Thursday November 21, 2019
2:29 pm
Bishop Hying

Bishop send message of love and gratitude to all who crossed his path he prepares for new assignment

 

As published in the Northwest Indiana Catholic on June 16, 2019

 

      A powerful film is “Blackrobe,” a moving depiction of French Jesuit missionary Father LaForgue evangelizing the native peoples in the wilds of North America. An epic drama which explores the hard questions of faith, suffering, idealism, clash of cultures and ultimately the triumph of love, “Blackrobe” concludes in an emotional encounter between the priest and the Native Americans he has come to know and love. 

      At this point, the Jesuit has suffered betrayal, imprisonment and torture, has tasted loneliness, misunderstanding and rejection, has established mission outposts with some modest success and has witnessed the martyrdom of his fellow missionaries. Through all of those trials, he has also come to love the people he was sent to serve and tasted moments of grace and joy.

      In the final scene, the chief of the tribe asks Father LaForgue if he loves them. On the screen at that moment flash images of all the individuals he has encountered along his missionary way. Those who helped, loved and protected him. Those who betrayed and tortured him. Some who were killed in violent conflicts. Children and elders of the people. 

      The priest responds, “Yes, I love you.” His statement is a powerful summation of his entire priestly life and missionary effort.

      I relate that movie scene because this column is the last one I will write as your bishop, and as I sit here at my computer, thousands of faces are flashing before my vision. Priests, deacons and religious.  Lay leaders in our parishes. Prisoners in Michigan City and Westville. Patients in hospitals.  Thousands of young people in the moment of their confirmation.  Teachers and catechists.  Hundreds of wonderful folks who have welcomed me into their homes and hearts. 

      I hear each of you asking, “Do you love us?”  Isn’t that the ultimate question we ask of each other and of God? It is the question Jesus asks of us as well. Think of the three-fold query in John’s Gospel, “Simon, son of John do you love me?”

      As I take leave of you, I want you to know that I love you and I thank you for loving me. In the whirlwind of these four years, I have encountered your deep faith, generous spirit and sincere desire to know, love and serve the Lord! You want to see our parishes and schools flourish and you want others to experience the love of Christ which has changed your lives forever. 

      Thank you for that witness. Your faith in ever-increasing action is the essence of our synod process. Thank you for accepting, feeding, supporting and helping me. Thank you for all you do for the Church and the sacrifices you make for your families, parishes, the needy and our youth.

      When I think of all the Masses, meetings, confirmations, presentations, fundraisers, meals, pilgrimages, visits to parishes, schools, hospitals and prisons, the blessings of grace and joy as well as the blessings of crosses and challenges which have filled my life these past four years, my heart overflows with gratitude and praise to God and to all of you. 

      People have always told me my whole life that I should slow down, rest more, and do less.  I am sure they are right, but I have always felt the urgency of the moment. Time is short. Maybe it’s because my brother died young or because these last 30 years of priesthood have flown by so quickly. Or maybe it is because in light of eternity, I relatively have about 15 minutes left before I depart this world. Ultimately, maybe it’s because in the end I only had 56 months to serve as your bishop!

      I encourage you all to keep living the Gospel of Christ with passion, purpose and generosity. Keep alive your zeal for the synod process. Do not give in to discouragement, frustration, failure or complacency.

      In the Church, it is always just early dawn!  The sun has just risen, the tomb is empty, Mary Magdalene is running down the path to tell the Apostles and we have work to do. Jesus commands us to proclaim the Gospel to every creature and make disciples, assuring us that he will be with us always!  You will always be in my heart and prayers.  I love you!

 

       + Donald J. Hying

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