She always knew he was destined to become a bishop. When the pastor of St. Peter Parish, East Troy, was recuperating from an injury, Fr. Donald J. Hying stepped in to fill the void for a few months in 1998, and frequently crossed paths with parish volunteer, Sue Healey.
“I was on every committee and showing up for everything at that point in my life, and Fr. Don was coming to all of the meetings, too,” she explained. “After about the third meeting, he recognized me and said, ‘Well, hello again.’”
With a flexible home sewing business, Healey volunteered often while her children attended the parish school, and although she jokes about the many hours volunteering at church, she recalls that time fondly, as it was the start of a close, 14-year friendship with Fr. Hying.
“Within months of knowing him, I said that he would become a bishop someday; I am not sure why I said that, but I just had this prophetic feeling that it was a matter of time,” said Healey. “He had so many wonderful characteristics and I saw in him a very humble person, filled with humility, sincerity and knew that he truly cared for his flock. He was humorous and had a very good and delightful sense of humor.”
Through the years, the friendship between Bishop Hying, Healey and her husband, Dale, grew; and often their home served as a quiet sanctuary for the young priest needing a brief respite from a harried schedule.
“We still try to get together a couple of times a year,” she said. “Our home is open to him at all times.”
From Fr. Don to ‘Your Reverence’
The morning that Bishop Hying’s appointment was announced, Healey was doing something unusual: the normally early riser was getting a few extra winks of sleep.
“I never sleep in, but that day, my husband, who was such a sweetheart, got up and let me sleep a while,” she said. “When I got up and came down the hall, Dale was smiling and said, ‘Well you will never get to call Fr. Don ‘Father’ anymore; it will have to be ‘Your Reverence,’ he said. He asked me if I was surprised, but I said no, because I knew it for years. I just thought it was the most wonderful news. Besides my sleeping in, the day was even more unusual in that we rarely watch the morning news – but I am so glad Dale watched it that day.”
According to Healey, the Milwaukee Archdiocese will be getting a genuine, selfless and caring bishop.
“He is the epitome of what Christ asked us all to become,” she said. “He has been a wonderful mentor for me, for my husband and our three sons. He has always been someone you looked to, who gave you the hope to strive for that holiness yourself. Fr. Don is this person. He will not show pious behavior as a bishop, but will be a wonderful all-around person who encourages a yearning for holiness.”
Seminarians were fast friends
As classmates at Saint Francis Seminary in 1981, Mike Wick and Bishop Hying became fast friends. While Wick would not enter priestly formation, he never once felt as if Bishop Hying disapproved of his choice.
“We had several of us that didn’t continue on to the priesthood, and he performed our marriages, baptized our children and buried some of us,” said Wick, executive director of the Institute of Religious Life, Libertyville, Ill. “He never once acted as if he made it and we didn’t; we were always all in it together.”
Whether due to the death of his brother as a young child, or an inherent compassion instilled by the Holy Spirit, Wick believes Bishop Hying carries a special connection to God that he shares with others.
“He is a servant priest and very much aware of his call to holiness and to serving the spiritual needs of others,” said Wick. “He recognizes that we are all called to be saints, and always has time or will make time to respond to personal and pastoral needs. He is very human and will show it with joy, sadness, strength and his own human limitations. He is truly open to who he is and who he is called to be as a priest – and that is to imitate Christ.”
Deep love for Eucharist
When Fr. Hying served as pastor of Our Lady of Good Hope Parish, he felt the Lord placing it on his heart in prayer to share his deep love for the Eucharist by constructing an adoration chapel. According to Wick, his deep trust and intuitiveness to God led him to act on this calling to lead others to the Eucharist.
“He sort of marked this place in the church to put it in and knew he needed about $10,000-$20,000 to create a safe place that would be a powerhouse of prayer within the parish,” explained Wick. “When he got to the rectory that day, a woman came and said that the Lord placed it on her heart to make a donation for a eucharistic chapel and made out the check for the exact amount needed.”
Focus is on others, not self
Quick to poke fun at himself and his own shortcomings, Fr. Hying understands his own humanness. According to Wick, he would be first to scoff at any pomp or monuments in his honor, but rather, focus on servitude toward others. His appointment as auxiliary bishop of the archdiocese was joyful, but not surprising to his longtime friend.
“I didn’t get to my phone in time, but was wondering who on earth would be calling me at 5:30 in the morning,” exclaimed Wick. “But it was Don, leaving me a voicemail and sharing the good news. I was crying and my wife, Bianca, said that she had only seen me cry one other time. I just felt such joy that the Lord chose the right person for the job. It was a great moment and having been friends with him since college, I know he is the real deal. He is sensitive and grounded in deep spirituality and he calls us to a life of holiness, beginning with himself.”
Friend of 38 years remembers ‘good kid’
Since the boys were fifth graders living in the same neighborhood, Mike O’Loughlin and Bishop Hying rode the bus together to Immaculate Heart of Mary School in West Allis. They quickly became best friends, and their parents developed a close bond as well.
As young boys, the thought of one of them becoming bishop was the furthest thing from their minds, admitted O’Loughlin, marketing and communications director for the School Sisters of St. Francis.
“I think both he and I would have cracked up laughing at the suggestion that one day he would be a bishop of Milwaukee,” he said. “After all, those were the men who had buildings named after them at the seminary. But having seen the man that Don has become, and the admirable way he has lived his priestly vocation, I am not surprised – but I am delighted.”
Respectful to adults and other schoolmates, Fr. Don often found creative methods to diffuse playground conflicts and would speak out against any type of bullying tactics.
“He was never afraid to speak up, speak out or share his faith with other people, even at an early age,” said O’Loughlin. “While that just made him a ‘good kid’ in my mind at the time, today I look back with great admiration and can appreciate how fortunate I’ve been to call him a friend for so many years.”
Parents instilled Catholic values
O’Loughlin credits Fr. Hying’s parents, Albert and Catherine, with instilling great love and Catholic devotion in their children.
“They were two of the kindest, most devout, and loving people I have ever met, and they lived their Catholic faith every day, in every facet of their lives,” he said. “Whether it was through participation at daily Mass, their outreach in many ministries, or their family devotions at home, they truly shaped Don and his brothers. I feel most fortunate to have been touched by their friendship and loving examples.”
Throughout their 38-year friendship, both men have participated in a variety of milestones together. O’Loughlin attended Fr. Hying’s ordination and served as lector at his first Mass, and Fr. Hying was there when O’Loughlin married his wife, Donna.
“He was lector and assisted the celebrant at my wedding,” he said, adding, “He had just started seminary at the time.”
Sharing his joy for the Christian faith and bringing it to others will be the foundation of his service to the archdiocese as bishop said O’Loughlin.
“He is gifted at articulating and sharing that joy with others, whether it is one-on-one, with a congregation, or with the community at large through the media,” O’Loughlin said, adding, “His love for the sacraments and his devotion to supporting others in their faith journeys is something that stands out above everything else.”
Always seeks the positive
O’Loughlin believes that Bishop Hying will shine through his sense of humor, intelligence, priestly experience and pastoral nature. He has served as a priest, and understands each of the challenges placed before the priests in the archdiocese – and will seek the positive, no matter the situation.
“He understands and appreciates all they do as teachers, preachers, administrators and missionaries,” he said. “Also, Don has always had a great love of learning, so I expect he will seek out opportunities to continue to learn from his brother priests, and to share what he has learned to encourage and support the clergy in their ministries.”
Friendship began at seminary
On his first day attending Saint Francis Seminary in the winter of 1985, Fr. Hying was one of the first people Jeff Bloechl met as he was navigating his way around the campus. The two hit it off immediately, and have maintained a close friendship for the past 25 years.
“When I met my future wife, Catherine Cornille, about six years later, Don quickly became a close friend of hers, too,” he said. “She is Belgian, and we were married in Belgium. Don flew over to concelebrate.”
Despite living in Boston, where Bloechl is a professor of philosophy at Boston College, the two friends see each other frequently.
“Our paths have crossed all over the world, sometimes for a day or several days,” said Bloechl. “I was able to be at his ordination, and he is godfather to my youngest daughter, Julia.”
Modestly ‘wears’ his priesthood
Fr. Hying exhibits a deep sincerity for others by the simple and modest way he “wears” his priesthood, an attribute that Bloechl admires.
“People love Don so easily,” he said. “But I know he also has a very deep devotion to the Eucharist. Among the many unforgettable things he has said to me over the years, I remember him once saying, long after his ordination, that each Mass he celebrates ‘still gives me a sort of electric shock of joy.’”
His sense of humor and penchant for teasing and allowing to be teased by others is an attribute that Bloechl particularly enjoys, especially when the two are visiting with another close friend, Tony Corcoran.
“Our conversation is often animated by a constant quick teasing in which it is very, very difficult to get the best of Don,” he said. “Don can also laugh with nearly anyone – and laugh at himself, and as I am sure he will agree, there is no lack of material from that source. Of course, like nearly anyone who knows Don well, I have about 9,000 unrepeatable funny stories.”
He believes the archdiocese will get an enthusiastic and hands-on bishop who places his love of Christ and the Catholic Church above all else.
“I have long thought that Don would be a good bishop, but somewhat surprised that the institutional church saw this and acted on it,” said Bloechl. “He will make a good bishop because his life is rooted in prayer and the love of the church.”
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