A HISTORY OF ST. JOHN THE BAPTIST CATHOLIC PARISH
The Changing Face of the Parish
In the late ’70’s and into the eighties, two events changed the face of the St. John’s Parish literally and figuratively. As subsequent generations of the original Slavic Whiting/Robertsdale community reached adulthood, they generally moved out of the Northwest Indiana region. Concurrently, a new community of immigrants began to re-infuse the Whiting/Robertsdale community with their presence, looking to settle here for the same reasons as the original Slavic founders: many industrial job availabilities and a strong sense of community.
This new infusion of immigrants helped to make Whiting/Robertsdale’s cultural community and St. John’s Parish family much more representative of the United States at large, as the new families moving to the community were primarily of spanish-speaking decent from as near by as East Chicago or Chicago, or as far away as Mexico and other countries.
At the same time, another phenomenon began to exert influence on St. John’s Parish. The latter portion of the ’60’s thru the 70’s and ’80’s saw significant reductions in the numbers of young men called religious to religious vocation. The impact started to be felt in the form of fewer priests in residence at the Parish, in the Gary Diocese and in the Precious Blood community at large.
Finally during these years, the physical church saw yet another redecoration process. In the summer of 1980, an announcement in the Paranews noted that the interior of the church was showing significant wear and that a redecoration of the church would need to start soon in order to be ready for the new church’s 50th anniversary in 1981. Bids began to be solicited and donations collected shortly thereafter.
As it got going, the project had some hiccups. Initial bids came in astoundingly high and donations trickled in only slowly. More bids were requested and a donation drive organized. By November, the Parish Council had approved the work to go forward and by December almost $14,000 had been raised. In January, Fr. Homco and Bishop Grutka agreed on a project not to exceed $50,000 and the donation drive continued.
Amid the planning, church bells rang out loudly at 12:30pm on January 20th, 1981, on the release of the many American hostages held in Iran. Sunday’s Paranews proclaimed in a bold headline ‘FREE AT LAST! 444 DAYS!’
A contract was awarded to H. A. Green Decorating of Gary to repaint the church, improve lighting, sound and furniture in February. $37,000 had already been raised. Work began in the choir loft amid Ash Wednesday observances, continued through Lent and Easter and generally created the same level of inconvenience in the parish community as we experienced with our recent redecoration. Work progressed steadily, however, being largely completed just in time for the 50th Anniversary Celebration which occurred at 5pm, June 21st, Bishop Grutka presiding. As part of the celebration, a plaque was installed at the rear of the church in memorial of Fr. Kostik, ‘Our Builder’.
St. John the Baptist, with its new blue interior color palette, is pictured above.
The project was very successful. So much so that by the end of the drive, enough funds had been collected to not only complete the refurbishing and redecorating, but to trade out an old boiler for a newer piece of gas powered machinery.
The repainting project replaced the red, beige, gold color palette which had been present for years to a fresh deep blue, light blue and white color scheme, bringing a new look and vibrancy to the interior of the parish that would last for more than 20 years.