Detroit native, Shrine pastor becomes northwest Indiana diocese's fifth bishop, pledges to make evangelization top priority

GARY, Ind. — In his introductory press conference in November as the bishop-elect of Gary, Ind., then-Msgr. Robert McClory told his new flock, “I love you.”

Three months later, at his episcopal ordination as the Diocese of Gary’s fifth bishop, the Detroit native doubled down on that love, committing himself to “love, honor and cherish” the people of northwest Indiana “all the days of my life.”

Bishop McClory, 56, the former pastor of the National Shrine of the Little Flower Basilica in Royal Oak, was ordained and installed as Gary’s bishop Feb. 11, the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, as more than 800 bishops, priests, deacons, lay leaders, family, friends and faithful gathered at Holy Angels Cathedral in Gary, the diocese’s episcopal seat.

Bishop McClory holds up the papal decree from Pope Francis declaring him the bishop of Gary, as priests and lay faithful applaud.

With a Catholic population of 168,500, the Diocese of Gary covers 1,807 miles in four counties of northwest Indiana, about 30 miles southeast of Chicago. It has 64 parishes, two colleges, four high schools and 17 Catholic elementary schools. Like Detroit, Gary is a largely industrial city.

“Coming from Detroit, (Bishop McClory) has seen the changed economic conditions and the loss of hope that comes when industries are shuttered,” Fr. Michael Yadron, pastor of St. Thomas More Parish in Munster, Ind., and interim administrator for the Diocese of Gary, said in a statement.

Bishop McClory wasted little time reassuring his new diocese of his deep care and concern.

The night before his ordination, Bishop-elect McClory addressed the faithful of Gary during a Vespers service at St. Michael the Archangel Church in Shererville, Ind. During the service, Bishop Donald J. Hying, Bishop McClory’s predecessor, blessed the episcopal insignia Bishop McClory would be given the next day, including the miter, crozier and episcopal ring.

Then-Bishop-elect Robert McClory addresses the faithful of the Diocese of Gary during a Vespers service Feb. 10 at St. Michael the Archangel Parish in Shererville, Ind.

Remarking on the significance of the bishop’s ring, Bishop McClory said, “There’s an image of being wedded to the diocese. In my role in persona Christi, I am married to you all.” Bishop McClory added, half-jokingly, “And you’re a good-looking bride.”

The crozier, he said, represents a bishop’s pastoral care in the mold of Jesus, the Good Shepherd, and the miter represents holiness that, “pray God, emanates from me,” Bishop McClory said. However, he added, “it should be an approachable holiness, a holiness that’s immersed in the world. It’s not about ourselves. It’s about Jesus.”

During the ordination Mass the next day, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, Pope Francis' official delegate as apostolic nuncio to the United States, read the papal bull declaring Bishop McClory's appointment, which Bishop McClory then presented to the bishops, priests and faithful in attendance, to thunderous applause.

Archbishop Pierre noted that Bishop McClory wanted his ordination to take place during the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, in order to honor the Blessed Mother. Archbishop Pierre added the pope is “counting on” Bishop McClory.

Detroit Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron prays over his friend and former close coworker, Bishop Robert J. McClory, during Bishop McClory's ordination Mass at Holy Angels Cathedral in Gary.

“The Holy Father wants a missionary Church, and he is counting on you to lead the people of the Diocese of Gary to be both disciples and missionaries,” Archbishop Pierre said.

While all bishops are appointed by the pope, it is customary for the metropolitan archbishop of the province (in the U.S., often a state) to serve as the ordaining bishop. In Bishop McClory’s case, Indianapolis Archbishop Charles C. Thompson served as the main presider, with Detroit Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron — a close friend and mentor to Bishop McClory — and retired Gary Bishop Dale J. Melczek among the nearly two dozen concelebrating bishops. Bishop Melczek, Gary’s third bishop, also is a Detroit native.

In his homily, Archbishop Thompson said he first met Bishop McClory after Pope Francis announced the appointment in November.

“From the moment we spoke on the phone and during our recent ad limina in Rome, Bishop-elect McClory struck me as being a normal, solid, personable and intelligent person,” Archbishop Thompson said.

Members of the congregation listen as Bishop McClory addresses the faithful for the first time. More than 800 people attended the ordination Mass.

When he accepted the call to become a bishop, Bishop McClory left behind much of his life in Michigan, Archbishop Thompson said. 

“He had to have known his life would be changing drastically, that he would be moving to an unknown territory, away from family and friends, and more specifically to this particular appointment, that he would become a Hoosier,” Archbishop Thompson joked.

Instead, Archbishop Thompson said, Bishop McClory did so because “his vision of the people of God extends beyond any boundary or border,” and “rooted in his own personal encounter with the Lord, it is his embrace of the call to witness and his mission to proclaim Jesus Christ as the savior of the world.”

Bishop McClory “no doubt has been asked about his vision for the diocese,” Archbishop Thompson said. “That vision will come in time, but only after he gets to know the gifts and blessings of the diocese, as well as its needs. That vision will be realized with prayer and listening, accompaniment, familiarity and the grace of the Holy Spirit.”

Bishop McClory prostrates himself in prayer before the altar as the litany of saints is chanted. The traditional rite asks the angels and saints for their prayers for the new bishop, that he be a holy and self-sacrificing shepherd. 

Bishop McClory then prostrated himself before the cathedral’s altar as the litany of the saints was chanted. Each of the bishops, starting with Archbishop Thompson, then laid their hands upon Bishop McClory’s head, ordaining him in a sacred rite that stretches back to the Church's earliest days.

Archbishop Thompson then consecrated Bishop McClory’s head with sacred Chrism oil, before conferring upon him the book of the Gospels and the episcopal insignia — the miter, crozier and ring.

Turning to face the congregation, Bishop McClory took his seat upon the diocese’s cathedra for the first time, smiling broadly to warm applause.

After Mass, Bishop McClory addressed the faithful, explaining his episcopal motto, “Iesum Dominum Praedicamus” (“We Proclaim Jesus as Lord”) is meant to be a reminder of the humility with which all Christians should approach their mission as disciples.

Bishop McClory takes his cathedra — or episcopal seat — for the first time as bishop of Gary as priests, bishops and faithful applaud. 

“My episcopal motto is, ‘We Proclaim Jesus as Lord.’ The continuance of that passage in 2 Corinthians goes on to say, ‘… and ourselves as your servants for the sake of Jesus,’” Bishop McClory said. “This means the primacy of our calling is to share the good news, to be about evangelizing a world that needs to know who Jesus is.”

Bishop McClory recalled once being at a coffee shop near Michigan’s seasonal Renaissance Festival, when he found himself in a conversation with a man dressed for the festival wearing “devil horns.”

After he explained that his Roman collar “wasn’t a costume,” Bishop McClory said the man told him about his belief that “religion is just a bunch of rules.”

“There are rules, but they’re for our good because God knows how we ought to live, and if we follow His plan, we’ll have happiness,” Bishop McClory said. “However, the first thing about being a Christian is that it’s about a relationship with Jesus.”

Evangelization, Bishop McClory said, “is about sharing what Jesus has done in your heart so that others might be open to receive that good news, and invite them to a response.”

A look down the main aisle of the Cathedral of the Holy Angels in Gary, Ind., as Bishop Robert McClory prepares to lead the recessional after being ordained Gary's fifth bishop.

Bishop McClory is the youngest of four children of James and Ann McClory (both deceased). He was born in Detroit and grew up in Royal Oak. After earning his undergraduate degree from Oakland University and master's from Columbia University, he earned a law degree from the University of Michigan in 1991.

After practicing law for three years, he entered Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit, being ordained a priest in 1999. He also studied at the Pontifical North American College in Rome, earning a bachelor's in sacred theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University and a licentiate in canon law from the Pontifical University of St. Thomas (Angelicum). 

Bishop McClory served as associate pastor of St. Therese of Lisieux Parish in Shelby Township and St. Isidore Parish in Macomb before being appointed to serve as a judge on the Metropolitan Tribunal. He later became priest-secretary to Detroit Cardinal Adam J. Maida, and in 2003 was appointed chancellor of the Archdiocese of Detroit.

In 2005, Pope Benedict XVI named him a “chaplain to His Holiness” (monsignor). 

When Archbishop Vigneron took over as archbishop of Detroit, he appointed then-Msgr. McClory as moderator of the curia and vicar general, overseeing the archdiocese's Central Services offices, while at the same time serving as pastor of Presentation/Our Lady of Victory Parish in Detroit.

In 2017, then-Msgr. McClory became pastor of the National Shrine of the Little Flower Basilica in Royal Oak, where he served until his appointment as bishop of Gary on Nov. 26, 2019. 

Bishop McClory also has served on the Archdiocese of Detroit's College of Consultors, Episcopal Council, Presbyteral Council, Priest Assignment Board, New Evangelization Council and as a faculty member at Sacred Heart Major Seminary.

He is a member of the Canon Law Society of America, the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre, Knights of Columbus, as spiritual adviser for Teams of Our Lady, a marriage enrichment apostolate, and as an adviser for the Catholic Leadership Institute.