Bishop Donald J. Hying of Madison said his experience with Milwaukee’s 2014 Synod helped shaped some of the initiatives he undertook when he moved on to Gary, Indiana, and Madison. (Photo by Juan Carlos Medina)
As the former auxiliary bishop of Milwaukee, Bishop Donald J. Hying of the Diocese of Madison complimented the 2014 Synod as a rich and beautiful thing and agreed with Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki that it was one of his most significant accomplishments.
“My participation in the Synod process was a lot of meetings with Rich Harter, Randy (Nohl), and Dr. (Barbara Ann) Cusack and the planning team. It was great to see everyone come together, and it bore rich fruit in my life as, in 2017, we held a Synod in the Gary Diocese,” Bishop Hying said while speaking at the Mary Mother of the Church Pastoral Center on Oct. 23. “For me, that was a direct result of positivity from our experience with our synod here.”
In Madison, Bishop Hying said they are mimicking the Synod process in expectations and outcomes with their “Go Make Disciples” evangelization initiative.
“For all of us, we come back to the upper room, the place where the Holy Spirit spoke so powerfully to us and through us almost seven and a half years ago,” said Bishop Hying. “The Church constantly goes back to Pentecost because we see the explosion of the Holy Spirit and the birth of the Church. We see also what it means to go on mission because it was on Pentecost Sunday, that first fresh morning when the Holy Spirit descended on those first followers of Christ that Simon Peter stood up in front of this vast crowd. For the very first time in human history, he proclaimed Jesus Christ crucified and risen as the cornerstone of our lives. He proclaimed the Charigma, a word that means proclamation.”
Bishop Hying said the whole Christ event was a rescue mission, in that God came to us in human flesh to save us from sin and death because the Father couldn’t bear to see us lost and eternally separated from him. God formed the missionaries to continue his work, first sending the 12, then the 72, and all of us by virtue of baptism.
“Today draws us in mind and heart to the Great Commission. You think if Jesus was going to found an organization as big and complex, as multi-cultural as the Catholic Church, you would think he would have left textbooks of instructions, like encyclopedias of things. He doesn’t. He doesn’t even write it down,” Bishop Hying said. “He just says it verbally. There are essentially three things: ‘Go proclaim the Gospel,’ ‘Make disciples of all nations,’ and ‘Baptize in the name of the Trinity.’ That’s it.”
The first followers of Jesus, imbued with the Holy Spirit, went forth without looking at obstacles or difficulties but set forth with confidence, as they knew Jesus was raised from the dead and wanted to share the news with everyone. The small group of followers changed the world. Bishop Hying spoke of the early followers in their proclamation of the Gospel, heroic charity and martyrdom.
“They loved heroically in an age of polygamy; they insisted on monogamy within marriage. In an age where the poor were neglected, they went to the poor as the image of Christ. In an age of infanticide, they welcomed the unborn. In an age of pandemics, they went to pandemic victims when everyone else was running away,” Bishop Hying said. “They loved so powerfully, so heroically, so unconditionally that everyone wanted a part of them. Perhaps they said to themselves, ‘I don’t know what these people have, and I want it. It is attractive.’ The power of unconditional love poured out in Christ. They were willing to die for the faith, so we honor the martyrs.”
While, throughout the centuries, the Church has relied on the vibrant culture of faith to form the young, Bishop Hying said that we need to continue to catechize adults, welcome new members and live the mission of Jesus.
“We are in a different moment now. As St. John XXIII was calling for the Second Vatican Council, he saw the difficulties modernity presented to the proclamation of the Gospel,” he said. “He was elected pope in 1958, and people saw him as an old caretaker of the papacy, not doing anything too revolutionary or wild. But in a few months, he celebrates Mass outside at St. Paul’s Outside the Walls. At daily Mass, he almost casually announces he is thinking of calling an ecumenical council.”
He compared the Vatican II renewal amid the chaos to our current era. He shared how subsequent popes helped build on the Vatican II Council to continue evangelizing, sharing the Gospel and legacy of the Faith, and speaking to others as if they had not heard of Jesus.
“For example, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI added his dimension with the beauty of the liturgy and the beauty of the saints and the whole idea of beauty itself as a way to witness to Christ,” Bishop Hying said. “What is it that God is asking of us? (That is the) same question we asked seven years ago. What is God asking of us? God is asking us to go back to the beginning. To go back to Pentecost and not let old ways of doing things get in the way of the mission. The statistics are challenging with low Mass attendance, young people not recognizing a faith, the challenge of COVID. We can wring our hands in despair or open our hands in the knowledge that God has placed us here to step in the breach where things seem to be cascading toward collapse. This is a fresh opportunity and hopes to build the faith and evangelize, and help lead others to Christ, so they know they are beloved children of God.”