SCHERERVILLE — With its rich history, traditions and diversity, Northwest Indiana is a microcosm of America, Bishop Donald J. Hying of the Catholic Diocese of Gary told members of the Lake County Advancement Committee during Friday’s monthly meeting at Teibel’s Restaurant.

“It is rural, urban, suburban,” Hying said about the Region. “It is economically wealthy and economically challenged.”

In November 2014, Pope Francis appointed the Wisconsin native as the fourth bishop of Gary.

Weaving a message about the need for social justice and helping people flourish, Hying encouraged those gathered to continue working together for the betterment of Lake County and the entire Region. He used the seven Catholic social principles to illustrate how religion and community can accomplish this in tandem.

“Every system must serve the dignity of every person,” the bishop said, putting emphasis on individuals with special needs. “I recently read that 92 percent of unborn children diagnosed or misdiagnosed with Down syndrome are aborted.”

Family and community are “the building blocks of society,” Hying said. “We are better together than we are separated.”

Rights and responsibilities must also be intertwined, he said.

“As Americans we are good at demanding our rights, but not as good with responsibilities. With every right comes a responsibility,” Hying said. “There is too often a misuse of power. Power divorced from love and service ends up destroying rather than building up.”

People of many faiths are called to work with the poor and vulnerable, the bishop said. “We are called to go to the margins … (to) know people who are economically poor, know their stories.”

Another principle focuses on the dignity of work and the rights of workers.

“Work is a privilege,” Hying said. “We have a right to work, a right to organize.”

The bishop also encouraged solidarity, a word he said was frequently used by Pope John Paul II.

“We live in an era of economic and political fracture,” Hying said, citing the current presidential campaigns and debates. “We need all the pieces to work together.”

Finally, caring for creation means “looking at the world of nature and how we can preserve it for future generations,” he said.

“(These principles) apply to the Region. There is abundant opportunity to put these principles into action,” Hying said, adding that the Gary Diocese is “recalibrating our justice and peace committee toward advocacy and empowerment for legislative and social change.”

The goal is “a just and peaceful society. We’ve never needed to build a just and peaceful society more (than now),” he said. “You can count on our diocese as partners with the community.”

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