HAMMOND | The crowd at Calumet College of St. Joseph celebrated the good mind, good heart and good works of the late Bishop Andrew Grutka Friday afternoon.
The Andrew G. Grutka Center was dedicated Friday at the college with an event that included a talk by Anthony Bonta of Barry University, whose thesis centered on the life and works of Grutka, and a panel discussion that included the Rev. Robert P. Gehring, the Rev. Joseph Semancik and former Gary Mayor Richard Hatcher.
Semancik credited Hatcher and Grutka for keeping Gary calm during a time when riots were tearing apart other U.S. cities.
“(Hatcher and Grutka) made their positions clear to (their constituencies), it was not to be,” Semancik said while describing the tense urban atmosphere in 1968. “And we had peace.”
Hatcher said that Grutka was an example “of what a peaceful person can do and what a person devoted to peace can accomplish.”
Andrew Gregory Grutka was born in 1908, to a Slovak couple in Joliet.
"He never forgot the people who took care of him and he never forgot what it was like to be poor,” said Bonta, who grow up in the region.
Bonta himself was confirmed by Grutka, who also served as co-celebrant at Bonta’s grandmother’s funeral.
Grutka was ordained in 1933 and served in Elkhart and then in the Holy Trinity Parish in Gary before being named bishop of the newly created Diocese of Gary by Pope Pius XII in 1956. His passion for the faith and for social justice was deep and long-lasting, Semancik said.
Grutka encouraged and supported those priests who wanted to join the historic Civil Rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Ala. He even offered them money for expenses, said Semancik, who joined the march.
From 1962 to 1965 he attended all four sessions of the Second Vatican Council and was responsible for implementing Council reforms in the Gary diocese. Grutka served as Bishop of the Gary Diocese until 1984.
During his lifetime he was honored with the Indiana Sagamore of the Wabash award, the Ellis Island Medal of Honor and the American Legion Civic Merit Medal. In 1981, he served as guest chaplain in the U. S. Senate.
In addition to opening the Grutka Center, the college has also created the Bishop Andrew G. Grutka Chair in Catholic Identity.