When it came to the appointment of an auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki did not receive the quantity – two – he requested from the Vatican Congregation for Bishops. The one he received, however, Bishop Donald J. Hying, has the attributes the archbishop sought in an auxiliary bishop.
“My specific expectations and my hope, and it has borne true, was that the Holy See would give me someone to assist me who is a good priest, in love with the church, and a generous heart for service to the community,” Archbishop Listecki said. “If you noticed (on May 26, the day the appointment was announced), I characterized Bishop-elect Hying as a servant leader, one who is willing to do anything necessary in order to further the mission. That was my criterion.”
Ordained a bishop in 2001, Archbishop Listecki served the first four years of his episcopacy as an auxiliary bishop – something he termed “a real blessing” – to Cardinal Francis George in the Archdiocese of Chicago.
“I did have the ability to learn under Cardinal George,” the archbishop said. “I don’t consider myself a Cardinal George; he’s certainly one of the great leaders in the church, but I have had 10 years experience as a bishop, and so hopefully I can share some of that experience with Bishop-elect Hying.”
Among the first pieces of advice Archbishop Listecki shared with his new auxiliary was to relax.
“Your first aspect is you’re worried, ‘How do I live up to this? How do I meet the standard of representing the church?’ It’s the whole aspect of becoming a successor to the apostles; it’s kind of like a ton of bricks falls on you,” the archbishop said. “It’s one thing to think about it theologically and certainly understand it intellectually, but now you’re in that position so there’s that realization.”
Bishop, office shape each other
According to the archbishop, the bishop shapes the office, but the office also shapes the bishop. Regarding the latter, he said, “People will now relate to ‘Fr. Hying’ as ‘Bishop Hying.’ They will not know Fr. Hying. They will only know Bishop Hying. There will be certain expectations he brings. He represents the archdiocese and the larger church, and he is a representative of the magisterium. People will be listening to him and to his responses to things with a little more intensity than they have in the past.”
Archbishop Listecki noted that, like all bishops, Bishop Hying will have opportunities to shape the office.
“Paul was different than Peter. And Peter was different than Philip. And Philip was different than James and John. You do have your own personality, your own talents at the disposal of the office in order to allow the mission of the church and the person of Jesus to be experienced,” he said.
Just as the archbishop learned about being a bishop from Cardinal George, Bishop Hying will have the opportunity to learn the office from Archbishop Listecki.
“I hope he understands that when you’re a bishop, you commit yourself to the service of the church – to serve the people, serve the faithful, serve the priests who are going to look to you for support, leadership and direction,” the archbishop said. “You are, in effect, their servant.”
Archbishop Listecki noted that while there is a “the buck stops here” element to leadership, the bishop’s leadership role goes beyond that.
“No one should ever doubt the heart and the mind of the bishop in his willingness to serve those people, and I’ve already seen those characteristics in Don as a priest,” the archbishop said. “It is my prayer that that characteristic will just grow in the episcopacy of Fr. Hying.”
By the very nature of the position, the auxiliary bishop works closely with the archbishop, who is entrusted with teaching, governing and sanctifying the people of the archdiocese.
Reflecting on his experience with Cardinal George, and applying it to Bishop Hying, Archbishop Listecki said, “I had a sense that I was partner, I was collaborator, a coworker. I was not in any way thought of as ‘second string’ or a replacement or a substitute. When you are ordained bishop, you are ordained a bishop.”
While Archbishop Listecki has not determined Bishop Hying’s specific duties, his auxiliary will not be rector of Saint Francis Seminary much longer.
“For the time being he will remain as rector. We want to protect the good that has been fostered and generated at Saint Francis Seminary,” the archbishop said, referring to the appointment of another rector. “He (Bishop Hying) will have to transition out of that, and make that transition as smooth as possible.”
Following his ordination as auxiliary bishop in 1979, Bishop Richard J. Sklba, rector of the seminary at the time, remained in that position until January 1980.
Affirmation of presbyterate
Archbishop Listecki said he is excited about Bishop Hying’s selection as bishop because of what it means for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee.
“Many among the presbyterate see it as an affirmation of the presbyterate of the archdiocese,” he said. “Having a home-grown native son appointed bishop really is an honor to the presbyterate, as well as to the faithful, because Don has been devoted to helping people come to a spiritual understanding of the devotional practices in their own life, and I’ve seen that in many of the things that Don has initiated, showing people how to grow in their faith through prayer and knowledge about the faith.”
The archbishop termed the appointment “a tribute to (the Archdiocese of) Milwaukee, and Milwaukee needs to be heralded.”
“Too often we can see ourselves through the lens of the mistakes of the past. Included in that are the errors of those priests and the sins of those priests who abused individuals,” Archbishop Listecki said. “Too often what gets overlooked are the thousands of priests and devoted Catholics who merely want to proclaim the Gospel to live it and to share the love of Jesus Christ. Bishop Hying’s election as bishop is a tribute to that.”
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