Former moderator of the curia 'humbled' by Pope Francis' appointment, joins growing list of Shrine pastors to be made bishops

DETROIT — Msgr. Robert McClory has been a student, a lawyer, a seminarian, a pastor and a chancellor. Now, he will take on a new challenge as the fifth bishop of the Diocese of Gary, Ind.

Pope Francis announced the appointment of Msgr. McClory, 56, as Gary's next bishop on Nov. 26. He will be introduced today at 11 a.m. EST during a news conference in Gary. It will be livestreamed here.

The current pastor of the National Shrine of the Little Flower Basilica in Royal Oak will now lead a diocese that covers 1,807 square miles in northwest Indiana, hugging four counties along the Lake Michigan shoreline.

“I am honored and humbled that the Holy Father has appointed me as the bishop of Gary,” Bishop-elect McClory said in a statement. “During this week in which we celebrate Thanksgiving, my heart is full of thanksgiving that he has entrusted me to serve the people of northwest Indiana. I look forward to getting to know the needs of our local church and, together, sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ.”

Bishop-elect McClory is scheduled to be consecrated a bishop and installed on Feb. 11, 2020, succeeding Bishop Donald Hying, who was appointed bishop of Madison, Wis., in April.

Bishop-elect McClory's appointment marks the fifth time since 1980 a priest with ties to the Shrine has been made a bishop, and the second Shrine pastor in a row. In 2016, Pope Francis tapped then-Shrine pastor Bishop Robert Fisher to become a Detroit auxiliary bishop.

Bishop-elect McClory succeeded Bishop Fisher as Shrine's pastor on July 1, 2017, after serving for eight years as vicar general and moderator of the curia for the Archdiocese of Detroit, functioning as Detroit Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron’s chief of staff in the guidance of the archdiocese’s Central Services.

Bishop-elect Robert McClory baptizes a baby at the National Shrine of the Little Flower Basilica earlier this year. Shrine's pastor since 2017, Bishop-elect McClory is the fifth priest since 1980 with ties to the parish to be made a bishop.

“Here in Msgr. McClory’s home diocese, he is recognized as a zealous priest who generously devotes all the talents God has blessed him with to the ministry of spreading the Gospel,” Archbishop Vigneron said in a statement. “The pastors and people of the Church of Gary will find themselves blessed by his service. We, the priests, religious and faithful of the Archdiocese of Detroit send him on mission with our heartfelt prayers.”

The city of Gary, 25 miles southeast of Chicago, was established in 1906 by the United States Steel Corporation, whose then-chairman, Elbert Henry Gary, became the city's namesake. The town was part of the Diocese of Fort Wayne until Dec. 17, 1956, when the Diocese of Gary was established. 

The Gary diocese has a Catholic population of 170,203 and a total population of 786,661. The diocese consists of 72 parishes with 103 diocesan priests (active and inactive) serving within and outside the diocese. The diocese also has 50 permanent deacons, 15 brothers and 83 sisters.

On the education front, the Diocese of Gary has Calumet College of St. Joseph in Whiting, Ind. (enrollment 834), three diocesan high schools (totaling 1,437 students), one private high school, Sacred Heart Apostolic School (with 28 students), and 22 elementary schools, totaling 8,941 students.

The Cathedral of the Holy Angels in Gary is the episcopal seat, and the diocese’s patron saints are the Guardian Angels and St. Matthias the Apostle.

The Gary diocese also boasts six Catholic hospitals, three homes for the aged, two daycare centers, two special homes and seven special centers for civil services.

Bishop-elect McClory will be Gary’s second bishop with Detroit ties; Bishop Dale Melczek (bishop of Gary from 1996-2014) was a former auxiliary bishop of Detroit from 1983 until he was appointed apostolic administrator of Gary in 1992.

“I was filled with great joy when I heard the news of Msgr. McClory’s appointment. He is very gifted and very close to the Lord,” Bishop Melczek said. “We are greatly blessed to have his leadership. He is exactly what the Diocese of Gary needs to lead us deeper in our relationship with the Lord.”

Bishop Hying, whom Bishop-elect McClory will succeed, praised his successor as a capable administrator and pastor who will offer “wisdom, insight and vision” in Gary.

“I’m particularly pleased that he was instrumental in leading and implementing the pastoral synod of the Archdiocese of Detroit. He is uniquely poised to continue to build on Gary’s 2017 Synod,” Bishop Hying said.

Robert J. McClory was born on Oct. 10, 1963, in Detroit to James and Ann McClory. The future bishop attended St. Francis de Sales School in Detroit and St. Mary School in Royal Oak before going to George A. Dondero High School in Royal Oak.

Bishop-elect McClory earned a bachelor’s in politics and communication from Oakland University in 1983, a master’s in professional studies in economic development from Columbia University in 1987, and a law degree from the University of Michigan in 1991.

After practicing civil law for four years, Bishop-elect McClory discerned a call to the priesthood, attending Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit, the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, the Pontifical North American College in Rome and the Pontifical University of St. Thomas (Angelicum) in Urbe, Rome.

Bishop-elect McClory was ordained a priest by Detroit Cardinal Adam Maida on May 22, 1999, at the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament.

After ordination, then-Fr. McClory served as associate pastor of St. Therese of Lisieux Parish in Shelby Township and St. Isidore Parish in Macomb Township, in addition to weekend assignments at Our Lady of the Lakes in Waterford and St. Blase in Sterling Heights.

He served as a judge on the Metropolitan Tribunal and was the administrative secretary to Cardinal Maida before being appointed chancellor of the Archdiocese of Detroit in 2003.

Bishop-elect Robert McClory talks with Shrine parishioners after Mass. From 2009 to 2017, he served as moderator of the curia for the Archdiocese of Detroit.

In 2005, he was named a monsignor by Pope Benedict XVI.

In 2009, Archbishop Vigneron appointed Msgr. McClory to become moderator of the curia and vicar general. During his time in that position, he also was pastor of Presentation/Our Lady of Victory Parish in Detroit.

In 2017, Msgr. McClory became pastor and rector of the National Shrine of the Little Flower Basilica.

Msgr. McClory has also served on the archdiocesan College of Consultors, Episcopal Council and Priest Assignment Board, and as a part-time faculty member at Sacred Heart Major Seminary.

Msgr. McClory has also served as a consultant to the Catholic Leadership Institute, a priest-observer to Region VI of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and as a chaplain to Legatus, an association of Catholic business professionals.

Bishop-elect McClory joins a long list of bishops around the United States with ties to Michigan, with 11 current bishops either having been from or served in the state. 

In addition to Bishop Fisher, Bishop-elect McClory joins retired St. Paul and Minneapolis Archbishop John Nienstedt; Steubenville, Ohio, Bishop Jeffrey Monforton; and Seattle Archbishop-emeritus Alexander Brunett as bishops who served at Shrine.

This story will be updated.