The Catholic faithful gathered on Sunday to say goodbye to Bishop Emeritus Dale J. Melczek, third bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Gary.
Melczek’s body, laid in a modest wooden casket, was escorted into the Cathedral of the Holy Angels in Gary by the Knights of Columbus honor guard from the Holy Sepulchre. The Right Reverend Bishop Robert J. McClory received the body at the cathedral for the rite of reception, sprinkling holy water symbolizing baptism on the coffin.
Melczek, 83, died early Thursday morning in a hospice after suffering an irreparable stroke over the weekend. He died just six days after celebrating his 30th birthday with the Diocese of Gary on Aug. 19, according to the diocese. Melzcek served as bishop from 1992 until 2015, when he retired. He was later appointed parish priest at St. Mary of the Lake Parish in Gary.
McClory said it was appropriate that Melczek be sent home to the cathedral named for the saints and angels he helped restore as bishop. He said Melczek was with the saints and holy angels as they gathered in a cloud around the faithful for encouragement and strength.
McClory said Melczek lived a life of service and was an example of how giving of yourself for the good of others makes life more fruitful.
“He was a tireless servant, a compassionate pastor and a hopeful leader,” McLory said.
Priests carefully tended to Melczek’s body, placing the bishop’s miter – a top hat with two tails – on his head to see him before mourners flocked to pay their respects.
Chesterton’s Jane Callies dabbed back tears throughout the ceremony. She and her husband, Tom Wisch, and their boys, Gus, 14, and Jake, 12, had come to know Melczek when he became pastor of St. Mary of the Lake parish.
They became parish members during the “year of opportunity,” beginning on Easter Sunday 2015, when Melczek and parishioners worked to save the church from a planned closure by the diocese. Callies was baptized a Catholic and Wisch had received the sacraments but was not practicing when they returned to church.
“He was so welcoming and accepting,” Callies said.
The couple originally married in 2006, then remarried in church by Melczek as they approached their 10th anniversary.
“Bishop Dale performed the ceremony at St. Mary of the Lake,” she said. Melczek also confirmed her and baptized her two boys.
“He was just a sweet man. He was always willing to do anything to be kind,” Wisch said.
Callies said he would miss his acceptance and inclusion and hopes the next priest to take on the role of parish leader will have similar feelings.
” I will miss it. I hope whoever comes as the next parish priest will be as welcoming and welcoming as Bishop was,” Callies said.
Carole Barnes and her husband Rich, who live in the Miller section of Gary, said they will miss Melczek. Carole Barnes is a member of St. Mary of the Lake, while Rich is non-Catholic. The couple work together to run the parish pantry, an initiative started by Melczek after taking over the church.
She said she met with Melczek last week to talk about the pantry and her successful efforts to find someone to retire. Barnes said she was glad she was able to let Melczek know that something he was so passionate about would continue.
“He was just a wonderful man,” she said.
Melzcek was installed bishop of the 50-year-old Diocese of Gary in June 1996, with Cardinal Edmund Szoka, archbishop emeritus of Detroit, presiding over Melczek’s installation. Pope John Paul II appointed Melczek Auxiliary Bishop of Detroit in 1982 and Cardinal Szoka ordained him Bishop of the Archdiocese of Detroit in 1983. Melczek was born in Detroit, the eldest of Aloysius and Geraldine’s three children. Melczek. He was ordained a priest in the Archdiocese of Detroit in 1964.
In 1992, after his predecessor Bishop Norbert F. Gaughan suffered a stroke, Pope John Paul II appointed Melczek as “Apostolic Administrator” for the Diocese of Gary, before he eventually took over the duties. full-time duties of Gaughan, who retired to Saint-Antoine. Homed in Crown Point before his death at age 78 in October 1999.
Melczek will be buried at Holy Angels Cathedral alongside the late Bishop Andrew G. Grutka, first bishop of the Diocese of Gary.
Visits resume Monday, from 8:30 a.m. to 9:45 a.m., at the Cathedral of the Holy Angels, followed by morning prayer. The Christian funeral mass begins at 10:30 a.m. at the cathedral, followed by a light lunch. All liturgies are open to the public and will also be streamed live on the Diocesan YouTube channel (dcgary.org).