‘Real love for Christ’ evident for new bishop

Photos by Sarah Ann Jump/The Herald
Most Rev. Joseph M. Siegel, bishop of Catholic Diocese of Evansville, visited parishioners in the East Deanery at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Jasper on Thursday evening. Lucy Greulich of Jasper, 5, tried to get the bishop's attention as he greeted Doug Ackerman of Jasper, a parishioner at Precious Blood, after Mass.


JASPER — Catholic parishioners in Dubois and Spencer counties got the chance to participate in a Mass and gathering to meet Most Rev. Joseph M. Siegel Thursday evening at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Jasper.

Siegel, who has been bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Evansville exactly three months Thursday, said that the people in the diocese parishes have been very welcoming.

“People have been very thoughtful, very kind,” he said. “You can see a love for the church and a real love for Christ, the dedication to their parishes and support for the priests.”

Siegel has been seen a lot in Dubois County in the last three months: such as the January Mass at St. Ferdinand Catholic Church in Ferdinand prior to a Right-To-Life group leaving for a national gathering in Washington, D.C., the ground blessing at St. Mary Church in Ireland in February, and at confirmations and capital campaign town hall meetings held at the different churches throughout the area.

While all of those events were pre-planned, they did give him more opportunities to meet with and talk to parishioners.

Thursday’s Mass and gathering was for the diocese’s east deanery, which includes Dubois and Spencer County churches. Siegel has already held a Mass and participated in a gathering in the other three deaneries.

“We set up these four deanery visits, with a Mass and reception, knowing that would be a way for me to meet parishioners, get involved with the parishes, and see the four deaneries,” Siegel said. “I wanted to get out and see the diocese in my first few months.”

What he has seen has been encouraging, he said.

“It’s wonderful to be a part of this community,” he said. “It’s been very peaceful, and not the franticness I’m used to. I am very grateful for that.”

Siegel, 54, was installed as bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Evansville on Dec. 15. Prior to that, he was vicar general at the Catholic Diocese of Joliet in Illinois. He was ordained a bishop in January 2010.

Most Rev. Joseph M. Siegel, bishop of Catholic Diocese of Evansville, led Mass at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Jasper on Thursday evening.

He said that the makeup of the Joliet diocese and the Evansville diocese are very different. While the Evansville diocese has about 80,000 Catholics, the Joliet diocese has about 650,000. The average parish here has 800 to 1,000 families; the average for Joliet is 2,000 families.

He is enjoying the slower pace in southwest Indiana.

“People are little more laid back, a little more hospitable. They don’t seem to be as stressed,” he noted. “Folks here take life a little more slowly, and more thoughtfully and intentionally.”

Daily life in the Joliet area is totally different. “The people there, unfortunately, are running so fast from one thing to another,” Siegel said. “So often, as a bishop or priest, you’re doing the same thing. You’re trying to keep up with them.

But both areas, like others, share similar ideas and concerns, Siegel said.

“Everyone has some concerns about their faith, especially when it comes to our children, and keeping the young people involved in the faith, keeping them involved in the church,” he said. “There are the economic challenges people face, providing a living for their families. And just the worries in area of drugs, or about society — everyone is experiencing these. People are people; they have similar concerns.”

Siegel said he hopes to continue the good work former bishops have started for the diocese, churches and parishioners.

“My prayer is to be a good bishop here and help to form the community of faith and move us forward,” he said. “My predecessors did a great job, they laid a solid foundation in so many different ways. And it’s a gift to help go forward with that and continue to build on that — to serve the lord, serve our brothers and sisters, and grow our faith”

He hopes to have the years until his retirement to accomplish this task.

“If all goes well, I’ll be here until I’m 75, and I would be most happy to stay here (those) 21 years, if it’s God will. He led me here, and hopefully, He will leave me here.”

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