Foundation guests learn of tribute to Bishop Melczek at reception

SCHERERVILLE – A surprise guest led to a surprise announcement at this month’s annual Friends of the Foundation reception hosted by the Catholic Foundation for Northwest Indiana at Briar Ridge Country Club.

Bishop Quesnel Alphonse, prelate of the Diocese of Fort Liberte in Haiti, accepted an invitation from Bishop Robert J. McClory to visit his sister diocese in Northwest Indiana during a U.S. tour. In addition to attending the annual Memorial Mass for Deceased Clergy at the Cathedral of the Holy Angels in Gary, Bishop Alphonse paid his respects at the tomb of the late Bishop Dale J. Melczek in the cathedral, acknowledging the close relationship between the two dioceses fostered by Bishop Melczek.

At the evening reception, Bishop McClory introduced his fellow prelate, calling him “a known spiritual leader. He preached at a retreat on Mary in Boston, and from here, he will go to give a retreat on Christ the King in Miami. We saw an opportunity for him to be here for the Mass for deceased priests – the first time we prayed for Bishop Melczek (with that group).

“I have a brother bishop here with me who is loving his people and extending himself in care for them,” added Bishop McClory.

It was fitting for Bishop Alphonse to address Catholic Foundation supporters, since it holds the endowment that Bishop Melczek established for the Diocese of Fort Liberte, an endowment that benefits the education program which is seen as the future hope for the people who live in the poorest region of Haiti and the Western Hemisphere.

“I thank you for all you mean to me, and for all you have done for (my diocese),” said Bishop Alphonse. “I felt the presence (today) of Bishop Melczek, a visionary and a prophet, because he was a priest and a father when he chose the Diocese of Fort Liberte – the smallest in Haiti – to be in union with his diocese.

“He made a choice that was very important, because education helps people to develop the capacity (to thrive and improve their lives), and that’s why we pay a lot of attention to education in our diocese,” the bishop explained.

“When I return to Haiti,” Bishop Alphonse concluded, “we will choose a school to bear the name of Bishop Melczek, to keep him alive in the Diocese of Fort Liberte.”

After screening a video explaining the work of all four recipients, the foundation presented its annual Mercy Fund grants, totaling $8,500, to nonprofits in the Diocese of Gary who perform Corporal Works of Mercy. “This is likely the most well-known endowment in our portfolio, and has grown from $46,000 in 2016 to more than $200,000,” said Judy Holicky, diocesan stewardship coordinator.

The 2022 Mercy Fund grant recipients are:

Centers of Hope, which received $3,500, is a ministry of Franciscan Health Emergency Departments in Munster, Dyer, Crown Point and Michigan City (including Chesterton), having served 177 sexual assault survivors in 2021 and 122 in the first three quarters of 2022. Women who have been assaulted come into the emergency room with nothing but the clothes on their back, which frequently has to be kept as evidence,” explained Debbie Tatum, director of development for the Franciscan Health Foundation. 

“This ministry helps restore dignity to these victims by providing personal items, new clothing, undergarments and other necessities at a cost of about $50 to $60 per victim,” she added, through the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) program.   

A grant of $2,000 was approved for the Walking with Moms in Need program of the Diocese of Gary Respect Life Ministry. “We remain in the process of encouraging parishes to establish Walking with Moms in Need ministries to assist pregnant and parenting mothers encountering difficult circumstances associated with their pregnancies,” said Father Rick Holy, diocesan pro-life director. The Mercy Fund grant will help increase awareness of the Walking with Moms initiative “as we continue to ‘get the word out’ about this very important outreach ministry.”

Father Holy and Rosanne Kouris of the diocesan Office for Life said the grant money will be used “to print signs that will be available to all parishes and diocesan institutions who offer Walking with Moms in Needs at their locations to make passersby and others aware that compassionate help and care are available at that location.” 

Joining Hands with Phil’s Friends is a mission of the children of St. John Evangelist School in St. John and serves the Phil’s Friends Cancer Center in Crown Point, one of more than 2,000 Phil’s Friends chapters. The ministry provides care packages, personally designed cards, and phone/video calls with the patients to encourage the patients and provide individualized connections. Organizer Greg Rabito said the $1,500 Mercy Fund grant will be used for a schoolwide collection drive to fill “care packages” and to transport about 75 middle school students to the Crown Point center to “package and pray” while learning first hand about the mission to comfort cancer patients.

Labors of Love Ministry at St. Michael the Archangel in Schererville received a $1,500 grant to buy materials – largely yarn and fleece – used by a growing number of volunteers that has increased from 15 to more than 30 in the last six months – to sew, knit, crochet and craft. In 2020, more than 1,600 handmade items were made to provide comfort and moral support, showing God's love,” said coordinator Sharon Przybylinski, “were created for the Women's Care Center, nursing homes, homeless shelters (including veterans). Fleece blankets, scarves, dolls and rosaries are popular items.

“Our biggest project recently is to make red, white and blue blankets for each resident of Veterans Village in Gary,” Przybylinski noted. “We have made scarves for the church to send to Ukraine, helped supply items for Phil’s Friends care packages, and even made dog blankets for pet shelters.”