The Rev. Pat Gaza, pastor of both SS. Monica and Luke and St. Mark Catholic churches in the Diocese of Gary, will celebrate his final Mass at both parishes Sunday, marking his official retirement after 44 years in the priesthood.
The Mass at SS. Monica and Luke Catholic Church, 645 Rhode Island St. in Gary, begins at 10 a.m. The two Sunday Masses at St. Mark Catholic Church, 505 W. Ridge Road in Gary, are at 8 a.m. (in English) and noon (in Spanish).
The Rev. Gaza plans to remain in Northwest Indiana serving as a priest as needed in the diocese and living in his family home in Merrillville. "My mother, and my brother and his wife, still live in the area, which is why I am staying here," he said.
He said he plans enjoy his retirement by doing more reading and visiting with friends.
Ordained a Catholic priest in December, 1968 at St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City, Italy, the Rev. Gaza served most of his career in Lake and LaPorte counties as a respected clergyman, community leader and volunteer, educator, civil rights advocate and humanitarian.
A Retirement Dinner in his honor is being planned for 3 p.m. July 21 at Avalon Manor, 3550 E. U.S. 30, Hobart. The community is invited to attend. For information regarding tickets or congratulatory ads, contact Chairman James Harris at (219) 730-2825 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
A Merrillville native, the Rev. Gaza was born in 1943 and attended SS. Peter and Paul Catholic School before heading to Our Lady of the Lake Seminary in Wawasee, St. Meinrad College and Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome.
He taught at Bishop Noll Institute from 1969 to 72, and served as Catholic Youth Organization moderator for Hammond, East Chicago and Whiting.
Returning to Rome, he supervised Theological Fireld Education at the North American College from 1972 to 78, then returned to serve as director of Religious Education and mission director for the Diocese of Gary, as well as director of Hoosier Boys Town and pastor of St. Theresa Church in Shelby into 1982.
From 1982 to 1992, the Rev. Gaza was pastor of St. Mary Church in Michigan City, where he was active as a volunteer police chaplain, member of the Marquette High School Advisory Board, director of the LaPorte County FEMA Food Program, and a member of the Michigan City Ministerial Association.
Since 1992, he has served as pastor of SS. Monica and Luke Church, and became treasurer of the NAACP Gary Branch for 10 years, as well as secretry of the Interfaith Clergy Council of Gary & Vicinity for eight years, president of Christmas in April - Gary, treasurer of the Steel City Hall of Fame Board and a member of the Gary Ten Point Coalition (against gang violence) and Gary Urban Enterprise Association special board to close operations.
He added the St. Mark Church assignment in 2007, and recently received the 2013 NAACP Lifetime Achievement Award.
As for his accomplishments, the Rev. Gaza said he most enjoys "seeing people recognize God active in their lives - that brings me joy."