Monsignor Joseph Semancik celebrates 70 years of faith and leadership

Monsignor Joseph Semancik celebrates 70 years of faith and leadership

Featured image: (From bottom left) Adrianne May, CEO of Hospice of the Calumet Area; Msgr. Joseph Semancik;  Michelle Golden CEO of Books, Brushes and Band. (From top left) Damian Rico, Director of Marketing and Community Relations, Joan McInerney, Director of Development of Hospice of the Calumet Area. 

For nearly an entire century, Monsignor Joseph Semancik has shared his leadership and faith with Northwest Indiana. 

On Wednesday, May 3, Semancik celebrated his 70th Anniversary of his first mass with close friends and family at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Whiting, IN, where he was baptized 94 years ago.  

Hospice of the Calumet Area CEO Adrianne May, Marketing and Community Relations Director Damian Rico and Development Director Joan McInerney were honored to celebrate one of their organization's founding board members.  

“There’s nobody more local than good ole’ Joe,” said Semancik.  “Everyone has been so special and kind to me during my lifetime, I just can’t describe it because it makes me cry. You have done more for me than I have done for you, and I am forever grateful.” 

Monsignor's passion has always been “giving back to the community I love.” 

“Of all the things I have done in life, the thing I feel most blessed about and proud of is that I have been part of Hospice of the Calumet Area from the beginning,” Semancik said. “It’s really a special place, with special people, dedicated to serving thousands of people with compassion. I never could have imagined that four decades later my wonderful younger sister Janie would spend her last days at the [William J. Riley Memorial Residence]." 

The Rev. Jon Plavcan (right) offers his support as Msgr. Joseph Semancik gets choked up as he 
thanks celebrants at the 70th anniversary of his first mass at St. John the Baptist Church. 

Hospice of the Calumet Area CEO Adrianne May has had a special connection with Msgr. Semancik, now in her 26th year at the helm.

"The Monsignor is a special part of the cherishing life fabric we have created," said May. "I felt very fortunate to arrive during a very exciting time when the board was nearly finished with our in-patient unit, known as the William J. Riley Memorial Residence. I was impressed with the board's innovation and commitment to serve patients and families with compassion and honor.  Monsignor Semancik was, and remains, an integral part of that dedication to the community.

Friend and Calumet College of St. Joseph colleague Sr. Michele Dvorak said she has been “blessed” to have worked with Monsignor Semancik for years and always appreciated his direction and guidance. 

“Monsignor Semancik is amazing and his commitment to social justice has always been focused on serving the underserved,” said Dvorak. “It’s just the type of person he is, and he is a wonderful example of living a life that is committed to other people.” 

The Rev. Jon Plavcan (right) offers his support as Msgr. Joseph Semancik gets choked up as 
he thanks celebrants at the 70th anniversary of his first mass at St. John the Baptist Church. 

During Semancik’s anniversary mass, friend Tom Dabertin recalled many of his accomplishments and noted Monsignor’s passion for philanthropy while serving as Director of Catholic Charities for years, a founding Member of Hospice of the Calumet Area and as the longest and continuous donor of Calumet College of St. Joseph. 

“I served mass as an altar server for Monsignor Semancik in my youth,” said Dabertin. “I was always impressed with his intelligence. I used to get confused with all the priests that would come to visit and celebrate mass and Fr. Tomko used to tell me ‘Remember, Fr. Semancik is the smart one.’”  

Semancik was dedicated to his education journey beginning with his  

Bachelor of Arts degree from St. Meinrad in 1953, later attaining his Master of Social Work from Loyola University in 1960 and ultimately receiving his Doctorate in Philosophy in 1977 from the University of Chicago.  He spent years teaching at Calumet College and Bishop Noll Institute. 

Monsignor Semancik accumulated several recognitions over the years but most noteworthy was his Sagamore of the Wabash, being name Prelate of Honor by Pope John Paul II in 1984 and most recently, receiving the St. Joseph the Worker award from Calumet College of St. Joseph in 2023.  

He was also recognized with a congressional record in June of 1998, by then U.S Rep. Peter J. Visclosky, D-Gary, for his work with Catholic Charities, service on the Lake County Community Development Committee and establishing the Indiana Catholic Conference. 

"I met Monsignor Semancik  nearly 30 years ago, when I was a young professional just making my way in East Chicago," said Damian Rico, HCA marketing and community relations director. "He would always challenge me every chance he got. I didn't realize until later that he was pushing me to do more, to give more and to connect with more people. He was providing me with the tools to be a stronger servant leader just like he was. I love, thank and respect him dearly for that."

When a friend saw Rico's photos from the anniversary celebration on his social media timeline, she shared a funny, but telling story about Msgr. Semancik. She told him when she moved to Florida, she hadn't seen Semancik in over a decade.  When she first saw him upon return, the first thing out of his mouth was, "Mary Jo, are you still going to mass?"

Semancik's commitment to saving souls is still alive and well. 

Monsignor Joseph Francis Semancik was born March 3, 1929, in Whiting, Indiana to Frank and Lillian (Duray) Semancik with sisters, Rosemary Semancik of Sun City, AZ and the late Jane Frances (Semancik) Wingle of Denver, CO. 

“We were blessed with wonderful parents and to be born and raised in the best city in the world, Whiting, Indiana,” said Monsignor Joseph Semancik. “This really is a beautiful place to live.”