Bishop Donald J. Hying of The Roman Catholic Diocese of Gary recently met with Ideas in Motion Media (IIMM) Founder Chris Mahlmann, in the Great News Studio for an NWI Great News Show interview. Topics and questions included working with the public to spread the faith and the state of a very changing church.
Mahlmann began the discussion by asking Bishop Hying to share some of his history. The Bishop shared how he grew up in Milwaukee and how he was ordained a priest when he was 25 years old. From there, Bishop Hying spent four years on missionary work in the Dominican Republic.
“When I went there, I knew two words in Spanish: 'Cerveza' and 'Baño.' That’s 'beer' and 'bathroom.' I figured that beer and bathroom were what I needed,” Bishop Hying laughed.
He commented that being on the missionary work was a “transformative experience.” Once his time was complete in the Dominican Republic, Bishop Hying returned to Milwaukee to continue serving the church. In 2011 he was appointed to auxiliary bishop in Milwaukee.
“Larger dioceses have helping bishops, similar to how larger parishes have helping pastors,” he commented.
In November of 2014, Pope Francis appointed Bishop Hying to the Diocese of Gary, which is one of five dioceses in the state of Indiana. “Its the smallest diocese geographically. It only covers four counties, but we’re the second largest diocese in the state,” Bishop Hying added.
The Bishop commented that even though a lot of his position requires office work, he understands that work is to fuel the pastoral work of the church.
“Given a choice to between doing a meeting or giving a talk, I’d always rather do that. But, part of the job is to see the meeting as transformational, where the administration still serves the mission,” said Bishop Hying.
Mahlmann then brought up the diocese recent success of hosting their first synod, where church leaders met to discuss issues throughout the community as well as reflect on the mission of Jesus Christ.
“It was wonderfully inspiring and transformative,” Bishop Hying began, “Diocese don’t do one often because it’s a lot of work. It was our first one ever in our diocese.”
Bishop Hying joked that the last time the archdiocese in Chicago held one was in 1907, the year the Cubs won the world series. “I like to think that ours primed the pump for the latest win,” he chuckled.
He then went on to explain the universality of the Catholic Church. The Bishop explained that every Catholic church in the world will read the same scripture on Sunday and celebrate the same mass.
“I could go to any country in the world and participate in the mass. I may not understand the language, but I still know what’s going on. It’s Rome’s job to hold all that universality together. But, the role of the local church is how we incarnate the timelessness of the Catholic faith in this place with these particular people.”
Mahlmann and Bishop Hying then discussed the changing world around Catholicism and how to find the balance and the church’s place in the present. Much of the conversation focused on Pope Francis’ openness to discuss these issues.
“There’s a tension in there I think, but it's a healthy tension when it’s kept in balance,” Bishop Hying began, “If there’s too much diversity you can see the church splintering. We have to come together to discuss what holds us together, what’s absolute, what’s unchanging, or what is changing.”
The conversation then winded down to discuss Bishop Hying’s love for the diocese that he represents.
“From the moment I stepped foot here in the region, I felt embraced, accepted, and loved. And that manifests itself in mountains and mountains of food!” he laughs. “Wherever I go I’m just fed to death, I must have a sign on my back that says ‘feed me a sandwich.’ ”
Mahlmann commented that it is a very diverse region for food with many ethnic groups represented throughout the region. Bishop Hying agreed and discussed the diversity throughout the diocese.
“The great treasure of The Region is its people. Our diocese is really a microcosm of the whole country. We have the urban reality of Gary, we have Hispanic immigrants in Hammond and East Chicago, there are suburbs like St. John, and communities like Valparaiso and Starke County which are rural. I feel like these four counties summarize all of America. I feel very much at home here.”
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