In 1968, Bishop Grutka asked Father Lawrence Heeg, who was an assistant at Saints Peter and Paul parish to organize what would become Saint Stephen, Martyr Catholic Church in Merrillville, Indiana.
Father Heeg began meeting with the community who envisioned a church built by themselves. Within a year on May 18th, 1969, ground would be broken for the new church. It was completed and dedicated by Bishop Grutka on the Solemnity of the Assumption, August 15th, 1970. The building included an apartment for the pastor, as well as parish offices.
Father Heeg formed the Men’s Club, and the Women’s Club which are still active today. Father Timothy Doody became pastor in 1976, and was succeeded three years later by Father Bernard Shank in 1979. Deacon Joseph Codespoti, who was ordained in the first class of permanent deacons in 1981, was assisting Father Shank at the parish. Father Shank remained until 1984 when health problems forced him to retire.
Father Gerald Schweitzer arrived as the new pastor, and introduced the RCIA program as well as a program of scripture study. Father John Winterlin followed in 1988, and he added a parish hall to the church. He also built a rectory which enlarged the parish offices. Father David Nowak became pastor in 1996. His departure in 2000 left the parish without a resident pastor for a year, and the community was once more brought under the administration of Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church. Father Dennis Teles (from Saints Peter and Paul), who was in charge of the parish during that time, was fearful that the parish might be closed.
In 2001 the parish welcomed Father Michael Maginot, a Merrillville native who was working full-time in the Marriage Tribunal of the diocese. This became the ideal situation for both priest and community. With the help of his family, Father Mike has beautified the grounds with a Marian Shrine dedicated to the Luminous Mysteries of the rosary.
Because the parish has always been small, it has radiated the type of family atmosphere that Bishop Grukta envisioned in the 1960’s.
St Stephen, Martyr’s Mission Statement is felt by all who enter this wonderful and very special parish.