Pope Francis on Tuesday appointed a Michigan priest to be the new bishop for the Catholic Diocese of Gary, Indiana.
Bishop-elect Monsignor Robert McClory becomes the fifth bishop in the history of the diocese, which covers 1,800 square miles and includes Gary and four counties in Northwest Indiana.
“I am a son of the industrial Great Lakes,” 56-year-old McClory said at a news conference in Merrillville on Tuesday morning.
“My father retired from a steel company at which he worked for over 35 years in Detroit. The steel industry put food on our table, and provided the nourishment and sustenance that brought me to this day.”
McClory is the current pastor of the National Shrine of the Little Flower Basilica in Royal Oak, Michigan. A former attorney, McClory said he is “honored and grateful” to come to Gary.
He succeeds Donald Hying, who became bishop of the Diocese of Madison, Wisconsin, last April.
McClory said he wasn’t expecting the appointment, but he welcomes the challenges.
Despite the diocese being centered in Gary, there are fewer and fewer Catholics in the city. Several churches having closed over the years or relocated to wealthier suburban areas such as Crown Point, St. John and Valparaiso.
McClory said his past work in Detroit, which included serving a small and mostly African American church, prepared him for his work in Gary.
“The beacon of light and hope that we bring from Jesus permeates all four counties and permeates the city of Gary,” McClory said. “I just want to learn their needs. I know that God loves them and I just want to be an agent of his mercy for them.”
McClory will lead a diocese with about 170,000 Catholics in Lake, Porter, LaPorte and Starke counties. The diocese consists of 72 parishes, a small liberal-arts college, three high schools 22 elementary schools and six Catholic hospitals.
McClory will be consecrated as bishop and installed on Feb. 11, 2020 at the Cathedral of the Holy Angels in Gary.
McClory was vicar general for Detroit Archbishop Allen Vigneron for eight years.
“The pastors and people of the Church in Gary will find themselves blessed by his service,” Vigneron said in a statement Tuesday. “We, the priests, religious and faithful of the Archdiocese of Detroit send him on mission with heartfelt prayers.”
McClory graduated from Oakland University in Rochester Hills, Michigan, in 1983 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in politics and communication. He earned a master’s degree from Columbia University and his law degree from the University of Michigan.
He later studied at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit and the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome.
Michael Puente covers Chicago and Northwest Indiana for WBEZ. Follow him on Twitter @MikePuenteNews.