Bishop of the Diocese of Orlando (1974 – 1990)

Bishop Thomas Grady always knew he would dedicate his life to God.  Relatives say as soon as he learned to talk he talked about wanting to become a priest.

He was the son of police captain Michael Grady, a Chicago detective who twice arrested the gangster Al Capone.

He credits his parents for instilling in him a deep respect and admiration for the role priests and sisters play in forming God’s children in the faith.

In 1956, he was selected to become director of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. This is largest church in U.S. and the seventh largest church in the world.

In 1967, he was named an auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of Chicago and remained there until 1974 when Pope Paul VI appointed him the second bishop of the Diocese of Orlando. He was installed on December 16, 1974 at the then St. Charles Cathedral.

Bishop Grady was shepherd of the diocese during a period of dramatic growth.  He established 22 new parishes to serve the growing number of new residents flocking to the region.

Just as many people found Florida to be an attractive place to live, the opening of Disney World in 1971 brought a new and steady stream of tourists to the area.

In 1975, Bishop Grady recognized the need to minister to the tourist population and named the pastor of Orlando’s Holy Family Parish, Father Joseph Harte to become the area’s first tourist minister.

In 1979 – plans were well underway for the place of worship which would be named under the patronage of Mary, Queen of the Universe.

On December 8, 1984, the feast of the Immaculate Conception — ground was broken for the first phase of construction. Within two years, the initial facility was completed.

August 22, 1990, the feast of Mary’s Queenship, saw the groundbreaking for the main church.

Three years after Bishop Grady’s retirement, on August 22, 1993, thousands gathered for the dedication ceremony of the new shrine.

Bishop Grady also oversaw the establishment of San Pedro Spiritual Development Center, a place of prayer and renewal for Catholics.

San Pedro Center’s beautiful lakefront setting in Winter Park exudes peace and tranquility. The property is on 480 acres of protected wetlands and lush Florida forest. It is a place apart from the noise and demands of daily life and a perfect space for those seeking time to deepen and enhance their relationship with God.

The land on which San Pedro sits was purchased in the 1940’s and 50’s by Archbishop Joseph P. Hurley, the Bishop of the Diocese of St. Augustine.

When Fidel Castro came into power in the 50’s, the camp side of the Center was turned into housing for some of the first Cuban refugees.

Since 1979, Franciscan Friars, Third Order Regular (T.O.R.) have provided the presence of a living, praying community at San Pedro. Under their direction, the Center provides retreats, spiritual formation programs and educational courses for Catholic people and parishes of the Diocese of Orlando.

Bishop Grady displayed concern for all people inside and outside the boundaries of our Diocese. In 1983, he established a mission office to forge a relationship with a sister diocese in the Dominican Republic.

The Mission Office has been a bridge between the Diocese of Orlando in Florida and the Diocese of San Juan de la Maguana in the Dominican Republic.

The relationship was initiated by Bishop Thomas Grady of Orlando believing the two dioceses could learn from each other. In the 25 years since this partnership began, thousands of lives have been forever changed.

In the Dominican Republic people, in the rural mountains and villages who have little access to medicine, food and housing have been assisted by the generous medical and construction missions organized by our Diocese. The lives of the people who travel there are also transformed as they learn from the joy-filled families the true meaning of happiness and their faith is enriched by these experiences of solidarity.

Bishop Grady also encouraged the greater participation of women in the work of the Church, conducting extensive research before writing a pastoral letter on the role of women in the church.

In fact, Bishop Grady was a prolific and talented writer and poet. His poems emphasized a devotion to Mary and he consecrated the Diocese to Mary, Mother of God who became our patroness.

During these years of extraordinary growth, an extraordinary man served with compassion and dedication as the Diocese of Orlando responded to the spiritual needs of the faithful.