Bishop Hying

Work of faith is about helping each person to flourish as child of God

As published in the Northwest Indiana Catholic on February 21, 2016   


      For the past several months, the members of the Diocesan Peace and Social Justice Commission have been working hard to do some long-range planning and embrace new projects. We do not have an office for social concerns, so I rely on the commission to be our leaders in this important area and I am very grateful for their generous commitment and service. 

      In 1971, the Synod of Bishops focused on the work for social justice, boldly stating that such efforts “formed a constitutive dimension of the Gospel,” which reminds us that our faith is not only about the salvation of souls in the next life, but also about helping each human person to flourish as a child of God in the here and now.

      Our commission has outlined three essential tasks as their defining purpose. 1. To help parishes grow their own Peace and Social Justice Commissions, both creating new ones and aiding those already working. 2. To unify and coordinate the significant efforts of Catholic Charities, Pro-Life organizations, St. Vincent de Paul Society, Catholic Charities and Catholic Campaign for Human Development, so that we are all working in tandem with a common vision. 3. To focus on particular themes of poverty, justice, charity and social needs, so that the entire diocese can muster a greater and more united effort to build a civilization of love, mercy and justice.

      The commission has wisely decided to use the thoughtful and rich commentary that many of you offered at the deanery sessions held last fall to discuss the Indiana bishops’ pastoral letter - Poverty at the Crossroads. If you have been wondering if anything was ever going to come of those conversations, I want to assure you that the fruit of those sessions will guide the work of our commission as they seek to lead all to a more deeply effective engagement with the pressing social issues that afflict our communities today.

      We have also asked parishes to fill out a questionnaire to educate the commission on the varied and significant organizations and activities that assist the hungry, homeless, struggling families, women in crisis pregnancy, prisoners, the sick and the homebound. As I make my way around the diocese, I stand amazed at the good work that quietly and beautifully goes on every day to live the works of mercy and to build a more just world. Knowing what is already happening will help us to look more strategically at the whole diocese, in terms of coordination, support and creating new initiatives.

      At my request, I have also asked a small committee to begin exploring the idea of establishing some Catholic Worker houses in our diocese. Dorothy Day, a devout Catholic and a committed social activist, founded the Catholic Worker movement in the height of the Great Depression to offer food, shelter and clothing to the homeless and poor. Her vision lives on in Catholic Worker Houses of Hospitality, usually centered in urban areas and farming communities, which help address rural poverty.

      How appropriate it would be if, in this Year of Mercy, we could establish such places of Christian community, hospitality and service. If you want to help in this effort, please let me know.

      As disciples of Christ, we can never live in a vacuum, disconnected from the world around us. Jesus sends us to make a difference, to heal the pain, right the injustices and offer compassion to the suffering wherever we encounter human need. We cannot say that such necessary change is simply the job of the government or social agencies or somebody else. Imagine the impact we would make if every Catholic in the diocese got involved in one ongoing commitment to serve and love the poor, sick and needy. I heartily commend the myriad number of people who heroically do so, but sometimes they get tired or other commitments press in on them. We need everyone to offer their heart and hands.

      Please pray for the work of the Diocesan Peace and Social Justice Commission, continue to do the beautiful work that you already embrace for the love of Jesus Christ, stay informed on the many issues of poverty, suffering and injustice that oppress so many of our brothers and sisters, find out how your parish structures its efforts in the area of social concerns and ask the Lord what he is calling you to do next.

      The beginning paragraph of Gaudium et Spes, the document from the Second Vatican Council on the Church in the modern world, has always been a great inspiration to me.

      “The joys and hopes, the grief and the anguish of the men of our time, especially those who are poor or afflicted in any way, are the joys and hopes, the grief and the anguish of the followers of Christ as well.  Nothing that is genuinely human fails to find an echo in their hearts. For theirs is a community composed of men, of men, who united in Christ and guided by the Holy Spirit, press onwards towards the kingdom of the Father and area bearers of a message of salvation intended for all men. That is why Christians cherish a feeling of deep solidarity with the human race and its history.”


+ Donald J. Hying


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