MADISON (WKOW) -- Bishop Donald Hying has only been here eight months, but Madison's Catholic Diocese has already embraced him.
"It's been a remarkable experience, very warm welcome from the people, from the priests and really from the city and the community," he said.
One of Hying's goals his first year is to visit all 102 parishes and 46 schools in the diocese, which covers southwestern Wisconsin. He says he's over halfway there.
"If I'm the spiritual leader of the diocese, it's important that I know the diocese, that I meet the people," he said. "Until I visit a particular parish, it's a name on the map. But once I go there, it's become a relationship."
This Wednesday will mark Hying's first Lent with the Diocese of Madison. He said people should approach Lent as an "intense spiritual experience to jolt us into a deeper experience of God's grace."
Hying is Madison's fifth bishop, taking over after the death of Bishop Morlino last November. He said he's striving for continuity in his message.
"I've never appreciated leadership where somebody comes in as if history started the day they showed up."
Much of the diocese includes rural communities. Hying wants to inspire hope in people struggling with the farm crisis.
"In the end, religion gives us profound hope that no matter what we suffer, no matter what we go through, God has already written the end of the story."
His plan for next year is to build a stronger, more far-reaching Catholic base.
"Imagine if everybody went to church every Sunday and prayed for 15 minutes a day and really grasped the good and joyful news of God. We would change the world."