Excessive snoring can nearly drive Bishop Hying to the brinksttheresewall1One wall in Bishop Donald J. Hying’s office at Saint Francis Seminary, St. Francis, is dedicated to St. Therese of Lisieux, a saint to whome he has a special devotion. (Catholic Herald photo by Maryangela Layman Román)

When Sue Healey accompanied Fr. Hying on one of her many mission trips to Haiti, a number of them shared a small room separated by a thin, cardboard wall.

“Basically, we had a couple of people in our group that snored really bad,” explained Healey. “It woke a few of us up during the night and it was hard to fall back asleep.”

When morning arrived, Healey admitted that a few of the noisy culprits endured a bit of ribbing, especially from a bleary-eyed Fr. Hying.

“He came out and said, ‘For the first time in my life, I contemplated murder and suicide at the same time,’” she laughed, adding, “He always has had such a great sense of humor and can find the joy in just about anything.”

A photographic memory

Although he triple majored in college, Fr. Hying kept just one notebook throughout all four years at Marquette University. According to Mike Wick, despite his superior intelligence, Fr. Hying’s humility was such that no one knew the extent of his giftedness.

“He has this phenomenal memory and carried a very high GPA, but kept all of his notes in only one notebook,” he said. “He had this incredible photographic memory, and while he studied and hit the books, he never gave you the air that he was cramming for a test. He just assimilated information quickly, and articulated everything profoundly.”

He cannot turn a somersault

While he exhibited nearly superhero ability in achieving three majors in college in just four years, according to good friend, Jeff Bloechl, Fr. Hying is still is unable to do a somersault, despite frequent encouragement to try.

He’s a closet crooner

In addition to Fr. Hying’s inexhaustible source of knowledge about things as diverse as English history, Christian mysticism, and the entire Kennedy family, he is known to croon when he thinks no one is listening. 

“When he thinks he is alone, he often sings Kemper Krabb songs (Kemper Krabb mixes contemporary folk music with medieval themes), aloud to himself, said Wick. “I imagine that Don will squirm when he reads this, but it seems to be a good thing to let people in Milwaukee know that they are getting someone truly extraordinary.”

Country music buff and more!

The Rolling Stones and other rock and roll groups didn’t hold a candle to Dolly Parton, Tammy Wynette and Tanya Tucker; according to childhood friend, Mike O’Loughlin. Fr. Hying is an “old school” country music lover, through and through.

“He also enjoyed watching the old Errol Flynn swashbuckler movies, and is a lover of American history. He was a voracious reader of the ‘Signature Series,’ autobiographies published in the 1950s,” said O’Loughlin. “I don’t know if he read them all, but he read all the copies that were in the Immaculate Heart of Mary and New Berlin public libraries.”

If he looks nervous, play along

In his eagerness to visit his friend, Larry Davis was in a giddy mood while watching a few armed men speaking in Spanish with Bishop Hying near the rectory at Sagrada Familia. An excited visitor, Davis, armed only with a camera thought it might be a great opportunity to snap some pictures.

“So I went up to these guys with the automatic weapons and began joking around with them, and moving them around so I could take their pictures,” explained Davis, unaware that the armed men had been sent by the government to intimidate Bishop Hying and prevent him from working for land ownership rights for the people. “It wasn’t until later, that I learned Bishop Hying was talking them out of arresting him. Here I was, joking around and didn’t understand the gravity of the situation and there Don was, sweating bullets. They finally left, and he didn’t say too much after that, other than he was thankful they left.”

Fr. Hying’s shoelaces once sold for $75 each!

As Bishop Hying prepared to leave St. Anthony for his ministry to the Dominican Republic, he boxed up things to give to charity, some to give away and some to keep. According to Terry Baudhuin, a parishioner decided to have a bit of fun at Fr. Hying’s expense at his farewell party in the church hall.

“This one guy was an auctioneer and held up a statue and got one lady to bid $300 on it,” said Baudhuin. “Then he held up Fr. Don’s old tennis shoes and someone was going to bid, but this dentist from our church said he would bid $75 for one shoelace. Then someone else bid on the other shoelace. By the end of the party, we had raised $1,200 to send with him to the Dominican Republic. It shows you the impact he had on people in just a few years.”

Bishop Hying enjoys a good movie … again and again!

The 1963 movie, “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World,” is one of Bishop Hying’s favorites, according to Don Lawinger, who sat through the epic length flick with him on a couple of occasions.

“He can probably quote every single line in it,” he said. “I’ve watched it with him twice, and each time he nearly rolls on the floor with laughter throughout the whole movie.”

He could sell paddles without a raft better than anyone!

Summer festivals at Our Lady of Good Hope Parish were always fun, but Bishop Don managed to make the events a greater success with the annual paddle raffles.

“A paddle raffle is where Fr. Don would sell 10 paddles at $1 each for different prizes, and after every 10 paddles sold, a number would be drawn,” explained Lil Roohana. “He would sell them until there were no more prizes. The prizes were sometimes just a six-pack of beer, but it was fun. It’s been a while since we have done this – but it was always a huge success.”

He has an affinity for ‘sporty’ cars

“He had this little red Volkswagen that he just loved,” said Dorothy Whittle

He would give you the shoes off his feet

Mary Ann Poole remembers Fr. Don sitting in her garage, sipping a beer with her mother, Bess. Her mother would sit in the chaise lounge and he would sit, legs crossed in the camp chair. It was then, that Poole noticed the shoes.

“He always used to look like he was wearing someone else’s shoes,” she said. “But it was because he always gave his shoes away because someone poor needed them. He did this all the time.”

Bishop Hying makes a great warmup catcher

About a year ago, Bishop Hying told your Catholic Herald that he was invited to a meeting with Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki at the archbishop’s residence, the Brothers’ House, on seminary grounds. The two discussed issues related to Saint Francis Seminary, but after the discussion, Archbishop Listecki asked Bishop Hying if he’d go outside with him and play catch. Somewhat bewildered, Bishop Hying agreed.

The two went into the backyard and tossed a 16-inch softball back and forth. After several throws, a confused Bishop Hying, wondering if Archbishop Listecki had reverted to his childhood, finally asked, “Why are we doing this?”

Matter-of-factly Archbishop Listecki responded that he had been asked to throw out the first pitch at an upcoming Milwaukee Brewers game, and he needed to practice.

Special devotion to St. Therese of Lisieux (can run with stthereseshrine photos in symbols photo folder)

Bishop Hying has a special devotion to St. Therese of Lisieux, also known as the Little Flower. Bishop Hying read a biography of the 19th-century saint when he was in his mid-teens and strongly considering priesthood. As he explained, she is an unlikely person to be elevated to sainthood, as she died at age 24 after becoming a nun at age 15. While her accomplishments were not huge, she did “little things with great love,” said Bishop Hying, who has a small shrine to her on the wall of his seminary office.

“She’s also a powerful intercessor,” said Bishop Hying. “Never have I prayed to her where I didn’t receive an answer almost sometimes an abrupt, unbelievable answer,” he said, describing how the saint is called the Little Flower as shortly after her death roses unexpectedly appeared. Bishop Hying noted that on the day of his announcement as bishop, he received four dozen roses from various people.

An odd couple?

Two years into his priesthood, Bishop Hying was involved with two organizations not often discussed in the same sentence: Casa Maria (the Catholic Worker movement) and Opus Dei. He volunteered weekly with Casa Maria and attended formation events at Opus Dei. Looking back on that time, Bishop Hying said “both movements have something to say to the broader church and maybe if there’s a gap that needs to be healed in the church today, it’s that gap that maybe has been called traditional and liberal, where working with the poor should not be seen as liberal and going to Eucharistic adoration shouldn’t be seen as conservative, it should just be that both of those are Catholic extensions of the faith. It seems to me that that’s the divide that should be healed in the church today.”

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