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Bishop Hying returns to support Mercy Fund, greet fans at RailCats game

Hying RailCats first

Bishop of Madison (Wisc.) Donald J. Hying (center) greets individuals who represent local charitable agencies that were awarded monetary grants from the Mercy Fund of the Catholic Foundation of Northwest Indiana at the annual Bishop's Birthday Bash at U.S. Steel Yard in Gary on Aug. 6. (Anthony D. Alonzo photo) 



Northwest Indiana Catholic


      GARY – The Catholic Foundation of Northwest Indiana said ‘yes’ to eight Mercy Fund grant recipients this year, 697 supporters said ‘yes’ to the Bishop’s Birthday Bash on Aug. 6, and hundreds went home with a keepsake bobblehead likeness of Bishop Donald J. Hying who nods ‘yes’ to anything you ask.

      Bishop Donald J. Hying graciously returned to the Diocese of Gary and the U.S. Steelyard from his new home in Madison, Wisc. to celebrate Mass and greet well-wishers at the third annual Bishop’s Birthday Bash. Begun in 2017 as a benefit for the Mercy Fund which he created in 2016 in recognition of Pope Francis’ Jubilee Year of Mercy, the birthday bash has been a way to grow the fund through ticket, food and beverage sales at a Gary SouthShore RailCats baseball game.

      “The Mass was such a unique experience, with the bishop standing on the dugout, the bobbleheads were a big hit, and Father Kevin (McCarthy) was awesome singing ‘Take Me Out to the Ballgame,’” said foundation board member Noreen Bickel. “The RailCats were so helpful, Bishop Hying was gracious as usual, and I was so impressed with our Catholic high school students who volunteered. Best of all, we raised money (final figures not available at press time) for a good cause.”

      Last year, the first six Mercy Fund grants for $1,000 each were awarded at the game, while this year, the foundation’s grant committee again awarded $6,000, but through eight grants ranging from $500 to $1,000. “We had 28 applications and the process – all handled online – went really smoothly,” said Diana Murray, grant committee chairwoman and a member of the foundation board.     Aimed at funding new or expanding projects that embody spiritual and corporal works of mercy within the Diocese of Gary, Murray said the committee “was looking for something very unique, easily duplicated and offering an innovative way of serving the community. We were really pleased with the quality of the applicants, showing that great work is being done in our Diocese of Gary.”

      The grant recipients, congratulated by the bishop on the field, and featured in scoreboard videos and promotional booths on the concourse, are:

      Peers Helping Youth Reach Enlightenment (PHYRE), Whiting-Robertsdale Catholic Community youth group: “The Dignity of Life program will support and sustain the food pantry serving men who live at the Hammond City Rescue Mission as well local families,” said Jamie Sandona, coordinator of religious education and youth ministry at St. John the Baptist. “Right now, they don’t eat if a meal is not donated that day, and they get no breakfast. We want them to be able to get a can of ravioli and heat it up in the microwave oven. We want to reach out to other parishes to help us stock ready-to-eat food, maybe even provide a toaster. We want to raise funds for a freezer. We provide a meal once a month, with utensils, plates and beverages. We want to methodically create a place where these men have dignity – a place to live with a decent bed and a daily meal.”

      Sojourner Truth House, Gary: For the second year, STH has planted a garden full of raised beds growing beans, tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, peppers, broccoli, cauliflowers, carrots, eggplant, watermelons, pumpkins, lettuce, greens and radishes, said Sister Peg Spindler, STH director. “The City of Gary helped with compost and dirt, and our clients are learning to weed and harvest,” she explained. “We have wonderful salads for lunch, and once we have a lot of produce, we share with our food pantry and clothing clients, too. We were happy to get the grant, which will help pay the summer water bill for our sprinkling system.”

      Holy Trinity Croatian, East Chicago: The Blessing Box is a new idea that will create a cabinet placed outside the rectory and filled with nonperishable food and personal hygiene items. “We will invite people – whether homeless, a working mom who needs a meal when money is tight, or a family – to take a bag and fill it with what you need,” said Cynthia Rivas, director of religious education. People can also leave donations in the cabinet, while the parish outreach team will restock the cabinet as needed. “We are helping 3-5 families a week now, and we thought this would make it easier to serve the community. We believe people want to help, but are looking for how. We’d love to see this project duplicated in different quadrants of the city.”

      St. Michael the Archangel, Schererville: The AMRAMP Wheelchair Ramp Ministry is building on a program operated by the Valparaiso Noon Kiwanis Club to purchased Americans with Disabilities Act-certified steel ramps that can be installed at a home in 2-3 hours by volunteers. “We will try to buy good-quality used ramps on eBay and pick them up and store them until someone contacts us with a need,” said Jim Koeling of the parish’s Rebuilding Hope Mission Team. “This grant will provide seed money, and we are hoping to attract directed donations that can be sent to the parish. The ramps come in sections, so they can be customized, and we are hoping to help anyone in Lake County who needs wheelchair access.”

      Queen of All Saints, Michigan City: The Boxes of Mercy is the expansion of a local program that has stocked a food pantry, filled Christmas food baskets for needy families and sent care packages to the military. “We want to expand to regional, national and international levels,” said Cathy Laughlin, working with Vicki Berlanga. The program would provide take-home lunches for school breaks for children in Catholic and public schools enrolled in the school-lunch program, personal letters and small care packages for deployed military personnel, and Cross Catholic Outreach gift boxes for needy foreign children. “We also want to match seven needy families with parish families who would provide a box of food, clothing and other necessities and also friendship and fellowship, hopefully adding gifts of faith like prayers, books and invitations to events.”

      St. Joseph’s Carmelite Home, East Chicago: The Independent Living Project teaches girls 12-18 daily living skills like money management, career and education planning and social skills. “I take the girls out into the community for socialization, team building and field trips to places like the DuSable Museum of African American History in Chicago, Deep River Waterpark in Merrillville, Theatre at the Center in Munster and to nice restaurants,” said Alexandra Reyes, independent living coordinator at the home. “The girls learn how to order dinner, calculate a tip and how to speak in public, and in the process they learn self-confidence. This grant will help pay for our transportation, admission fees and meals. We also watch teen movies, and they can put themselves in the character’s position and discuss what they learned from watching.”

      Sacred Heart, St. Peter and St. Joseph, LaPorte: Nourish for Caregivers is a respite care program started in January offering all caregivers a monthly support group meeting to share ideas and concerns and learn from each other. “It is a great thing to know you are not alone,” said Karen Yates, facilitator. The grant will provide money to pay for respite care while a caregiver runs errands, buys groceries, goes to Mass or just takes some time for themselves. “We’re church, and that’s what we are supposed to be doing,” Deacon Frank Zolvinski said of the ministry. “We just need to let caregivers know that we are here,” he said of the group, which meets at 6:30 p.m. the second Wednesday each month at the St. Peter Rectory. 1104 Monroe St.

      Andrean High School, Merrillville: Building Bridges is the expansion of a current service projects that send students into the community. The grant will provide bus transportation for up to 40 students at a time to deliver donated food and clothing to Sojourner Truth House in Gary, help out at the Nazareth Home that fosters children in East Chicago, serve meals at the Ss. Monica and Luke soup kitchen in Gary, and partner with Longfellow Elementary School in Gary to collect school supplies, tutor students and deliver donated food and clothing. “I went on an overnight retreat to Chicago with a small group in our van and worked in a soup kitchen, but it would be great if more students could participate,” said senior Megan Thomas. “Everyone should have the opportunities I’ve had. I love serving in the community.”


Hying RailCats two

Bishop of Madison (Wisc.) Donald J. Hying raises the chalice and host as Deacon Bob Marben assists during Mass at the annual Bishop's Birthday Bash and Mercy Fund Ceremony at U.S. Steel Yard in Gary on Aug. 6. The foundation awarded eight grants from the fund and invited representatives to join Bishop Hying on the field before the game. (Anthony D. Alonzo photo)


Hying RailCats three

Holy Spirit parishioner Marshall Anderson (center) sings the Antional Anthem flanked by members of the Andrean High School cheer squad and choir members (left to right) Naliah Musenja, Aliana Quinones, Kaliyah Brown and Bridget Meccia at the Bishop's Birthday Bash and Mercy Fund ceremony on Aug. 6.


Hying RailCats four

Father Kevin McCarthy leads the Seventh Inning Stretch and religious cheers with Rusty the RailCat at the Bishop's BIrthday Bash and Mercy Fund ceremony at U.S. Steel Yard in Gary on Aug. 6. (Anthony D. Alonzo photo)


Hying RailCats five

Mitchell Bolda (right) of Crown Point speaks with Bishop of Madison (Wisc.) Donald J. Hying at the annual Bishop's Birthday Bash at U.S. Steel Yard in Gary on Aug. 6. The former bishop of Gary returned to Northwest Indiana to honor a commitment to the event, which included the awarding of eight grants to local agencies from the Mercy Fund, meet and greet opportunities, sale of bobbleheads in the likeness of the bishop for charity, and a RailCats baseball game. (Anthony D. Alonzo photo)


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