When Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, the apostolic nuncio to the United States, informed Bishop Donald J. Hying on Monday, Nov. 10, that Pope Francis had appointed him bishop of the Diocese of Gary, Indiana, the nuncio asked him if he needed time to think about it. Bishop Hying’s response was immediate.Auxiliary Bishop Donald J. Hying blesses the congregation at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist in Milwaukee July 20, 2011, during his ordination Mass. (Catholic Herald file photo by Allen Fredrickson)

“I said, ‘No,’” Bishop Hying told the Catholic Herald. “I’ve always interpreted God’s will to be manifest through what I’ve been asked to do. The Holy Father is asking me to do this so there is really nothing to deliberate about. I gave him an immediate yes.”

‘Living in the present’

The official announcement from the nuncio in Washington D.C. was made Monday, Nov. 24. He will be installed the fourth bishop of Gary on Tuesday, Jan. 6 at the diocese’s Holy Angels Cathedral.

Bishop Hying, 51, was appointed an auxiliary bishop for Milwaukee on May 26, 2011, and ordained July 20, 2011. Given his youth and the fact that several dioceses were headed by bishops who had turned 75, the age at which a bishop submits his resignation letter to the Holy See, Bishop Hying had given little thought to being appointed a diocesan bishop, even though people would mention it to him.

“I always want to live in the present moment; there’s no point in debating in your mind what the future is because it takes you from the present, so I’ve always wanted to be fully engaged here,” he said. The fourth bishop of Gary has mixed emotions about the move, acknowledging he will miss family, friends and the familiarity he had with parishes and parishioners throughout the archdiocese.

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“It’s difficult to contemplate the fact that I’ll never live in Milwaukee again,” he said. “On the other hand, I’ve always lived by the principle as well that when you set the sail of your life to the Holy Spirit, God is going to put you where he wants you to be, and obedience to that is part of our spiritual path. So I trust God knows what he is doing.” Bishop Hying noted the apostles were constantly called to move throughout their lives.

“Christianity is not static; it’s always in motion because it’s the Body of Christ, so the church is a living, breathing reality,” he said. “As both leaders and servants within the church it would make sense then that our lives would duplicate that dynamism and movement on all levels – physical, geographic, spiritual – that we’re not staying in one place.”

Life of service

The sixth of the late Albert and the late Catherine Hying’s children, all boys, the bishop is a native of West Allis, where he attended elementary school at Immaculate Heart of Mary and St. Aloysius. He graduated from Brookfield Central High School and Marquette University before completing theological studies at Saint Francis de Sales Seminary. He was ordained a priest for the archdiocese in 1989.

Bishop Hying served as associate pastor at St. Anthony, Menomonee Falls, 1989-1994. In 1994, he began a three year commitment as a team member at La Sagrada Familia Parroquia, the Archdiocese of Milwaukee’s parish in the Dominican Republic.

Upon returning to the United States, Bishop Hying served as temporary administrator at St. Peter, East Troy, and as pastor, for a year, at St. Anthony, Milwaukee. In 1999, he was appointed pastor of Our Lady of Good Hope, Milwaukee.

In 2005, Bishop Hying began a two-year stint as dean of formation at Saint Francis de Sales Seminary. In addition, he served as temporary administrator of St. Augustine, Milwaukee, in 2006. The following year, then-Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan appointed Bishop Hying rector of the seminary. He was serving as rector of the seminary when he was named auxiliary bishop.

Bishop Hying’s new diocese, established in 1956, covers 1,807 square miles over four counties in Northwest Indiana. Its 185,100 Catholics, who comprise 23 percent of the population, belong to 68 parishes and four missions. The diocese is served by 133 priests, 67 of whom belong to religious orders, and 69 permanent deacons. Institutions in the diocese include six Catholic hospitals, one Catholic college, three Catholic high schools and 17 Catholic elementary schools.

‘Significant to archdiocese’

Calling Bishop Hying someone who has “been significant to the archdiocese,” Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki said he is going to miss the bishop not only as a friend, but as someone he counted upon for advice and consultation in making major decisions.

“I’m losing somebody who was literally the glue for many of our organizations and many of our Catholics who are committed to and love the faith,” the archbishop said of the guidance and spiritual direction Bishop Hying had provided to various groups. “He has been a great collaborator with me; he’s never said no to any of the things I’ve asked him to take on, and he’s done so with a great spirit and joy of generosity and giving.”

Archbishop Listecki said his auxiliary “excelled in ‘CHURCH’ – all capital letters.”

“He has done the things a shepherd will do. He has been supportive when it was needed; he led when it was needed; he pulled back and allowed dialogue when it was needed; he gave direction when it was needed; so he has a great sense of the ebb and flow of church,” the archbishop said.

Noting that “a good leader is one who fills in the gaps,” Archbishop Listecki said Bishop Hying did that well.

“He does so with joy. Bishop Hying more than willingly filled in whatever was needed in order to make something whole,” he said. “If there is an aspect of excelling at that, he did.”

While Bishop Hying admitted that some fears and anxieties accompany the move, he’s not consumed with them.

“Saints like Pope John Paul II show us how to live beyond fear. Afraid or not is relative to the greater question: Is your trust in the Lord strong enough that you can live beyond fear and not act out of fear, which is a central message of the Gospel,” he said.