The Catholic Herald proudly considers newly named Auxiliary Bishop Donald J. Hying one of its own.
He’s served as a regular monthly Scripture reflection columnist for your Catholic Herald since 2002. But around the office, he is better known for his days as a Catholic Herald telemarketer.
“I was circulation manager,” said Betty July. “And we wanted to increase numbers. It’s a good paper, but it was a trying time for newspapers everywhere. Circulation was going down.”
“To get subscribers, I made visits to parishes and asked for parishioner lists,” she said. “With permission from the pastor, we would call down the list, and ask if anyone was interested in a subscription. We figured it was the best way to get potential subscribers.”
But, she said, the paper needed people to make the phone calls and it hired about a half-dozen seminarians to telemarket.
“I knew right from the start these young men knew exactly what they were looking for in life. They were serious, and professional, but yet an absolute joy to be with,” she said.
“They had formation, classes and studies, too. But we’d still have them in five nights a week,” she said. “I was very much impressed with their willingness to provide support to each other when sales were not so good. And yet, they clearly understood that even one paper in a mailbox could bring the message of Christ into a home.”
The seminarians were not trained salesmen, she noted, yet they were passionate about faith and the mission of the Catholic Herald.
“What I so liked and admired about those guys was that they weren’t making any money, and they weren’t salespeople – they were here to do God’s work – but their camaraderie was so heartwarming that I enjoyed the work, too.
Fr. Tom DeVries, Saint Francis de Sales Seminary’s formation director, also, as a seminarian, telemarketed for the Catholic Herald at that time.
“It’s hard to think back that far,” he laughed. “We were all putting in maybe 10 hours a week there, in addition to studies. I was doing more computer stuff, working on databases, and inputs for the new computer system they had. But we were all classmates, and ordained together.”
“With Don, we always knew he was a devout person,” he said. “But sprinkled in with all that devotion – he was still a man who loved to joke, and always had a great sense of humor. He certainly kept everyone laughing through lots of events in seminary life.”
“You certainly wouldn’t find a nicer young man than Don,” she said. “What stood out about him was his gentleness.”
“We had lay people there, too. Young folks, earning dollars. They would inevitably be disappointed by failure,” she said.
“But it was never time wasted to Don. He would always thank people for their time. He was not a salesperson for worldly things, but a salesperson for God.”
Bishop Hying looked back upon his telemarketing efforts with humor. He recalled contacting a “Mrs. Mitten” and asking her if she’d like to purchase the Catholic Herald, while in the background, he could hear fellow seminarian and telemarketer, now Fr. Tim Kitzke, giving him a hard time by pretending to call a “Mr. Scarf.”
Another time, Bishop Hying said after giving a man on the phone his pitch about purchasing the Herald, the man bluntly replied, “I’m an atheist.”
Undeterred, Bishop Hying saw this as an opportunity to evangelize. “Are you really an atheist?” he questioned, “Or might you just be rejecting society’s false conception of who God is?”
After a mini-theological lecture, Bishop Hying waited with anticipation for the man’s response, thinking that most certainly he had converted him.
Instead, the man gruffly replied, “I don’t want the paper.”
In spite of the rejections, Bishop Hying continued telemarketing for the Herald for three years. He proudly noted that he’d consistently reach his quota of 25 new subscriptions a week, earning himself a few extra dollars in incentive pay.
July said one of her most vivid memories about Bishop Hying was when he “approached me on one occasion and wanted to know how he might more effectively hear the voice and see the face of God in those he had contact with that day. Telemarketing is not an easy job; regardless of the worthiness of the product, many people can be quite abusive to telemarketers. I was humbled by his introspection, and the fact that he would ask a layperson that.
“I remember thinking, if this is the new generation of future seminarians, I’m optimistic that the church is headed in the right direction,” she said.
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