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PRODUCT OF ST. BRIDGET, ANDREAN Chief of staff hopes to repay those who helped shape his faith

Tony Bonta

Anthony Bonta, PhD, has been hired as chief of staff for the Pastoral Center in Merrillville. (Steve Euvino photo)


By Steve Euvino

Northwest Indiana Catholic


      MERRILLVILLE – It was only a few years ago when a student named Tony Bonta was in the archives of the Pastoral Center, researching material for his doctoral dissertation. Now, as Dr. Anthony Bonta, he is chief of staff for the Pastoral Center.

      Bonta, who has worked in education and ministry at the high school and college levels, began work with the diocese on Sept. 21.

      As coordinator of the Pastoral Center, Bonta will oversee building needs, and although some department heads will report to him, he stresses he is not “supervisor of all the staff.”        

      Department heads reporting to Bonta include Kevin Driscoll, youth and young adults; Sean Martin, religious education and evangelization; Adeline Torres, intercultural ministries;  and Laverne Releford, systems coordinator.

      Those department heads reporting to Bonta will do so in conjunction with Bishop Donald J. Hying’s wishes, the chief of staff said. Bonta will also be working with the Lay Ecclesial Ministry program and parish pastoral councils.

      “The first thing is to support Bishop Hying and collaborate with the staff on facility needs and their ministry needs,” Bonta said. “Second is the day-to-day maintenance and long-term needs of the building.”

      Bonta is currently investigating the possibility of a building-wide recycling program.

      “It’s very exciting to come back,” said Bonta, a graduate of St. Bridget School in Hobart and Andrean High School. “This is the area that gave me a faith foundation, and I saw this as an opportunity to return and give back to these people.”

      Looking ahead, Bonta cited three goals: listen, help, and act.

      “I want to listen as much as I can to the staff and to Bishop Hying, helping support, encourage and direct the bishop’s vision in conjunction with the Diocese of Gary community,” Bonta said. “I want to help the staff in any way I can to develop their ministry with joy and help their vision continue. Then I want to act with Bishop Hying’s vision and the ministries of the staff.”

      In addition, Bonta, who researched the history of the Diocese of Gary under Bishop Andrew G. Grutka for his doctoral dissertation, wants to “help continue, in any way I can, the legacy of the diocese.”

      After graduating from Andrean, Bonta earned a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from St. Meinrad College. After teaching one year at Bishop Noll Institute, he received a Master’s of Divinity degree from the University of St. Mary of the Lake at Mundelein Seminary.

      After five years of high school teaching, Bonta spent the next 15-plus years at the college level, working in campus ministry, administration, and residence life. This included Springfield College in Illinois, Barry University in Miami, St. Thomas University in Miami Gardens, Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles.

       Bonta received his doctorate in religious studies/historical theology in May 2012 from Marquette University in Milwaukee. Specializing in American Catholic life and thought, Bonta researched Bishop Grutka’s approach to racial and social justice. The doctoral candidate recalled “popping in” the Pastoral Center for background information and interviews.

      “I learned a lot about the diocese, its legacy, and the priests,” Bonta said of his research. “God works in mysterious ways. I’m back in the building where I worked on my doctorate.”

      Bonta said he’s also benefited from different religious communities at the collegiate level, including Jesuits at Loyola Marymount and Adrian Dominicans at Barry.

      Also through those educational experiences, Bonta said, “I learned the importance of caring for people, for helping them develop their goals and talents to serve God and serve others.”



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