Episcopal Diocese of Northern Indiana Archives

Church of the Good Shepherd, East Chicago, Indiana

The first Episcopal services in East Chicago were held on 18 November 1888 by the Irish-born Rev. Robert C. Wall, who preached and opened a Sunday school. The mission of Good Shepherd was formed in 1892 out of that congregation which had been St. Mary's, New Carlisle. East Chicago was then a tangle of competing and divergent ethnic groups, including Hungarians, Romanians, Slovaks, Poles, Canadians, Welsh, African Americans, and Hispanics. Bishop White noted in his annual address of 1903 that he had placed the Rev. Vincent C. Lacey at Indiana Harbor, and through his efforts, "a number of devout church families were found at East Chicago, lying between Indiana Harbor and Hammond, and a most interesting work begun there." In 1907, the bishop formally organized Good Shepherd as a diocesan mission after receiving a petition from a number of residents. The vicar at the time, the Rev. Charles Albert Smith, also had charge of St. Paul's in Hammond and St. Alban's, Indiana Harbor.

The congregation was comprised mostly of Welsh and Canadians who had arrived in East Chicago to work in the steel mills. Meeting initially in a local Odd Fellows hall, the diocese, through the efforts of the Rev. Thomas Hines, arranged for the former St. Mary's edifice at New Carlisle, a small frame structure, to be moved to East Chicago in 1914. The building was partly disassembled and moved by rail car, together with suitcases full of Books of Common Prayer, to a location at 4525 Baring Avenue for $3,600. Money for the move had come from the sale of the New Carlisle property. In January 1915, Bishop White reported attending the first service in the rebuilt church, but he later said in September that it was still being framed. He was likely referring to the resurfacing of the wood frame church in brick, giving it a much different appearance. Bishop White does not appear to have consecrated the new building, having deemed the previous consecration in 1893 by Bishop Knickerbacker sufficient. In 1920, under Hines's leadership, Good Shepherd became a parish but was still not fully self-supporting. Hines died at his post in 1925, and the church later reverted to mission status.

After World War II in 1945, after many years of financial hardship, Bishop Mallett attempted to persuade the congregations of Good Shepherd and St. Alban the Martyr at Indiana Harbor to merge. One suggestion was that the Indiana Harbor building be retained and shared with East Chicago, while another was to sell both churches and build a new one at a different site. Mallett asked Dom Leo Patterson, a Benedictine monk based in Valparaiso, to take charge of St. Alban's, but it did not survive after World War II. St. Luke's Whiting, another area church that never had its own building, folded into Good Shepherd

After many years of mission status, Good Shepherd was admitted again as a parish under Bishop Mallett in 1956, the first formal new parish added to the diocese since 1908. A 1958 article described the parish's industrial location with its ever-present soot and smoke. Nine railroads carried off steel to other parts of the country, and one out of four people were foreign-born. Membership in the church at that time numbered 233.

For many years Good Shepherd was served by the Rev. Canon C. Richard Phelps, who labored to reach out to the poor of the surrounding community. He celebrated daily Mass, which became the "backbone" of the parish, as well as the full rite of Holy Week. Seven stained glass windows gave witness to the seven sacraments.

In the 1980s East Chicago had the highest population density of any town in the state. Life was regulated by shifts in the steel mills. However, by the 1990s, Good Shepherd was located in the most economically-challenged part of the diocese, where it remained a beacon. In 2014, Phelps reported drawing 100 visitors on Sunday, most of them poor in the area who stayed for lunch. The rectory attached to  the church was renamed the "mission house," where lunches were served and other care given. Good Shepherd received donations from other churches, including food and clothing. The recipients helped with the meal preparation. When Father Phelps retired, the parish closed its doors in 2018. The records, as well as those of St. Luke's Whiting, are now in the diocesan archives and have been digitized.

Open Doors Save a Parish


Robert Carter Wall, 1888
Henry Borradaile Collier, 1892
George Moore, 1896-1897
Vincent Corbett Lacey, 1903
Charles Albert Smith, 1901-1909
Thomas Hines, 1914-1925
Frederick Murray Clayton, 1925-1927
William Edward Hoffenbacher, 1927
Alexander Eberhardt Pflaum, 1929-1936
William Edward Hoffenbacher, 1936-1945
Gail Colyer Brittain, 1946-1952
Horace Lytton Varian, 1952-1954
Willis Jay Handsbury, 1954-1960
Charles Sutton, 1960-1961
William E. Smith, 1961-1962
Donald L. Bell, 1963-1967
Michael Grant, 1967-1975
Cecil Richard Phelps, 1980-2017

Parish Register, 1892-1940

Parish Register, 1941-1971


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