New coordinator blends research and teaching with a strong faith

MERRILLVILLE – She may have arrived in the Diocese of Gary from just down the road, but Dr. Claudia Sadowski has traveled many miles gaining valuable experience that will benefit those she serves as the new Intercultural Ministry coordinator for the diocese’s Missionary Discipleship Team.
Born and raised in Guadalajara, Mexico, Sadowski emigrated in 1987, after high school graduation, to live with her aunt, Guillermina Ocampo, in Chicago. Already boasting executive secretarial and private accountancy skills, she planned to study computers and English as a Second Language and return to her native country.
Her plans changed when she met James Sadowski, a real estate executive, and married him in 1992. The couple moved to Lake Village, where they live “a life of service and faith … on six acres of land with a horse,” she said. “It is a peaceful environment.” The couple has three daughters and seven grandchildren.
Professionally, Sadowski became a teacher’s assistant for Spanish-speaking students at Lake Village Elementary School while pursuing college studies, earning a bachelor of science in Marketing in 2004 and a bachelor of arts in Spanish (Iberoamerican Studies) in 2006, both from St. Joseph’s College in Rensselaer, which closed a year later.
Exploring the intersection of language, culture and faith, particularly focusing on the identity of Hispanics in the U.S., Sadowski next headed to Purdue University to earn a master’s in Hispanic Linguistics.
Having established a Hispanic Ministry at St. Augustine in Lake Village, her home parish, she also taught Spanish at St. Joseph’s College (2004-15) and Purdue (2018). At St. Joseph’s, she also chaired the World Languages Department, International Task Force Committee and Multicultural Affairs Committee, served as a student adviser and assistant director of International Programs. In 2005, she became a parishioner at St. Cecilia in DeMotte, where she started Bible studies classes and was soon invited by other parishes to bring her lessons to their parishioners.
In 2008, she also began working for the Diocese of Lafayette as assistant director of Hispanic Ministry, which she continued until last March, when the office was disbanded during a restructuring of the diocese, making her available for the Diocese of Gary opening.
Meanwhile, Sadowski earned a doctorate in Hispanic Linguistics from Purdue in 2021. Her dissertation, “Taking a Chance: A Narrative Inquiry of Mexican Origin Immigrants Living in the American Midwest,” earned her the prestigious Honoris Causa Doctorate award from the Claustro Doctoral Iberoamericano in 2022.
“I am so honored to be selected for this international recognition (given) for changing the lives of others,” Sadowski said. “There were 14 of us honored in Chicago, and this encapsulates everything I’ve studied. The first chapter of my dissertation is my story, and I’m working now on getting it published as a book.”
Since 2004 she has been dedicated to evangelization activities and the promotion of Hispanic communities in different regions of different dioceses. An international speaker on issues related to Hispanic identity and culture, Sadowski was referred to as a Woman Without Borders by the Mexican Association of Women Business Leaders (AMMJE).
Sadowski's work sheds light on the significance of the Catholic faith within the Hispanic cultural framework and she actively engages with the community through her involvement with Hispanics, facilitating various transformative events such as retreats, workshops, and congresses, encouraging participants to embrace their cultural heritage and strengthen their spiritual journeys. As an international speaker, Dr. Sadowski inspires individuals to embrace their cultural identities, foster unity, and deepen their connection to their Catholic faith in today's complex world.
Her studies continue with a class named “Roads to God” at the University of Notre Dame and with formation provided by Sister Rosemarie Hastings, VD of the Verbum Dei Community.
Since arriving in the Gary diocese, Sadowski has already addressed the 2024 Lay Ecclesial Ministry graduates in Spanish, and spoken to young adults in a summer speaker series on the topic of living as beloved sons and daughters of God as a path to “peace, joy and healing, with a call to mission.”
Her mission work also includes visiting the migrant camps on farms in Northwest Indiana, bringing a meal to share after a Mass or prayer service and leaving the farm workers with fresh clothing and a bag of groceries.
Asked about her biggest accomplishments in diocesan terms, Sadowski responded, “The fact that, with God’s providence and grace, I was able to start a Hispanic Ministry in the northwest part of the Lafayette diocese with the support of an amazing team of Spanish-speaking leaders that believed in the mission and understand that God has a plan for everything and everyone.
“I truly believe (and try to live by it) that God’s plans are better than ours and that He places you where He needs you with the gifts and talents that He gave you to be the eyes, the ears, the arms, the     
feet, and the heart He needs to be able to serve the people He puts around you.”
“My very first goal in the Diocese of Gary is to visit all the parishes that have a non-English, Other-Abled and/or African-American presence, to listen to what they are doing in their churches and ask how I can collaborate with them,” Sadowski said. “I want to learn about the realities of the people and to do that you have to be there with the people.
“Those who serve need to be a bridge – ‘Gente Puente,’” she added.    


Caption: Claudia Sadowski, Ph.D., new diocesan Intercultural Ministry Coordinator, stands in the Pastoral Center chapel in Merrillville on April 30. Sadowski worked for the Diocese of Lafayette-in-Indiana before joining the Diocese of Gary staff. (Anthony D. Alonzo photo)