A History of St. John Bosco Catholic Church

St. John Bosco Catholic Church began through the efforts of missionary catechists in Indiana Harbor and Rev. Paul J. Schmid, principal of Catholic Central High School, in 1934. Seeing the growth of the city's South Hammond and Woodmar neighborhoods, a need was met through their efforts. Fr. Schmid rented a basement flat in a three-story building in the 6800 block of Columbia Avenue, which the catechists used three times each week to provide religious instruction to Catholic children in the neighborhood.

On Easter Sunday, April 1, 1934, Pope Pius XI canonized the Italian priest John Bosco and Fr. Schmid dedicated his new parish in honor of the saint that same day, though the parish did not hold its first Holy Massuntil April 15, 1934. This is, therefore, the first parish in the world named after St. John Bosco.

Fr. Schmid would leave the parish he established later in the year to make up residence at the Josephinium Seminary in Ohio, serving as spiritual director. He would be replaced by the Rev. H. James Conway. The Rev. Richard Gruenberg would be appointed pastor in 1936.

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As the number of children attending religious instruction continued to grow, the new parish had to find more space. In the summer of 1937, Bishop John Noll gave the parish permission to purchase a portable school building from the School City of Hammond and it was moved to church-owned property on the corner of 171st Street and Columbia Avenue. During the summer of 1938, the building was remodeled and additions were made. This building continues to serve the community as our parish hall. On Oct. 19, 1939, Bishop Noll visited St. John Bosco for the first time, confirming 116 children and adults in the Catholic faith.

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As the number of children attending religious instruction continued to grow, the new parish had to find more space. In the summer of 1937, Bishop John Noll gave the parish permission to purchase a portable school building from the School City of Hammond and it was moved to church-owned property on the corner of 171st Street and Columbia Avenue. During the summer of 1938, the building was remodeled and additions were made. This building continues to serve the community as our parish hall. On Oct. 19, 1939, Bishop Noll visited St. John Bosco for the first time, confirming 116 children and adults in the Catholic faith.

In 1940, the Rev. John F. Bart (Bartkowski) was appointed pastor of the parish, which numbered some 50 families. By 1951, the parish had ballooned to 600 families and with a reserve of $160,000 on hand, and with the approval of the bishop, a building program was launched and a new school and church were completed in 1952. Simultaneously, the parish purchased and renovated a home for four Sisters of St. Joseph of the Third Order of St. Francis who took up residence and began teaching in the school, adding more sisters the following year.

In 1956, a large addition to the rectory was constructed and in 1964, Bishop Andrew Grutka blessed the new convent, which currently serves as the parish office.

In 1966, Fr. Bart retired and Msgr. Everard N. Klein was appointed pastor of the parish, which had grown to 935 families. Over the next 16 years, Msgr. Klein would guide the community through the reforms of the Second Vatican Council and unprecedented growth in the South Hammond and Woodmar neighborhoods.

Msgr. Klein retired in 1982. The Rev. Michael Heimer followed as pastor for three years before the appointment of the Rev. Stanley Dominik as pastor in 1985. Fr. Stan served the St. John Bosco community for the next 14 years and would return in his retirement to assist the community another 13 years. The Rev. Richard Orlinski of nearby St. Catherine of Siena parish was appointed pastor in 1998 and would care for the community for the next 23 years. Upon his retirement, the Rev. Jeff Burton was appointed administrator of the parish which now numbered 400 families. Fr. Burton would simultaneously serve as Chaplain of Bishop Noll Institute, resuming the original link between the high school and parish.