MILWAUKEE — As the cathedral bells tolled nine times Saturday night, March 26, Fr. Don Hying and eight seminarians of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee crossed Kilbourn Street from south to north quickly at Water Street.
Under a cloudy sky, with winds out of the north at nine mph and the temperature at 23 degrees, they went about their mission: to walk on Water Street. Some wore down-filled jackets, others wore fleece or sweatshirts; some wore caps and/or gloves, some wore neither, but each executed his purpose: To invite pedestrians, most headed to or from the bars in the area, to come to the Saint Francis Seminary open house on Sunday, April 3.
After being led in prayer by Fr. Hying, rector of Saint Francis Seminary, in front of the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts, all, plied with fliers announcing the event, went off in pairs, some occupying a corner, others moving along the sidewalk in front of Bar Louie’s, Water Street Brewery, Rosie’s, Bombers, Red Rock and Brothers.
Some of the pairs headed west on Juneau Avenue, meeting potential invitees preparing to enter Duke’s, Foy’s, Gallagher’s and Duffy’s. When people stopped, the seminarians handed them a flier and gave them a personal invitation.
Asked how he came up with the idea, Fr. Hying, between stops and short greetings and personal invitations to people, said, “I tried this in the (Dominican Republic) when I was pastor there – to invite people to Mass.”
On Water Street, he stopped to talk to people smoking outside McGillicuddy’s.
“Hi, I’m Fr. Don; I’d like to invite you to an open house we’re having a week from tomorrow at Saint Francis Seminary,” he told a group huddled outside Red Rock.
If you wish to attend:
Sunday, April 3
“Where is it?”
“Bay View. Beautiful old buildings on 80 acres of land along the lakefront. We’re giving away an iPad, too. I hope you can make it.”
Matt, the manager of McCarthy’s, came out and asked what the priest was handing out. Fr. Hying gave him a flier, explained what they were doing, and invited him to attend.
“Uh, no – no thanks. I wouldn’t be able to make it. I just wanted to see what you were handing my customers,” he said before returning inside.
Back on Water Street, Fr. Hying stopped to visit with two smokers in front of Fitzgibbons’. As he invited them, one of the men, Pat, said, “Oh, I live near there.”
He explained to his friend that the seminary grounds were where he rode his bike and walked his dog.
When Pat noted that he had never been inside any of the buildings, Fr. Hying replied, “Come and join us. We’ll have Mass at noon, lunch and then a tour of the buildings.”
The friends said they might take him up on his invitation.
Close to 10 p.m. and with most of their fliers distributed, the seminarians reassembled at the corner of Water Street and Highland Avenue. The gloveless ones blew on their hands and stuck them in their jacket pockets while others moved from foot to foot in order to keep warm; all agreed that the walk on Water “went well.”
As they left the street and prepared to return to the seminary, two more people appeared and began handing out invitations. This time, it wasn’t seminarians inviting people to the open house, but employees of the recently-opened Coyote Ugly encouraging people to visit the bar.