A HISTORY OF ST. JOHN THE BAPTIST CATHOLIC PARISH
In March of 1955, The Times Graphic of Whiting reported on the ground-breaking of a much needed addition to St. John’s parochial center. Strauss and Clark once again were key on the project. On November 11th, 1956, Bishop Leo Pursley dedicated the new wing containing six classrooms, a school library, three sound-proofed music rooms, three meeting rooms, a sewing room, added panel room storage and serving facilities, a refreshment center, two meeting rooms with adjoining kitchenette (the Mural Room and Founders Room), the gymnasium and the Marian Memorial Auditorium.
The photo above was taken from what is now the back of the school, over ground that would soon be home to the Marian Memorial Auditorium and the new gymnasium. At the left is a Lincoln Avenue view of the expansion construction in progress.
A new diocese was formed in Northwest Indiana with Gary as episcopal in 1957. It was deemed that Lake, Porter, La Porte and Starke, with their large Catholic population and populous area merited separation from the distant Fort Wayne diocese. Monsignor Andrew G. Grutka chose the Church of Holy Angels in Gary as his episcopal cathedral.
Fr. Brenkus did not attend the episcopal consecration. He was in St. Catherine’s with a serious illness. While initially the news wasn’t good, Fr. Brenkus’ condition improved over time and he was eventually released from the hospital. Happily, he celebrated his Silver Jubilee June 2nd, Bishop Grutka attending part of the celebration on June 5th. The long illness, however, took its toll. Fr. Brenkus was forced to give up his charge of St. John’s and was replaced by Fr. Edward Homco, who was offically installed as pastor on July 14th.
Years of quiet progress followed. Noteworthy was the sale and dismantlement of the Quonset Hut Gymnasium. As practical as it had been, the old gym became obsolete with the completion of the new gymnasium in the Parochial Center expansion. It was sold and made into a church in 1958.
One of St. John’s Home-grown priests. ‘Father Ed was the man who kept St. John’s steeple standing’.
Edward Homco was home-grown, born in Whiting June 17th, 1919. With his brothers, Ed as a boy rose before dawn to do farm work, studied hard and made many friends in the growing Whiting/Robertsdale community.
A life-long member of St. John the Baptist Catholic Church, he entered Brunnerdale Seminary in 1932, professing to the Society of the Precious Blood on December 8th, 1936 at St. Joseph College, Rensselaer, Indiana. He continued his formation at St. Charles Seminary in Carthegena, Ohio and was ordained December 5th, 1943.
He first appointment in service was as associate pastor of St. Gabriel Church in Detroit, Michigan in 1944. On September 13, 1945, he returned to Whiting as associate pastor of St. John the Baptist under Pastor Lefko. Fr. Ed became pastor of St. John 12 years later on June 26th, 1957 where he guided the parish for 31 years until 1988. Fr. Ed served actively as associate pastor until his passing.
In May of 1970, he was elected by his peers to serve on the Precious Blood Council and represented the Precious Blood Society, Cincinnati Province at the General Council in Rome in September of 1970. Also in his ministry, Fr. Ed worked with numerous organizations addressing the needs of young and old alike. He was a moving force in the St. John Drama Club, later the Marian Theatre Guild.
True to his ethnic heritage, he provided deep service to his Slovak parishioners by serving masses in their native tongue and participating in many Slovak fraternal organizations. Fr. Ed was a member of Branch #130, a staunch supporter of Calumet College (appointed to their Board of Directors in 1974) and received an honorary Doctor of Law degree in 1984.
Father Ed passed away on December 23rd of 2000, preceded in death by two brothers, John and Rev. Michael Homco. Shortly after his passing, Fr. Ed was honored by the Hammond City Council who renamed the stretch of Lincoln Avenue between St. John Church and School Father Homco Way.