The Marquette Tribune on Jan. 20 2005.