The Diocese of Madison

What is a diocese?
The Catholic Church is divided into geographical territories called dioceses.  Dioceses are established by the authority of the pope.  Each diocese is governed by a bishop, and includes all the Catholics living within its territory.

What is our diocese?
Our diocese is the Diocese of Madison.  The City of Madison is the “see city,” in which the bishop resides and from which he oversees the life of the church in his diocese.  The word “bishop” comes from a Greek word meaning “overseer.”

How big is our diocese?Map_of_Diocese.gif
The Diocese of Madison is comprised of eleven counties in southwestern Wisconsin (Columbia, Dane, Grant, Green, Green Lake, Iowa, Jefferson, LaFayette, Marquette, Rock and Sauk), and includes 270,000 Catholics.

How old is our diocese?
The Diocese of Madison was erected on January 9, 1946.  It is the youngest diocese in Wisconsin.  The Diocese of Madison was formed from seven counties that had formerly belonged to the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, and four that had belonged to the Diocese of LaCrosse.

From where does the bishop’s authority come?
The bishop is appointed by the authority of pope, and is personally responsible for the spiritual and temporal good of the local church.  He is ordained as a bishop by at least one bishop who has himself received this ordination.  The “chain” of ordinations goes all the way back to the Apostles themselves.  Bishops are understood to be the successors of the Apostles, who were entrusted by the Lord Jesus with the responsibility of caring for His flock on earth.  The bishops, in communion with the pope, fulfill this function today.

Who is our bishop?Bishop_Hying.jpg
Our bishop is the Most Reverend Donald J. Hying, who is the fifth bishop of Madison.  He was installed as Bishop of Madison on June 25, 2019.  He was already a bishop at the time of his appointment, having served as Bishop of Gary (Indiana) before being asked by the pope to come to Madison.

What is a cathedral?
In the see city of each diocese, one church is designated as the cathedral.  This is the church that contains the bishop’s “cathedra” (“chair” in Latin), an important symbol of the bishop’s authority.  The cathedral is the site for the most important diocesan liturgies, such as the ordinations of new priests.  The cathedral is the “bishop’s church” in a special way; because of this, the priest who takes care of the cathedral parish has the title “rector” rather than “pastor.”

Where is our cathedral?
The cathedral of the Diocese of Madison was St. Raphael, on West Main Street.  Unfortunately, historic St. Raphael Cathedral was destroyed by arson in 2005.  We patiently await the time when Bishop Hying makes a decision on where and when a new cathedral will be built.

How does the bishop exercise his responsibility to lead the Diocese of Madison?
The bishop does this in two principal ways.  Most importantly, the bishop cares for his diocese through his clergy − the priests and deacons who work in the individuals parishes which constitute the diocese.  Secondly, the bishop maintains central offices that provide services for all the people of the diocese.

What is the relationship between the bishop and his priests?
Catholic priests are not “independent contractors” nor are they hired by the parishes they serve; they are coworkers with their bishop.  It is the bishop who decides who will be accepted as a candidate for the priesthood, and in which seminary the candidates will be educated.  Priests are ordained for the service of a particular diocese, and at ordination promise obedience to their bishop and his successors.  Throughout his life, a priest receives his assignments to work in one place or another from his bishop.

What do priests do?
As the bishop is responsible for the spiritual and temporal welfare of his diocese, a priest who is pastor is responsible for the spiritual and temporal welfare of the parish to which he is assigned.  The priest must do his work “in communion with the bishop,” following the bishop’s particular instructions, as well as the general law of the Catholic Church.  Immediately after ordination, a new priest will typically assist a more veteran priest who is the pastor of a relatively large parish.  The technical title for such a young priest is “parochial vicar.”

How many parishes and priests are in the Diocese of Madison?
There are currently 132 parishes in the diocese of Madison, and just under 100 active (non-retired) diocesan priests.  There are also priests of two Religious Orders staffing several parishes in our diocese.  At this time, many pastors care for more than one parish, and there are very few parochial vicars.

How big is a parish?
Our largest parishes would have over 2,000 families registered.  There are some parishes that have fewer than 50.  Those are extremes.

What is a deacon?
Deacons are also ordained to assist the bishop in the care of the local church.  They have a specific function in the celebration of the Mass, and may administer the Sacraments of Baptism and Matrimony.  They are permitted to preach, and may be involved in many kinds of service.  Married men may be ordained deacons.  Most deacons do not work fulltime for a parish, and do have secular jobs to support themselves and their families.

Where are the central offices for the Diocese of Madison?BOCPC1crop210.jpg
The diocesan offices are located in Holy Name Heights, on High Point Road, just off the Beltline on the far west side of Madison.  This large facility also contains meeting facilities and rooms for overnight lodging for diocesan events.  It is also the residence for a number of retired priests.

What does the diocese do apart from celebrating the Sacraments?
Very famously, the Church is involved in education.  The Diocese of Madison has forty-five elementary schools (with over 7200 pupils), two high schools and one college.  Parishes provide for the religious education of students in public schools as well.  Service to those in need is also a hallmark of the Catholic Church.  The diocese contains several historically Catholic hospitals, and direct service to the poor is provided in many places by the Society of St. Vincent de Paul.