Most Reverend Donald J. Hying named bishop of Madison, Wisconsin diocese

Hying to Madison

Bishop Donald J. Hying welcomes the faithful to the closing Mass of the synod at the Genesis Convention Center in Gary on June 4, 2017. On April 25, Pope Francis named Bishop Hying as the fifth bishop of Madison, Wisc. (NWIC file photo by Anthony D. Alonzo)



Northwest Indiana Catholic


      MERRILLVILLE – What was the best of times to many Catholics in the Diocese of Gary turned into the worst of times when it was announced on April 25 that Pope Francis has named the Most Reverend Donald J. Hying as the fifth Bishop of Madison, Wisc., ending his four-year ministry in Northwest Indiana.

      Bishop Hying, 55, succeeds the late Most Reverend Robert C. Morlino, who served as bishop of the Diocese of Madison for 15 years before his death on Nov. 24, 2018.

      “I was surprised,” Bishop Hying said of the call he received from the Papal Nuncio in early April informing him of the new appointment. “You don’t get to choose, you just accept the decision. It gives you a kind of freedom.”

      “I had a mixed reaction – excited at a new challenge in a place where many of my relatives live and where my father grew up, but also sadness in leaving the Gary diocese, where I have come to know and love the wonderful people,” Bishop Hying said. “I have literally had hundreds of conversations with people here and will very much miss the diocese and goodness of our people.

      “In the four short years I have had the privilege to serve as your bishop, it has been a great joy to encounter many of you in my visits to our parishes and schools and to accompany you as we experienced the outpouring of the Holy Spirit’s presence during our diocesan synod process. I have already witnessed the first fruits of this historic event and pray that the Holy Spirit will continue to strengthen the faith at all levels,” he added.

      In addition to the synod – “the centerpiece of my attention and work that I believe has taken root enough that it will move forward, and can’t be dependent on any one person,” the bishop called “building wonderful relationships with the priests, deacons and religious leaders of the Diocese of Gary” his biggest accomplishment. “I wasn’t office-bound,” he said of his style of leadership that resulted in numerous parish visits, meetings with many involved in local ministries, Masses, talks and presentations on prayer, Scripture, evangelization and synod priorities. “The teaching role is something I have always embraced,” he added.

      With his installation as bishop of Madison set for June 25, Bishop Hying will serve as administrator of the Diocese of Gary until then, when a new administrator - named either by the Papal Nuncio, the ecclesiastical office of the Catholic Church in the U.S., or the College of Consultors, a group of 4-6 diocesan priests who advise the bishop – will head the diocese until a new bishop is named. Bishop Hying said that interim leader can be a priest from within or outside the diocese, adding that he expects a new bishop “to be appointed by Christmas.”

      He said he expects to spend “about 85%” of the next seven weeks in the Gary diocese celebrating confirmations and ordinations, but will likely curtail planned synod parish visits. He hopes the ecclesial commissions, Diocesan Pastoral Council, Mercy Fund, reorganization of Pastoral Center staff and commitment to Gary, all his initiatives, will continue, as well as personal engagement by the next bishop “in the life of the parishes.”

      In serving Gary’s 185,000 Catholics, Bishop Hying said his “flexibility, humor, trust in God and patience” served him well, “but ultimately, trying to love the Lord and love the Church here” was his most important talent.

      The bishops of Indiana, he included, will likely be invited to recommend a successor, and the most important traits and talents should point to someone “who listens to and attends to our clergy, leadership and people, not operating out of a vacuum and distance,” as well as a priest “who doesn’t assume that history starts when they walk in the door, but listens and builds on the synod process and its momentum.”

      The youngest of six brothers born in West Ellis, Wisc., he was ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee on May 20, 1989, serving in local parishes as well as in the Dominican Republic for three years. He was both dean and rector of St. Francis Seminary before being appointed an auxiliary bishop of Milwaukee on May 26, 2011, with his consecration on July 20, 2011. He was installed as the fourth bishop of Gary, succeeding the Most Reverend Dale Melczek upon his mandatory retirement, on Jan. 6, 2015.

      To members of his Gary flock saddened by his departure, Bishop Hying offered comfort focused on their faith: “All of us are led by the Holy Spirit and rooted in our love of Jesus, who will never abandon us. As brothers and sisters in Christ, we are always united, therefore, and even though I’m leaving here, we will never be apart in the great family of the Church. God has a plan and we trust that he knows what is best for us.”

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