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Detroit native to be ordained fifth bishop for the Diocese of Gary

bishops elect 

Bishop-elect Robert J. McClory (right) listens as Bishop emeritus of Gary Dale J. Melczek jokes during a press conference at the Pastoral Center in Merrillville after Monsignor McClory of Detroit was announced as the fifth bishop of the Diocese of Gary by Pope Francis on Nov. 26. (Anthony D. Alonzo photo)

 

by MARLENE A. ZLOZA

Northwest Indiana Catholic

 

      MERRILLVILLE – “Jesus loves you, and so do I.”

      With that simple statement, Bishop-elect Robert J. McClory introduced himself to the people of the Diocese of Gary at a press conference held at the Pastoral Center just hours after it was publically announced on Nov. 26 that Pope Francis had selected a new shepherd for the Catholic Church’s northwest Indiana flock.

      A son of steel raised in the industrial Midwest and educated at prestigious universities in New York, Michigan and Rome, Italy, the new bishop-elect is experienced in both pastoral and administrative service within the Catholic Church. The 56-year-old bishop-elect traveled from the National Shrine of the Little Flower Basilica in Royal Oak, Mich., where he has served as pastor and rector since 2017, to meet his new diocesan staff and priests as well as the media.

      “It’s a season of Thanksgiving, and I am so grateful to experience this time of Thanksgiving with my new flock, my new family, the Diocese of Gary. I am filled with gratitude in this season of Thanksgiving.

      “I am honored and humbled that the Holy Father appointed me as the bishop of this beautiful diocese. . .my heart is full of thanksgiving. I look forward to getting to know the needs of our local Church; I look forward to getting to know and love this flock in Northwest Indiana,” said the bishop-elect after he was introduced by Bishop emeritus Dale J. Melczek, another Michigan native who led the Diocese of Gary from 1992 until 2015.

      “There are some similarities,” between Gary and Detroit, the new prelate suggested. “They’re hard-working people. I think they are people who have experienced some economic transformation. There was an industry that you relied on (that) became transformed, neighborhoods that were thriving that are now blighted, but they are not abandoned by God, and so his love needs to permeate all of our neighborhoods.

      “I’ve lived in Detroit for 22 of my years, 15 of the last 18 years, so I’ve experienced some dynamics that, if I may be so bold to say, may have some similarities to Gary. So to that extent, I feel honored to come here, because I pray to God that my talents will align with the needs of this diocese.”

      Another similarity between the two dioceses is that both are implementing the results of a synod. The Detroit 16 synod was held in 2016 with evangelization and transforming the very culture of the diocese to create more effective witnesses as the goals, while Gary hosted a synod, “Go Make Disciples…” in 2017.

      “I feel like we (in Detroit) were kind of sandwiched between the Milwaukee synod in 2014 that we studied in preparation of our Detroit synod and the Gary synod that you held a year after ours,” said the bishop-elect. “I very much look forward to studying your strategic plan; it’s a great way to learn (about the diocese).”

      Expressing his gratitude to Pope Francis “for the confidence that he has shown in me,” the bishop-elect thanked the diocesan administrator for the past five months, Father Michael Yadron, Bishop Melczek and his predecessor, Bishop Donald J. Hying, who became the bishop of the Diocese of Madison on June 25 after leading the Diocese of Gary for four-and-a-half years.

      He will be ordained a bishop and installed as the leader of the Diocese of Gary on Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020, the feast day of Our Lady of Lourdes. Having recently returned from a pilgrimage to the shrine at Lourdes, France, where he “consecrated my priesthood again to the Blessed Mother and entrusted myself into the hands of Jesus,” the bishop-elect suggested “the hand of the Holy Spirit working here.”

      Referring to his background, he said he is most grateful for his family, calling his family homes in Detroit and Royal Oak, in the words of St. Pope John Paul II, the “domestic seminary” where he was first formed in his vocation to the priesthood, and “where I grew under the love of my parents, Jim and Ann McClory, may they rest in peace,” along with two brothers and one sister.

      Thanks to his father working in the office of a Detroit steel company for over 35 years, “the steel industry put food on our table, and provided the nourishment and sustenance that brought me to this day. So I know that hard work pays off and a loving household rooted in the love of Jesus makes all the difference,” said Bishop-elect McClory.

      Expressing a special affinity for the priestly fraternity, which includes both classmates and former students from the Diocese of Gary, the bishop-elect also singled out as a blessing his role as spiritual advisor to Detroit Team Eight for Teams of Our Lady, a marriage enrichment apostolate, for the past 19 years.

      The bishop-elect, in answering questions, touched upon his experience serving for six years in an African-American parish, his love and respect for the vibrancy of Hispanic Catholics, and the importance of encouraging young people to remain faith-filled.

      Of his own his vocation, he said he was inspired early in life by his family and a youth group at his parish, but went on to college and law school before he began discerning the priesthood again. As a young Catholic attorney very involved in young adult and youth ministries, he “finally said that I had to resolve this question” and began a period of focused discernment. “I used to think that to go into the seminary, you had to know you were going to be a priest, and then as I got closer, I said, I only have to know that I need to go to seminary. . .I think God wants me to be a priest, but I know that I need to go into the seminary.

      “Trusting that if you take a step, and he wants to re-direct you, that will happen,” the bishop-elect said. “In my case he lovingly continued to lead me on to the priesthood.”

      As “a bit of a template as to how a servant should lead and serve,” the bishop-elect offered a Scripture verse: “We proclaim Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.” (2 Cor. 4:5-6)

      “I hope to be a loving servant, not for my sake, but for the sake of Jesus and for the sake of the people that he’s called us to share his love with,” he added.

      “We certainly live in a time, particularly following up on the diocesan synod, where we have a call to discipleship, where we have a call to a missionary impulse to share the good news of Jesus. We do so in a time that we need servants who are also healers. There are people in our Church who have suffered and who need healing, because they’ve been harmed and hurt by others in the Church, and we need to make sure we’re vessels of healing for those who have suffered.

      “At the same time we know that the Lord has a beautiful purpose for us. We’re approaching Advent (starting on Dec. 1), where the season of hope is on the horizon,” said Bishop-elect McClory. “My hope to the priests, the laity, the faithful (and) not just the Catholics of the diocese, but all of those who are in the four counties, that I’ll have that servant’s heart to bring to you the love of Jesus.”

 

bishop elect thumbs

Bishop-elect Robert J. McClory gestures as he speaks to staff members gathered at the Pastoral Center in Merrillville after he was announced as the fifth bishop of the Diocese of Gary by Pope Francis on Nov. 26. Monsignor McClory is a longtime priest of the Archdiocese of Detroit and called himself  "a son of the industrial Great Lakes," saying he was eager to meet the people of Northwest Indiana, as "Jesus loves you, and so do I." (Anthony D. Alonzo photo)

 

bishop elect Mass

Bishop-elect Robert J. McClory (center) celebrates Mass for diocesan staff members gathered at the Pastoral Center in Merrillville after he was announced as the fifth bishop of the Diocese of Gary by Pope Francis on Nov. 26. (Anthony D. Alonzo photo)

bishop elect cathedra

Bishop-elect Robert J. McClory admires the cathedra, or bishop's seat, in Holy Angels Cathedral in Gary after he was announced as the fifth bishop of the Diocese of Gary by Pope Francis on Nov. 26. (Anthony D. Alonzo photo)

 

bishop elect school

Bishop-elect Robert J. McClory hands out holy cards to first-grade students at Aquinas School at St. Andrew's in Merrillvlle after he was announced as the fifth bishop of the Diocese of Gary by Pope Francis on Nov. 26. (Anthony D. Alonzo photo)

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