GARY — Fifty years of serving the Catholic Church garnered Bishop Dale J. Melczek two standing ovations on Wednesday afternoon.

The faithful packed the Cathedral of Holy Angels, the Diocese of Gary’s “home” church, to celebrate with the bishop, who was ordained into the priesthood June 6, 1964, in Detroit.

He presided over his own Mass and shared what he had learned over the course of his half-century of service.

In short, people need to “let go and let God” if they want things to work out as they’re supposed to work, Melczek told the audience.

“He’s with us every day, so if we open our hearts to all the new possibilities and acknowledge that we don’t know everything about the world, we won’t be intimidated by fear and anxiety,” he said.

Melczek said Catholicism isn’t a solitary exercise, that it has never been God’s plan to serve independently from each other. Each person’s role has always been to grow deeper in Christ’s love and spread that love through evangelism, and people do that through conforming to the mind and heart of Christ, according to Melczek.

“God loves us more than we can ever imagine, so
we must continue our pilgrimage to unknown joy,” he said.

The bishop also thanked the diocesan priests; his assistant of 22 years, Valerie McManus; and the parishioners whose presence “make the celebration what it is.”

Melczek became a bishop in 1983, nine years before he was appointed to head the Gary Diocese, taking over from Bishop Norbert Gaughan.

Before his assignment in Gary, he oversaw the Northwest Region of the Diocese of Detroit.