The Diocese of Gary: A Brief Historical Overview

The early history of the diocese is largely drawn from In the Presence of Angels by Dominic V. Bertino with permission of the author.

The The Diocese of Gary serves an estimated 170,000 Catholics in Lake, Porter, LaPorte and Starke counties through 58 parishes, two missions and one Catholic student center. The diocese has 17 parish elementary schools and three diocesan high schools, serving 5,982 students, and one private Catholic high school. An additional 5,342 students are enrolled in parish Catholic formation programs. The diocese is home to two post-secondary institutions. More than two million are served by Catholic-affiliated agencies, including seven Catholic hospitals, residential and daycare facilities for adults and children, and centers
for Social Services.

The diocese was established on Dec. 17, 1956, when the Vatican announced that the four Northwest Indiana counties would be separated from the Diocese of Fort Wayne to form a new diocese. Since then, the faithful of the Diocese of Gary have been guided by five bishops.

Father Andrew Gregory Grutka, a native of Joliet, Illinois, was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Fort Wayne on Dec. 5, 1933, in Rome, Italy. The former pastor of Holy Trinity parish in Gary was appointed bishop of the newly established Diocese of Gary on Dec. 29, 1956, and installed on Feb. 25, 1957.

His affinity for the education of youth inspired the development of diocesan schools. Andrean High School in Merrillville was built in 1959, Bishop Noll High School was rebuilt to become Bishop Noll Institute, and St. Mary (parish) High School in Michigan City was re-established as Marquette High School to serve LaPorte County.

Bishop Grutka was among the world’s bishops who participated in the sessions of the Second Vatican Council, 1962-1965. In response to the Council’s recommendation to revive the permanent diaconate, Bishop Grutka established an education and formation program. Between 1981 and 1984, the bishop ordained 44 permanent deacons for the Diocese of Gary. 

In 1968, Bishop Grutka issued his first and only pastoral letter, “How Good a Neighbor Am I?” addressing racism and the need for racial justice and charity. He supported many other endeavors, including establishing Camp Lawrence in Valparaiso and the Albertine Home in Hammond, a retirement home for priests, in 1983. Bishop Grutka retired in 1984 but continued to be active and minister to the people at the pleasure of the new bishop. He died on Nov. 11, 1993, and is entombed in the east transept of the Cathedral of Holy Angels in Gary.

Norbert Felix Gaughan was ordained for the Diocese of Pittsburgh on Nov. 4, 1945, and then, on March 10, 1951, incardinated for the newly formed Diocese of Greensburg. He was appointed auxiliary bishop of Greensburg on April 2, 1975, and ordained on June 26, 1975. He was appointed as the second bishop of Gary on July 24, 1984, and installed on Oct. 2, 1984, the Feast of the Holy Angels. 

Although no new parishes were established during Bishop Gaughan’s tenure, he moved the diocesan offices to a new building (the Pastoral Center) in Merrillville in 1986. That same year, he initiated the Catholic Services Appeal to increase financial resources to support the work of the Church. 

In 1987, he established the Northwest Indiana Catholic as the weekly diocesan newspaper. His program “We Can Change the Future” set norms for establishing pastoral councils and better communication between parishes and diocesan offices. Although a minor stroke in 1989 did not deter him from his duties, a far more debilitating attack in February 1992 left him seriously impaired. 

On Aug. 19, 1992, the Vatican appointed Bishop Dale Joseph Melczek, an auxiliary bishop from Detroit, as Apostolic Administrator to oversee the management of the diocese. Bishop Melczek, a native of Michigan, was ordained for the Archdiocese of Detroit on June 6, 1964. He ministered with great sensitivity toward Bishop Gaughan and, in the fall of 1995, was named as coadjutor bishop, giving him the right to automatically succeed Bishop Gaughan upon his retirement on June 1, 1996. 

Bishop Gaughan died on Oct. 1, 1999, and is buried in the St. Emma Monastery cemetery in Greensburg, Pennsylvania.

Bishop Melczek established one new parish – Holy Spirit in Winfield. He resumed the formation of permanent deacons within the diocese, ordaining the first class of deacons since 1984. With assistance from the Catholic Theological Union of Chicago, Bishop Melczek established the Lay Ecclesial Ministry Formation program, preparing laity for active diocese ministry. Since its inception, hundreds of men and women have received certification.

Several keystone events occurred under Bishop Melczek’s leadership. A committee produced a parish-based, faith-sharing three-year program to lead into and celebrate the Year 2000 Jubilee. The Cathedral of the Holy Angels was renovated in 1998. A policy was established for Sexual Misconduct toward Minors and Others at Risk in the diocese. 

In 2002, Bishop Melczek issued the first of two pastoral letters, which examined gifts of ethnic and racial diversity and ultimately addressed issues of immigration. In 2007, the Diocese of Gary celebrated its 50th anniversary on June 10 with a Mass of Thanksgiving at the Genesis Convention Center in Gary, followed by a Eucharistic procession to the Cathedral of Holy Angels.

In November 2013, upon reaching 75, the mandatory retirement age for bishops, Bishop Melczek submitted his letter of resignation to Pope Francis. On Nov. 14, 2014, Bishop Donald Joseph Hying was appointed the fourth bishop of the Diocese of Gary. 

In January 2015, Bishop Hying appointed Bishop Melczek administrator of St. Mary of the Lake in Gary, where he served until his death on Aug. 25, 2022. Bishop Melczek is entombed in the east transept of the Cathedral of Holy Angels in Gary, next to Bishop Grutka.

Bishop Hying was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee on May 20, 1989. Pope Benedict XVI appointed him auxiliary bishop of Milwaukee and titular bishop of Regiae in 2011. He was installed as the fourth bishop of Gary on Jan. 6, 2015, at the Cathedral of the Holy Angels. 

Bishop Hying called the diocese’s first synod in February 2016 through his first pastoral letter, “Go, Therefore, and Make Disciples of all Nations.” After extensive discussion with parishes to determine areas of opportunity and challenge, the synod was held on Pentecost weekend, June 2-4, 2017.

In September 2017, Bishop Hying issued a synod pastoral response to the faithful of the diocese, highlighting the call to missionary discipleship and outlining priorities in eight ecclesial areas (Evangelization; Discipleship/Formation; Social Teaching; Marriage and Family; Young Catholics; Sacraments, Prayer and Worship; Stewardship; and Vocations and Leadership Formation), with hopes that these priorities would resonate throughout the diocese. Parishes developed plans to focus on evangelization initiatives and at least two other ecclesial areas.

As 2019 got underway, Bishop Hying began parish visits, meeting with staff and parish councils as part of a yearlong plan to encourage parishes in their evangelization efforts. Clergy were surprised to receive an email letter early on the morning of April 25, 2019, informing them that Pope Francis had appointed Bishop Hying to serve the Diocese of Madison, Wisconsin. 

When Bishop Hying was installed as the fourth bishop of the Diocese of Madison on June 25, 2019, the Diocese of Gary was sede vacante, which means “without a bishop.” The next day, the College of Consultors elected Father Michael Joseph Yadron to serve as the Diocesan Administrator to oversee the operations of the diocese. Father Yadron continued as pastor for St. Thomas More parish in Munster, adding administrative duties for the diocese until the installation of the next bishop.

On Nov. 26, 2019, Pope Francis announced that Monsignor Robert John McClory, pastor of The Shrine of the Little Flower in Royal Oak, Michigan, would be ordained a bishop and installed as the fifth bishop for the Diocese of Gary. Before responding to God’s call to the priesthood, Bishop McClory practiced law from 1991 to 1994. He later completed his license in canon law at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas (Angelicum) in Rome.

Cardinal Adam Maida ordained Robert J. McClory to the priesthood on May 22, 1999. He served in several pastoral and administrative assignments for the Archdiocese of Detroit, including vicar general and moderator of the curia for Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron. He also taught part-time at Sacred Heart Major Seminary.

Because of his extraordinary devotion to Our Lady of Lourdes, Bishop McClory selected Feb. 11, 2020, her feast day, as the date of his ordination and installation at the Cathedral of Holy Angels in Gary. 

The intercession of Our Lady of Lourdes would become important to the faithful of the diocese, for within weeks of his installation, Bishop McClory joined other bishops around the world in responding to a coronavirus pandemic. The bishop guided parishes to implement COVID-19 safety protocols, which temporarily limited public worship and the distribution of the Eucharist to deter the rapid spread of the virus. During these unprecedented days, Bishop McClory used digital communication to share video messages and, as did many parishes, used livestream technology to make prayer, formation and Sunday worship available online.

Throughout 2020, churches expanded the availability of in-person worship and began hosting in-person events. In June 2021, Bishop McClory encouraged parishes to invite the faithful to fully engage in sacramental life without restrictions, except for the distribution of the Precious Blood, which resumed later in 2023.

A principal project for Bishop McClory has been to harvest the fruits of the 2017 diocesan Synod through the lens of the current “signs of the times,” as convoked by Pope Francis in preparation for the next Synod of Bishops, (October 2023). He assembled a task force to enlist priests, parish leaders, youth and other faithful to discern areas of focus for the diocese. In response, on Feb. 2, 2022, Feast of the Presentation, Bishop McClory released  “We Proclaim Jesus as Lord!” – his first pastoral letter – on missionary discipleship. 

On behalf of the Diocese of Gary, in June 2022, Bishop McClory submitted a comprehensive summary report as part of the worldwide Synod on Synodality. 

Bishop McClory encouraged parishes to use his pastoral letter as a resource in conducting listening sessions to reflect on current “signs of the times” and the faithful’s call to missionary discipleship. He created evangelization grants to support parishes with their ongoing missionary discipleship goals.