He had “a feeling” when he visited his baby brother, newly appointed rector of Saint Francis de Sales Seminary in 2007, that his face would join those framed pictures of the bishops lining a seminary hallway wall.
“I said to him, ‘Don, you know, I think your picture’s going to be up here someday….’” said Jim Hying, 58, the eldest of the six Hying boys, five of whom are still living.
So, he wasn’t surprised when Bishop Hying called him at 7 a.m. May 26, to break the news of his appointment as auxiliary bishop of the Milwaukee Archdiocese.
“I mean, not to sound like he deserved it or anything, but I mean, it’s just he’s a hard worker. He works seven days a week at his job, and he’s very pastoral,” Jim said in a phone interview with your Catholic Herald.
“It’s just inspiring to see the different things he does,” said Jim, husband, and father of three adult children, who attends Holy Apostles and St. Elizabeth Ann Seton parishes in New Berlin, among others. “In the Dominican Republic he was a pastor; he’s rector of the seminary, and just all the people he knows … he’s just an inspiration for being a Christian.”
Jim is 10 years Bishop Hying’s senior – he was learning to drive when his brother was in first grade – yet he looks up to his baby brother.
“He always has something unique to say about whatever the Gospel is for that day,” he said. “I like his sermons and I think he’s very good at what he does. He’s a good leader. He’ll be a blessing for the archdiocese.”
Deep Catholic roots
The Hyings were raised in a strong, Catholic family by their parents, and they continue to live their faith as adults, Jim said.
“We said the daily rosary as kids for a long time, and, I mean, it was like Fr. Don (said) – I’ll quote him – he said, ‘We were raised like Jesus was part of the family,’ I mean, that’s really true,” said Jim, who often attends the monthly Roses For Our Lady gathering, an association of Catholic laity with a mission to bring honor and glory to Jesus and Mary, of which Bishop Hying is spiritual director.
Florian Franecki, uncle to the Hying siblings on their mother’s side, said that the Catholic roots go back to the boys’ grandparents – saying the rosary daily was an offshoot from their grandmother.
“Our mother had a shrine always in her bedroom for the Blessed Mother, and she said the rosary every day with the sisters and us boys whenever us boys were around, so I’m pretty sure that had a pretty much profound effect on Don,” said Franecki, who is retired along with his wife, Virginia, better known as “Anne,” both members of St. Gregory the Great Parish, Milwaukee.
Older brother went to seminary first
John Hying, 56, second oldest of the siblings, also remembers saying the rosary together for 10 years – from before Bishop Hying was born until John was in high school, stopping only because of busier schedules as they all grew.
“We didn’t always like doing it,” said John, a member, and director of faith formation, at St. Anthony Parish, Menomonee Falls. “As little kids, you don’t appreciate it, but I think it was really worthwhile.”
John, who has a theology degree from when he spent eight-and-a-half years in the seminary pursuing a vocation to the priesthood, likes to talk theology or church issues with his brother. John had been interested in priesthood since sixth grade and enjoyed being an altar server.
“My parents were very devout Catholics and then they raised us that way, and I just felt that that was what I wanted to do and God wanted me to do,” he said of his decision to enter the seminary.
But John realized that priesthood wasn’t for him and spent 27 years in the engineering industry, until his job was eliminated in June 2008 because of the economic downturn.
Today, John thanks Bishop Hying for asking the question that led him to his current job as director of religious formation at his parish.
“I hadn’t thought about it before, but then I had talked to my pastor at St. Anthony and he had said that actually the woman who had been there for 20 years was retiring, so he was looking for somebody,” said John, who’s starting his third year as director. “So, I thought, ‘Yeah, well, maybe this is what God wants me to do next.’”
Personality, nature fit for priesthood
Beyond the Hying family’s Catholic roots, and Pope John Paul II’s influence upon Fr. Don’s decision to join the priesthood, John said he hopes he influenced his brother’s vocation, too.
“He’s eight years younger than me and he would come down to the seminary when he was young, when my family visited, and I think he was kind of enthralled with the place,” John said of the soon-to-be auxiliary bishop. “He must have thought something about it and so I would hope I had some positive influence on him that way.”
While John never expected Bishop Hying to become a priest, his down-to-earth personality and easygoing nature are a fit for his vocation.
“I mean, he’s definitely serious
about his faith and serious about what he’s doing, but, at the same time, I think he recognizes that people are people and that you need to approach them that way, and that he tries to listen and get to know people and start with where they’re at right now – he doesn’t preach to them,” he said. “I mean, he will challenge people and give them things to think about, but I think he’s got a listening heart and a very understanding heart. I think that’s why a lot of people like him.”
Bishop Hying’s ordination Mass in May 1989 is one of John’s favorite memories of the brother, who completed the path that John once began.
“I remember being at his ordination and at some point actually breaking down because he made it – I think at the time when they all lay on the floor up in front of the altar,” John said, recalling his favorite memory of Bishop Hying. “I just I remember that because it was such an honor to have him (as) a priest in the family.”
Coping with loss
While the Hying family is united by faith and their pride in having a priest in the immediate family, they have also been united in sharing the pain of loss.
In 1969, Patrick, the fourth of the six boys, died from liver cancer when he was just 10 years old. During surgery to remove what doctors thought was a cyst, they found incurable cancer.
John, a freshman in high school at the time, said the Hying family was never the same after Patrick’s death.
“We had a big dining room table that all eight of us could sit around at the same time and it was just so hard seeing that empty chair…” said John. “We never – none of us – ever forget that. I mean, I remember him on his birthday. I remember him on the day he died and I pray to him and talk to him on a regular basis as far as I look forward to seeing him again someday.”
Family helped each other cope
Will, 51, who belongs to St. Mary Help of Christians Parish, Sullivan, in the Madison Diocese, said that while the loss was difficult for everyone, having each other helped them cope.
“I guess we all just stuck together and pulled together and we all got through it in the end,” he said in an interview with your Catholic Herald.
The five Hying sons felt the pain of loss again when their mother died at age 83 in June 2006, and their father at age 91 in October 2008, both from cancer.
Their parents are buried next to Patrick, John said.
“I believe he’s in the middle – it’s at Mount Olivet Cemetery – and, in a way, it’s like we were happy for them that they now, finally, would see Patrick, too, after such a long time of mourning that loss,” he said.
No matter what happens in the Hying family, Bishop Hying is there, Jim said.
“He’s always been there if we needed to talk to him, or he’s always been there for the family,” he said of his brother who gave the eulogy at their mother’s funeral. Tim, John’s eldest of four children, was the first baby Bishop Hying baptized when he was assigned to St. Anthony Parish, Menomonee Falls, as a transitional deacon. He witnessed the wedding of his brother Richard Hying, 54, and his wife Janet about a week or two after his ordination; Will and his wife in 1993; and, most recently, Jim’s son Kevin and his wife.
Never says ‘no’
Being there for family, friends and parishioners is one reason John admires his brother, and why he thinks Fr. Don was chosen as auxiliary.
“His willingness to get involved and, sometimes, his detriment to not turn people down and not say no, because I think he sometimes overdoes himself and I think that’s partly how priests get chosen as bishops – when they’re able, when they’re willing to take on a lot and they can successfully do…things they’ve been asked to do,” said John, who traveled with their mother to visit Bishop Hying in the Dominican Republic in March 1996 because she didn’t want to go alone.
“I agreed to go along as her traveling companion, as well as to see Donald and a Third World country for the first time,” John wrote in a follow-up email to your Catholic Herald, explaining how he and his mother observed Bishop Hying’s interaction with his parishioners during the weeklong trip.
“I think his three years in the DR were a significant time in his priesthood for many reasons, but especially for him to cultivate his servant leadership and his love and understanding for the poor and for those who struggle in life,” he said. “Besides forcing him to become fluent in Spanish, a real asset for a bishop, it gave him a global perspective.”
Ability to speak Spanish an asset
Capuchin Fr. Niles J. Kauffman, the boys’ second cousin and coordinator of formation for the St. Clare Center at Cardinal Stritch University, admires Bishop Hying and said that his bilingual capabilities will help him in his new role because of the growing number of Hispanics in the Milwaukee Archdiocese.
“It’s a big group of people and to have somebody who can understand their concerns and minister to them directly is a huge advantage,” he said of Bishop Hying, whom he described as a “gentle, dedicated, committed priest.”
“My biggest hope – that he would continue to be as he is, open to hearing, listening to people,” Fr. Kauffman said.
Franecki said Bishop Hying’s second language has already helped him relate to Spanish-speaking seminarians as rector, and to parishioners as a priest, like he did at St. Gregory the Great Parish a few years ago when a Spanish-speaking family that couldn’t speak English was at the parish to celebrate a first Communion.
“They had the Communion on Sunday, but he came during the week and had this family come – the (Hispanic family). I think there were two girls for the Communion – (he) had a special Mass for them for their Communion,” Franecki said
Devotion to priesthood shines through
Franecki, a member of the St. Vincent de Paul Society for 38 years, said that Fr. Don’s devotion to the priesthood and poor shine through in his work as the society’s chaplain. “Even at our luncheons we would have, he’d be going around cleaning tables after we got through eating – that’s the kind of guy he is,” Franecki said of his nephew who usually celebrates monthly Mass for their meetings.
Franecki, who admires his nephew for his attitude toward the priesthood, said the only surprising factor in Bishop Hying’s appointment is that he’s young compared to the last auxiliary appointed for Milwaukee, Bishop William Callahan, who was 57 at the time of his appointment. Bishop Richard J. Sklba was 44 when he was appointed auxiliary bishop in 1979.
‘He’s a people person’
Bishop Hying may encounter challenges, but nothing he can’t handle, according to Franecki.
“I’m sure he’s going to have no trouble handling them because of how he can relate to people….,” Franecki said. “He’s a people person is what I’m trying to say – I don’t think he’s going to have any problems there and I’m hoping that everything will work out for him both, not only, spiritually, but physically, too. That’s going to be kind of demanding for him, although being a rector at the seminary I’m sure is demanding, so he’ll handle it.”
John agrees that Bishop Hying, the little brother who he remembers at age 3 or 4 running around the backyard screaming a lot, “to the point that some of the neighbors would complain,” is prepared for whatever comes his way.
“I think Donald realizes as a leader that you have to sometimes put your personal displeasures aside and the things that maybe affect you personally, and look at the greater good as far as what’s good for the church and the archdiocese, so he’ll do what he has to do,” John said, adding that he thinks Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki and Bishop Hying will “make a really good team.”
“I hope that, overall, in spite of the problems, that he finds (his role) satisfying, fulfilling and that he’s able to do more for the church and for the people of God and for the church of Milwaukee as a bishop – that many more people will get to know him and see what a good person and what a good priest he is.”
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