December 20, 2017 // National

Bishop Siegel arrives in Evansville seeking to listen, learn

By Tim Lilley

EVANSVILLE, Ind. (CNS) — Bishop Joseph M. Siegel, the sixth bishop of Evansville, said during his installation Mass that he arrived in the diocese without any preconceived notions or ideas and wanted to learn as much as he could about the people to whom he will be ministering.

“In this first year, I look forward to listening, and learning, and seeking the wisdom of the clergy, diocesan staff and various advisory councils in the diocese,” he told more than 800 people Dec. 15 during the liturgy at St. Benedict Cathedral.

“I hope to begin visiting our parishes, schools, and institutions very soon, and to learn more about the life, history, and culture of this part of Indiana, as well as the needs and concerns of the people who live, work and worship here,” Bishop Siegel said.

He called his service “a daunting vocation; and yes, without God’s everyday grace and help, it would be impossible. Therefore, as I begin my ministry as your bishop, I ask for your daily prayers that I will be a holy, wise, and courageous bishop, one who models his life and ministry on Jesus the good shepherd.”

As the Mass began, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States, led Bishop Siegel to the cathedra, or bishop’s chair, immediately after he publicly accepted the appointment from Pope Francis, which was announced Oct. 18.

“You are called by the Holy Spirit to serve almighty God and the people of the Diocese of Evansville, in faith and in love, as their shepherd,” Archbishop Pierre said. “Are you willing to serve the people of this diocese in the tradition of the apostolic faith of the Church?”

Bishop Siegel responded, “With faith in our Lord Jesus Christ and with the love of God in my heart, I do accept the pastoral care of the people of God in the Diocese of Evansville. I resolve to serve faithfully the spiritual needs of this local Church.”

Bishop Siegel, 54, who attended nearby St. Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology, comes to a diocese with 45 parishes in 12 counties with a population of 512,870, of which 76,218, or 15 percent, are Catholic.

Bishop Siegel was born in Joliet, Illinois, and was raised on a farm in Lockport Township, Illinois. He is the youngest of nine children. Ordained a priest for the Joliet Diocese March 4, 1988, Bishop Siegel was appointed auxiliary bishop in 2009 by Pope Benedict XVI. He served as vicar general under Bishop R. Daniel Conlon of Joliet until his appointment to head the Evansville Diocese.

More than 20 bishops concelebrated the installation Mass, including the fourth and fifth bishops of Evansville: retired Bishop Gerald A. Gettelfinger and now-Archbishop Charles C. Thompson of Indianapolis. Bishop Siegel succeeds Archbishop Thompson, who had been bishop of Evansville since 2011 following Bishop Gettelfinger’s retirement. Pope Francis appointed Archbishop Thompson to Indianapolis in June.

A large group of Bishop Siegel’s family, including siblings and nieces and nephews, and diocesan staff traveled from Joliet for the installation.

During evening prayer Dec. 14 at the cathedral Bishop Siegel related a story about St. John Vianney becoming lost traveling to his first parish assignment in the village of Ars, France.

“He met a young boy from the village, along the way, who gave him directions. In response, he said to the lad, ‘You have shown me the way to Ars. I will show you the way to heaven,’” Bishop Siegel said during his homily. “While with the wonders of a GPS, I didn’t get lost coming down here to Evansville. My responsibility as bishop, and that of all our pastors, will still be the same as that of the sainted pastor, to help lead the people of this diocese to heaven.”

Tim Lilley is editor of The Message, newspaper of the Diocese of Evansville.

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