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Bishop Donald J. Hying: “God will get us through this”

Hying has announced that public Masses would not be held in the Madison diocese’s 102 parishes until further notice.

Bishop Donald J. Hying at St. Maria Goretti Catholic Church in Wisconsin’s capital city in June 2019. (CWR Photo by Joseph M. Hanneman)

MADISON, Wisconsin — While the decision to suspend public Masses at more than 100 Catholic parishes was “the hardest thing I could possibly do,” the coronavirus pandemic presents the faithful an opportunity to become more focused on prayer and can lead to a deeper trust in God, Bishop Donald J. Hying said.

Hying announced that public Masses would not be held in the Madison diocese’s 102 parishes until further notice. The decision was based on state and local government directives to limit the size of group gatherings, in hopes of slowing the COVID-19 virus that originated in China and has spread to more than 120 other countries. Wisconsin has 47 confirmed cases of coronavirus, including 10 in Dane County, where the Madison diocese is based. No COVID-19 deaths have been reported in Wisconsin. Nationwide, there are more than 5,700 confirmed cases of coronavirus, including 94 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.

“In light of our concern and in light of the government’s regulations regarding public gatherings, I made the decision in tandem with all the other bishops here in the state of Wisconsin to suspend the public celebration of Mass, beginning today,” Hying said at a news conference. “As a Catholic bishop, that’s the hardest thing that I could possibly do, because for us as Catholics, Mass is everything. The Mass is our participation in the mystery of Jesus’ death and resurrection and for our people, it’s our connection to God.”

Last week, Hying issued a dispensation from Sunday obligation to attend Holy Mass due to concerns about the virus, although Masses were offered as usual across the diocese. Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers issued a March 17 moratorium on public and private gatherings of 50 or more people. That, along with guidance from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, was a major factor in the decision to halt public Masses.

Milwaukee Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki earlier announced suspension of public Masses from March 18 through April 3. Bishop William P. Callahan suspended public Masses in the Diocese of La Crosse until further notice. Callahan invited parishioners to send him their prayer intentions. All of Wisconsin’s 277 Catholic schools are also shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“In the end, we know that God will get us through this,” Hying said. “This is a moment of challenge. It’s also a moment of invitation for us to really trust in God and to call on him to heal us of this virus and drive it from us. It’s a moment of solidarity that we realize, I think, in a deeper way how much we need God and how much we need each other. It calls for faith and trust.”

Hying said that churches would remain open for private prayer and priests will continue to be available for confessions. Masses for funerals and weddings will also continue, although “with proper concern to maintain the proper number of people as capped by health regulations,” he said.

>Catholics across Wisconsin and the nation struggled to adjust to the idea of not attending Holy Mass as the calendar approaches Laetare Sunday, the fourth Sunday in Lent. Many will turn to online worship to fill the void. Two Madison diocese parishes, St. Joseph Catholic Church in Baraboo and St. Mary Catholic Church in Pine Bluff, live-stream all daily and Sunday Masses. Sunday Mass is broadcast on CBS affiliate WISC Channel 3 in Madison. In Milwaukee, two Masses at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist are broadcast; the 9 a.m. Mass on 920-AM radio and the 11 a.m. Mass on the cathedral’s YouTube channel. Masses are also televised on WITI Fox 6 and WVTV My24.

Hying called on the faithful to give special care to the poor as the pandemic unfolds. “In this moment I really want to call on all of us to be supportive of the poor and of the marginalized. We think of all the at-risk communities who this virus will affect in very profound ways,” Hying said. “So any way that we can continue to support them and to support the mission of the Church, realizing of course that many people are going to be challenged economically and spiritually and psychologically by this pandemic.”

Hying said a decision on Masses for the Triduum will be made during the week of March 30-April 3. “We know it’s so fluid that it’s changing almost by the hour,” Hying said of the pandemic. “We’ll certainly take everything into account at that moment and make the prudential decision for Holy Week.”

Hying said in addition to watching Masses on television or the internet, parishioners should spend time praying the Holy Rosary, reading Scripture and praying the Liturgy of the Hours. Sundays should be dedicated to prayer and meditation, he said. Even though the situation is difficult, Hying said it should deepen faith.

“In the season of Lent, no one bargained on this on Ash Wednesday that Lent would unfold like this,” Hying said. “God is somehow operative in all of this and leading us to a place of deeper trust in Him.”

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About Joseph M. Hanneman 101 Articles
Joseph M. Hanneman writes from Madison, Wisconsin.


  1. God will get us through this? Wouldn’t it have been much better for God to have prevented it? Why trust in a God who allowed this in the first place? Essentially this bishop is saying that nothing can falsify his belief in God’s existence. Anything bad that happens… God permitted it and will get us through it. When science eventually saves those who will survive, the bishop will attribute that to God when it was human medical ingenuity. I think the bishop is talking nonsense.

    • Henry, you actually make a good point, as far as it goes.

      We might think about any of a number of OTHER CATASTROPHIES and then begin to really think at all levels about the mystery of human suffering. Those standing in line in front of the finality of a crematorium might have something to say. Likewise, the half a million who died in the U.S. from the totally out-of-control Spanish flu in 1918. (The current broad-brush lockdown agenda seems driven partly by the stress that the vulnerable one of two percent are projected to put on the limited number of hospital beds with ventilators. How much is the tail wagging the dog?)

      Turns out that in his inscrutable will, God does NOT function as a faucet dousing all of our fires, as we see them, on request. But, then again, the false deities of science and technology are morally ambivalent—the difference between a crematorium and baked chicken, or Hiroshima and nuclear energy.

      The Christian MESSAGE, then, is more that nature is not perfect and, moreover, that neither are we, nor even perfectible, nor is history a trajectory toward heaven-on-earth through human smarts, inevitable evolution or well-funded Technocracy.
      True, prayer doesn’t change God, but it changes us. And yet He hears our needs before we ask and, ALL things considered, by his nature He is never obtuse or unresponsive like us. As the saying goes, He is never late, but never early either!

      Just perhaps, WITHIN each human person is a baked-in flaw, almost from some universal beginning. Is it possible, then, that instead of Life preceding love, Love precedes life and all of contingent existence? And, that God is love clear through—an internally relational and living God, not an imaginary monolith, and even self-disclosing to be Triune in this way? And, that THIS God has truly and freely chosen to take all of our flaws upon Himself? “God IS love” (1 John 4:8). (But not the reverse—love, alone, is not the mystery of God.)

      In any event, German Chancellor KONRAD ADENAUER, after the catastrophe of World War II, surely was onto something when he announced: “it seems to me unfair that God would limit man’s intelligence without also limiting his stupidity.”

    • Henry, it’s amazing how little you know about God. You ask for an explanation, as if you think it can all be explained in a post on this site. Have you ever opened a Bible? That would be a start. As for blaming God for the evil in this world, you need to know that bad things happen because too many people turn away from God and choose to do evil. God gave us free will, otherwise we would be just like other animals. So we are free to do bad things to others. God won’t intervene if you hit your wife again, but you will have to answer for it after you die. Read the New Testament and see for yourself how this evil world treated God’s only Son, Jesus, after He healed the sick and raised the dead. God allowed Himself to be crucified and to die a horrible death in order to open the gates of Heaven to fallen man and in order to teach us how we should sacrifice ourselves for our fellow man. We don’t have much control over what happens to us in this world, but we can put our faith in a loving God who will welcome us to our true home in Heaven one day. God works through human beings who choose to help their fellow man, and that can include scientists and those in the medical profession who can help put an end to this pandemic.

  2. Wouldn’t it be remarkable if Catholics across the nation would disobey their bishops and civil authorities and go into their churches to pray the rosary in great numbers? Ok, no Masses, but there’s other things we can and should do in church. When was the last time an American bishop actually led the faithful in praying the holy rosary? What are the civil authorities going to do if more than 50 people showed up in the church? Arrest the bishop or priest? St. Paul suffered greatly for the church. Will our bishops do the same?

  3. God WILL get us through this. I believe God let this happen as a warning to us to bring Him back in our lives and in the world. We are killing His unborn children by the millions, condoning homosexual behavior and the so-called “marriage”, killing the sick so they won’t be a “burden”, doing surgery on children because they FEEL like a girl, having transgender hours for children in libraries, allowing boys and men in girls bathrooms, showers and locker rooms, Parents killing their kids, kids killing their parents, normalizing all the immoral behavior. The list goes on and on. No wonder He is angry. How much more will He take? We might know sooner than we think. We MUST bring God back in the family and in our lives.

    • Can you specify precisely HOW you think God will get us through this? State the means, the timeframe and the outcome. State how we will know it was God who got us through it instead of human beings getting through it by their own effort. What exactly is God going to do to get us through this?

      As for this virus being a punishment from God? God seems to be inflicting pain on lots of innocent people all over the world, even in regions that have nothing to do with the evils you identify in the U.S. How does that square? Couldn’t an all-wise God come up with a more precision-targeted way to punish only the sinners?

  4. Read Pope Benedict’s Salt of the earth — Our Loving God who gave us a Free will and the ABSOLUTES (10 commandments, Precepts pf the True Church), He will not allow us to Cross a Certain Line. Having been an RN for 60 years now and having worked for a couple years in the Military Maternity wards with Doc’s of many Faiths — back in the late 50’s, I believe we need this Divine Intervention. Pope Paul VI told us about the Slippery Slope in Humanae Vitae, and the majority of Clergy rejected this encyclical. The beginning of the Contraceptive mentality took hold and Planned Parenthood tells us they are Liberating Woman. Motherhood is no longer Sacred, and as Mother Theresa stated: “Of we can kill a baby in the womb, then we can kill anyone who gets in our way. Abortion is not just ONE ISSUE to consider — It is the ISSUE that is destroying our country. Having worked with Pregnancy Helpline I am well aware that the so called Catholic hospitals and School have been invaded by the culture of Death. Lourdes is closed for the first time in History, and our Visionary in Medjugorye has received her last message from our Lady. Pope John Paul called on DIVINE MERCY. and we are now cornered in a world of DIRE EMERGENCY. — LET US PRAY!!

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