WHITING | The bond between the Rev. John Kalicky and Whiting runs deep.
Kalicky was born in the city in 1934 and has served in all four Catholic parishes during his career.
Those ties will be celebrated during a Mass at 10:30 a.m. Sunday at St. John the Baptist Church, 1849 Lincoln Ave., where Kalicky has served as pastor since 1991. It will mark his last Mass as pastor, with retirement approaching on July 1.
But Kalicky's relationship with the church goes back much further; he graduated from St. John's grade school in 1948. His first appointment after ordination in 1961 was as an associate pastor at the church, a position he held from 1962 to 1973.
Kalicky also assumed pastoral responsibilities at Whiting's three other Catholic parishes (Immaculate Conception, Sacred Heart and St. Adalbert ) when a clustering of churches occurred about seven years ago.
He said it will be nice not to have to worry about administrative tasks anymore, but that he will miss the people.
"That's a difficult thing because it's my family," he said.
A highlight of what Kalicky is calling the "thanksgiving" Mass on Sunday will be the performance of a musical piece that St. John the Baptist choir member Larry Rapchak has composed as a tribute to Kalicky.
A professional orchestral conductor and composer, Rapchak was approached by fellow choir member Cindy Hric more than a year ago with the idea to create a work in appreciation for Kalicky after word of his upcoming retirement was announced.
Hric found a poem titled "Thou Art a Priest Forever," written by the late French priest and writer Jean-Baptiste Henri Lacordaire.
"It's a 19th-century French text in praise of the priesthood," Rapchak said. "It speaks to the various activities of the priesthood and the self-sacrifice."
Rapchak used that writing along with words from St. Therese's Prayer for Priests to form a musical work that features five solo voices, with the St. John the Baptist Choir providing the background chorus.
Hric, a St. John the Baptist parishioner since 1998, described Kalicky as a warm and welcoming "priest of the people."
Kalicky said he is humbled by having a piece written just for him.
He said he would choose the priesthood all over again, declaring it a privilege and saying he has never experienced a boring day.
But he really wanted to be an airplane pilot as a young child.
"I thought, well maybe I can be a priest-pilot," Kalicky said.
That dream came true about four years ago when Kalicky took flying lessons.
"So I did get to the point where I soloed a little plane," he said.
Kalicky initially plans to do some traveling in retirement, with a sister in Arizona and relatives in Florida providing destinations.
But, blessed with good health, he also plans to assist where needed by continuing to celebrate the sacraments.
"In fact, a couple of parishes already have asked me when I get back and get settled if I can help them. So that's one nice thing; we have job security as a priest," he said, laughing.