Our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI honored the Archdiocese of Milwaukee with the selection of Fr. Don Hying as the new auxiliary bishop designate. Fr. Don is a well-respected priest of the archdiocese and in his selection, there is recognition of the good work performed by so many of our archdiocesan priests.
Fr. Don is the first native priest – ordained for the archdiocese – selected to serve the Archdiocese of Milwaukee in 32 years. Bishop Richard J. Sklba was our last and he has continued to serve and support the church in retirement.
The selection of a bishop is not only a tribute to the local church, but it is also a continuation of the apostolic succession originated from the call of the first 12 by Jesus Christ. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (#77) states: “In order that the full and living Gospel might always be preserved in the church, the apostles left bishops as their successors. They gave them “their own position of teaching authority.” Indeed “the apostolic preaching, expressed in a special way in the inspired books, was to be preserved in a continuous line of succession until the end of time.”
When I was named an auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of Chicago, the announcement came as a shock, but life continued. I resumed my duties as pastor of St. Ignatius but now as a bishop-designate. One of my pastoral duties was conducting the RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults), one of the true gifts of the church.
RCIA, usually conducted in small group sessions, is an introduction to the Catholic faith. A bond forms between the people who share in the preparation sessions. One of the catechists Albert (Bert) Hoffman, a former teacher at Gordon Tech High School, Chicago, looked at me during our session and said; “You, bishop, are a successor of the apostles.”
I was not yet comfortable with being called bishop, and now he was referring to me as a successor of the apostles. Although he was right, I only prayed that the church didn’t make a mistake. Relying on my ecclesiological education (the study of church) I received consolation from the fact that the church is indefectible. But please God, I prayed, don’t let me mess up.
A person can intellectually understand many of the theological concepts in our catechism, but they take on a totally different aspect when they are internalized. We miss so much when we fail to understand the beautiful mysteries in our teachings about the sacraments and how they touch our lives in such a personal manner. Believe me, it deepens our faith when we understand the profound mystery expressed in our rituals.
I have had the privilege in the last year and a half to work with Fr. Don, rector of Saint Francis de Sales Seminary. He has earned the respect of the clergy, seminarians and lay faithful. His love for the church and the priesthood is evident in his preaching and teaching. He has developed and supported various devotional practices among the seminarians and the lay faithful. He has demonstrated priestly courage in his willingness to confront issues challenging the dignity of the human person.
As Lumen Gentium stated, and the Catechism of the Catholic Church (#1558) reiterates, as an auxiliary bishop, he will assist in the three-fold offices:
“Episcopal consecration confers, together with the office of sanctifying, also the offices of teaching and ruling…. In fact … by the imposition of hands and through the words of the consecration, the grace of the Holy Spirit is given, and a sacred character is impressed in such way that bishops, in an eminent and visible manner, take the place of Christ himself, teacher, shepherd and priest, and act as his representative (in Eius persona agant).
“By virtue, therefore of the Holy Spirit who has been given to them, bishops have been constituted true and authentic teachers of the faith and have been made pontiffs and pastors.”
Fr. Don’s life will change. While there will be an ontological change, the man will remain the same. But now people will approach him through the office he exercises.
In Holy Orders the first change occurred when he was ordained a deacon, making him a public minister in the church, and then as priest, placing in his hands the authority to celebrate the Sacrifice and offer absolution. And now, as bishop, he has the authority to sanctify, govern and teach in the name of the church.
Fr. Don’s servant leadership will assist in him in the exercise of his office as bishop. He is willing to do whatever it takes to help our church grow in holiness. This should be a goal not only for Bishop-designate Hying but for all of us personally and as a church. He will accomplish that task by focusing his attention on the one person we all serve: Jesus Christ.
Many people have asked me over the last 10 months, “When are we going to get an auxiliary?”
Some, I am sure, were asking out of concern for the amount of work I was assuming. Others, perhaps, were just tired of hearing me at all the functions. Many realize that a bishop is a sign of unity and an auxiliary bishop helps foster that unity with the universal church.
Bishop-designate Hying’s ordination will be on Wednesday, July 20 in the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist. It will be a great day for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. Since I’ll have a new, energetic auxiliary bishop, I may even take a week off after the ordination to celebrate.