Until Pope Francis appoints an auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, Frs. Paul Hartmann and Patrick Heppe have graciously agreed to contribute to the Herald of Hope column in the Catholic Herald on a monthly basis. Their contributions will rotate on this page along with columns by Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki and Bishop Richard J. Sklba.
It was bitterly cold and the bus ride from Milwaukee took longer than expected. I have to confess that in passing the time there were a few comments made about Gary, Indiana, and none were using terms like “jewel of the Lake Michigan shoreline.”
Holy Angels Cathedral, the bishop’s church of Gary, is located in what looks to be a depressed area. It is almost a sad cliché that just before the cathedral came into view, we passed the boarded up, broken windowed, hulk of a Catholic hospital that closed 20 years ago.
But Gary is not its buildings, nor should its people be confined to its unfortunate reputation.
When we disembarked the buses, joy-filled volunteers welcomed and directed us. Priests and deacons gathered in the cafeteria of the cathedral’s school building, which is leased to a charter school.
Before the procession began, local priests asked questions about their new bishop. They spoke of appreciation and thanks to us as if we had any say in the transfer. One priest implored: “Please tell the bishop that he does not have to give up being a Packers fan … we need more Packer fans down here.”
Upon entering Holy Angels Cathedral, its classic, recognizable and comforting layout is noticeable first. As the procession of ministers, deacons, priests and bishops moved forward, the freshness of recently restored colors, the bold central baptistery, the imposing cathedra, and the centrality of the eucharistic altar offer a sense of renewal and rejuvenation.
It quickly became evident that Gary, or at least the church of Gary, should not be confined to superficial reputation or out-of-town presumption.
It was an honor to be present for the installation of Bishop Donald J. Hying as the fourth bishop of the Diocese of Gary. I have had the pleasure of knowing “Bishop Don” since I entered Milwaukee’s college seminary program and he was a student in the major seminary.
Every new student at Saint Francis de Sales Seminary quickly heard of Don’s incredible memory and his quick grasp of complex concepts. Even short encounters allowed a new friend to experience his humility and his self-deprecating humor.
Time would prove all the more Don’s love for the people of God and his willingness to go to them wherever or whenever their needs presented themselves.
Almost a year ago, in an address to the Congregation for Bishops, Pope Francis spoke of the qualities to be sought in a bishop: “May bishops be shepherds, close to the people; ‘fathers and brothers, may they be gentle, patient and merciful; may they love poverty, interior poverty, as freedom for the Lord, and exterior poverty, as well as simplicity and a modest lifestyle; may they not have the mindset of “princes”’ (Feb. 27, 2014). In many ways, Bishop Hying was, and is, a Pope Francis bishop even before anyone ever heard of the “Francis effect.”
The Diocese of Gary is blessed to have Bishop Don as its shepherd. Circumstance allows for this to be an incredibly impactful moment for the church — local and universal. We live in a world where the wrapping of a Christmas gift determines which one we open first; where the packaging seen on store shelves is more important than the contents. We live in a world where the presumption is the exterior that defines what is to be found within.
Yes, it is import to dress well for an interview, and to be a good neighbor with a groomed lawn and tidy yard, and so on. But, we know in faith it is the well-formed interior which impacts the exterior. We are to be confident a prayerful, spiritual, reflective interior life can improve the lives of others around us and can transform the world.
In the Christian mandate of evangelization, there will always be need to strike a balance, or even struggle with a tension, between maintaining attractive and appealing externals, and allowing the fruits of the interior life to speak for themselves. Truthfully, the two need not be in competition.
St. Philip Neri is said to have lived by the standard, “I will have no sadness in my house.” Joy is no false or naïve denial of the world outside. True joy is the recognizable emanation from the faith-filled heart and the Christ-centered interior life.
The life of a church, whether a parish or a diocese, is blessed when the people of God are drawn in already living and exuding joy. But does it not make sense that the Body of Christ most greatly benefits when, with the nourishment of Word and Sacrament, with the empowerment of good preaching and shared praise, and with the mandate to go forth in the peace of Christ, a joy that starts from within emanates out into a needy world.
Regardless of what anyone thinks about Gary, Indiana, from the interior, with a wonderful new bishop, with vital and faithful volunteers, and with Christ at the core, Gary will be, like every parish and every diocese should be, a joy-filled herald of hope!