MERRILLVILLE | With brilliance, wit and humility, Father James Meade handles his daily tasks with joy and attentiveness. There is no doubt this gentleman, who has been a priest for 34 years, appreciates his vocation.
Father Meade, who pastors two parishes in Merrillville and is administrator of one, also oversees Aquinas School at St. Andrew and is a member of the Diocese of Gary Tribunal of the Roman Catholic Church, keeping him busy and steadfast while working with parishioners on a daily basis.
In fact, he takes the myriad duties in stride. “There are a lot of priests out there who are more exciting than me and do a lot more exciting things,” Father Meade said. “These are three very small parishes. Together, there are about 700 at a Sunday Mass when we are all healthy. They are all people who like their parishes and like to help out.”
Without missing a beat, Father Meade begins a typical day with 8 a.m. Mass held at St. Joan of Arc or St. Andrew – depending on the day of the week. He sometimes grabs a bite to eat but usually not until later in the day. He also travels between St. Andrew and Ss. Peter and Paul Church for the sacrament of reconciliation on various days. He visits students in their Aquinas classrooms, teaches fifth and sixth grade religious education and officiates about three funerals every two weeks.
At least two days per week Father Meade heads to the Tribunal Office at the Pastoral Center, where he works with secretary/notary Milly Virus and auditor/advocate Teri Kopil. Father Meade serves as judicial vicar and administer for the tribunal, but claims that he really “works for” the two women who aid the diocese in the process of determining whether a marriage in question is valid - whether it actually ever existed as a sacramental union. “They really know what they are doing,” Father Meade said.
“I get in and out of the office early, before the Bishop (Robert J. McClory) or anyone gives me more work to do,” he joked.
But with any task he is given, Father Mede seems able to rise to the challenge. He served as parochial vicar at a number of parishes, associate pastor at St. Mary in Griffith and teacher at Marquette High School in Michigan City, before being named pastor at St. Patrick in Chesterton in 2001. He was assigned as pastor at Ss. Peter and Paul and St. Joan of Arc in 2017, and added administrative duties at St. Andrew in 2019.
Father Meade also has the education and experience to handle his variety of assignments. He attended St. Meinrad College Seminary from 1978-1981, majoring in English Literature and Social Studies with thoughts of teaching at the high school level. He attended the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas - Angelicum in Rome, Italy from 1982-86, receiving a licentiate degree in spiritual theology. He studied Canon Law at St. Paul University in Ottawa, Canada from 1988-1990 before obtaining a law degree from Indiana University-Bloomington in 1996.
Father Meade said education has always been very important to him. From youths to adults, education in the faith is crucial, he added. He is currently writing a weekly series about the Catholic Catechism that also connects the liturgy and Sunday readings as inspired by the Congregation for Divine Worship. His writings can be found at the Merrillville cluster parish website, https://www.merrillvillecatholiccluster.org/.
Lisa Gutierrez, principal at Aquinas school, agrees with the importance Father Meade places on education, adding that she can’t speak highly enough of this man who runs three parishes, is on call at the school and works at the Tribunal. “He’s always reachable. He always gets back to me within a day, and that’s really something,” Gutierrez said.
“Father Meade is always optimistic,” she added. “He advocates for our students. He gives me great advice. He’s allowing us to grow.
“He is brilliant and so good with the kids,” she continued. “He is captivating. He knows just how to speak to them. He’s funny and engaging. He knows how to reach out to the kids.”
Father Meade, who grew up in Dyer – a middle child between two sisters -- said he always wanted to be a priest. “It’s the only thing I ever wanted to be,” he said. “Of course, like many boys, I had thought briefly about being a fireman but in my fantasies, I was always saving churches.”
Roxanne Poturalski, secretary at Ss. Peter and Paul, said Father Meade has been a catalyst for reviving Mass attendance. His positive, cordial attitude is inspiring to all.
“They look forward to him and his homilies,” she said. “He will tell a joke once in awhile. He keeps things upbeat.”
Another thing that Poturalski appreciates wholeheartedly about Father Meade is his attention to detail before giving a eulogy. The way he speaks with family members to understand the personality – even the unique quirks – of the deceased loved one is wonderful, she stressed.
Poturalski noted that he juggles several administrative roles with his liturgical duties, even working with maintenance employees.
“He is always looking for the positive,” she said. “He listens to everyone. He is very smart and well-educated. Everyone is always willing to step up. We work as a team to keep the ball rolling. He’s made it so that many people are coming back to Church. He keeps it interesting.”