MENOMONEE FALLS — God chooses human beings to carry on his mission, and in recent years, some of their flaws have been exposed, admitted the head of the papal household, Archbishop James M. Harvey, addressing some 900 people at St. Anthony Church gathered for vespers Tuesday, July 19, the eve of Bishop Donald J. Hying’s ordination as auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee.
“In every age, especially in recent years, priests, bishops, human beings have been placed under huge reflectors, powerful spotlights on stage,” he said, alluding to the clergy abuse scandal. “The harsh lights were focused, the heat on the stage is so intense that the makeup cake is running off these actors’ faces, leaving exposed every blemish, every scar, every wart and pockmark for the world to see.”
After listening to the news day in and day out, reading newspapers everyday, following news on the Internet, Archbishop Harvey said one might be tempted to ask why anyone would want to answer the call to service in the church and the fullness of life serving God.
“The fullness, fullness of what? Why would anyone want the fullness of what so many are already fed up with,” he asked, admitting some might say he is not painting a “very lovely picture of what it means to be a bishop.”
Yet, Archbishop Harvey, a Milwaukee native, ordained a priest of the archdiocese in 1975 and who since 1998 has served as Prefect of the Papal Household in Vatican City under Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI, called the ordination of Bishop Hying a time to celebrate, not only for the new bishop, but for the local and universal church. He said the entire church rejoices that God has called a new member to follow in the footsteps of the apostles.
“Human beings are creatures of this world that God designed to be his instruments for bringing us closer to him,” said Archbishop Harvey, calling the task of drawing people to holiness “a noble task, a beautiful task, a daunting task.”
Jesus, the eternal high priest, born of a woman and fully human, also bears the burden of the human condition, noted Archbishop Harvey.
“He’s our brother, he continues to share the human lot, even after the hand of God rested on him. He continues to share the lot of the weak, the lot of the discouraged, the unsuccessful, the lot of the sinner,” he said, adding, “We should not appear to be secretly offended when someone appears to do God’s business, but is still only a man.”
Rather, the archbishop told the congregation, that as we walk our journey to salvation, it’s good to remember “a terrifying, yet consoling truth” that those who are called or chosen, those sent as priests and bishops are human beings, men who live in fear and trembling, “men who beat their breasts and say, ‘Lord be merciful to me, a sinner.’”
“Only from this posture of prayer, from what the cross symbolizes, can we hear the great things that dwell in heaven,” said Archbishop Harvey, noting that as bishop, “Fr. Don will receive a special grace, a grace to guide and defend the church with strength and prudence as father and as pastor … with love for all and a preferential love for the poor and needy.”
Archbishop Harvey presided at the hour-long vespers service, and was greeted with applause after being introduced by Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki as a native son of the archdiocese, who, as head of the papal household, is “the second most photographed person in the world.”
Noting that Archbishop Harvey has great love and concern for the Milwaukee Archdiocese, Archbishop Listecki warned that if he stays here for longer than two weeks, “I’m going to assign him to a parish!”
During the service, at Bishop Hying’s request, the offertory collection was taken to benefit La Sagrada Familia, the archdiocese’s sister parish in the Dominican Republic.
Among the people gathered for the service were longtime friends of Bishop Hying, Michael Hoeffler, a member of St. Dominic Parish, Brookfield, and his sister, Barbara Carlson, a member of St. John the Evangelist Parish, Greenfield.
Bishop Hying, godfather to Hoeffler and his wife, Christine’s three children, spends much time at the family’s Brookfield home.
“He’s a holy man who will definitely go places,” predicted Hoeffler. “He’s not done yet.”
Also in attendance was the Lawinger family, members of St. Anthony Parish, Menomonee Falls, who met Bishop Hying when he was associate pastor there.
The event was particularly moving for 16-year-old Michael Lawinger, a junior at Brookfield Academy, who views Bishop Hying as a role model. The teen is considering priesthood, due in large part to the example he’s seen from the newly-ordained bishop.
Robert Feind, 30, a member of St. Josaphat Basilica, Milwaukee, attended the event with a group of friends from Saint Francis Seminary. A mechanical engineer, Feind got to know Bishop Hying while attending Masses with his seminary friends. Feind was pleased with the selection of Bishop Hying as auxiliary bishop, predicting that he will be especially successful at reaching the youth of the archdiocese.