A HISTORY OF ST. JOHN THE BAPTIST CATHOLIC PARISH

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Reaching the age of his mandatory retirement at 75 in 1983, Bishop Grutka passed on his stewardship duties for the diocese and Bishop Norbert Gaughn became second bishop of the Gary Diocese in October.

Back at St. John’s, facing deteriorating health conditions, Fr. Homco turned over Pastoral stewardship of St. John the Baptist to Fr. Andrew O’Reilly in July of 1988. Fr. Homco remained in residence at St. John, serving as an able associate pastor resource for Fr. O’Reilly.

Fr. O’Reilly maintained those responsibilities until June of 1991, when Fr. Kalicky was reassigned from his Provincial duties with the Precious Blood community to become the third home-grown pastor of St. John the Baptist.

Change occurred again in the Diocese in 1996 as Bishop Gaughn was succeeded by  Bishop Dale Melczek on July 2nd. In the Chicago Archdiocese, loved and much respected Cardinal Joseph Bernardin passed after a long and public illness in November.

During the 1990’s, a number of physical and philosophical evolutions made arenas before the domain of the clergy more welcome to the lay members of the parish. On the philosophical side, facing dwindling numbers of clergy, the Catholic Church moved to involve lay parishioners in more parish ministry. Specifically, lay Eucharistic ministers were established to enable dwindling numbers of clergy to maintain ministry of their parish families. St. John’s happily embraced the new evolution, leading to a supportive community of Eucharistic Ministers in our Parish.

SJBHistory_oldraileasterIn addition to changes in ministry, there was a physical reconfiguration of the front of St. John the Baptist. Since its construction in the ’30’s, the sanctuary of the church had been the domain of the clergy. A marble rail spanned the width of the sanctuary, providing a physical and philosophical boundary between the celebrant and the flock.
But as prepartion for St. John the Baptist’s Centennial celebration, in late 1996 working into 1997, the long standing rail was removed from the sanctuary and reconfigured to create a new altar and Baptistry in the Sanctuary of the church.

Fr. Kalicky is pictured blessing baskets at the old
communion rail in a Holy Saturday ceremony.

SJBHistory_altarb_29Design of the altar and Baptistry was done by Mrs. Regina Kuhn, with Mr. George Piwowarczyk of the Natural Stone Company artistically turning the plans into creative reality. Much gratitude was expressed to the First Catholic Ladies Slovak Association’s donation of $15,000 which helped to fund the project.

Marble from the original Baptistry in the rear of the church formed the actual altar, while the lighter colored stone at the bottom and underside of the altar, along with the Baptistry walls were created from the long-standing communion rail. The bronze gates mounted on the original rail were removed and imbedded in the new altar. Not only did the reconfiguration open up the sanctuary in a more welcoming way, it also removed the psychological barrier the rail established between the sanctuary and the congregation.

The new altar is seen here in the redecorated church.

SJBHistory_newbaptistry_30The original Baptismal font from the back Baptistry was relocated to the front of the church, specifically in front of the portrait of the Blessed Mother, the Madonna of the Precious Blood. Fr. Ed Homco, who at the time was retired, did not favor the placement of the font. A popular account for this relocation is that one day, while praying before the portrait, he experienced a deep sense of peace with the move of the font. Father felt sure that the peace of mind he experienced came from Mary’s inspiration. What better place for children to receive the graces of the shed Blood of Jesus than in front of the portrait of Mary holding her son with the chalice while both look lovingly on the children. Pictured at right is the Baptistry in its new placement in front of Mary’s portrait.