Southwestern Indiana's Catholic Community Newspaper

Diocese Will Welcome 'an Effective And Loving Pastor'

Bishop-designate Joseph M. Siegel, left, visits with Father Lowell Will, Pastor of St. Clement Parish in Boonville, after the Oct. 18 introductory press conference at St. Benedict Cathedral. The Message photo by Peewee Vasquez

Diocese of Joliet staff members tell The Message that Bishop-designate Joseph M. Siegel is a shepherd our Catholic community will enjoy and truly appreciate.“I am confident that he will prove to be an effective and loving pastor in Evansville,” said Most Rev. R. Daniel Conlon, Bishop of Joliet, in a statement posted to the diocesan website after Pope Francis’ Oct. 18 appointment of Bishop-designate Siegel as the sixth Bishop of Evansville.“Over the past six years, I have come to appreciate Bishop Siegel's many gifts and talents,” Bishop Conlon said. “It has been a blessing to work with him. He has been a great asset to the Church of Joliet, both as a priest and a bishop.”

Following are comments from members of the diocesan staff about Bishop Siegel and his appointment as our new shepherd. They appear in random order.

‘A tremendous blessing’

“He will be a tremendous blessing to the people of the Diocese of Evansville,” said Franciscan Sister Judith Davis, Chancellor of the Joliet Diocese. “He is a shepherd who cares about people and their feelings. He is compassionate, listens and is very approachable. His priests will be happy to know that they can approach him. He’s extremely intelligent, and he invites collaboration and speaks from his heart.

”He is well-liked by everyone, and I believe it’s because of his humility,” Sister Judith said. “He is very thoughtful; remembers birthdays and is extremely kind. He is a man of integrity; all of these things add up to who he is.”

‘Fulfills Pope Francis’ vision’

“It doesn’t surprise me at all that Bishop Siegel is now in charge of a diocese,” said Carlos Briceño, editor of “Christ is our Hope,” the magazine for the Diocese of Joliet.

“He is someone who fulfills Pope Francis’ vision for a bishop: caring and pastoral, a great listener with a gracious and merciful heart. He is the kind of priest who remembers your birthday with a thoughtful birthday card. He is going to be a wonderful shepherd for the Diocese of Evansville. “ 

‘He finds time’

Alex Rechenmacher serves as executive assistant to Bishop Conlon. “(The people of the Diocese of Evansville) can expect somebody who is always eager to participate in the activities of the diocese, “ he said, noting the Bishop-designate Siegel has attended a great number of Joliet Diocese events – many of which he might not be expected to attend. “He supports the work of the diocese. He finds time; if it’s possible to make it work, he’ll make it work. He thoroughly enjoys it; that’s a special thing about him, too.

“He has an imminently friendly presence that everyone respects and appreciates.”

 ‘Compassionate and pastoral’

“I have had the pleasure of working with Bishop Siegel for the last 4.5 years,” said Diocesan Director of Communications Edward Flavin.  “He is very compassionate and pastoral. Evansville will be blessed to have him as their Shepard.  One of Bishop Siegel’s greatest gifts is his ability to understand and meet people where they are at in their current journey in life.”

‘Dedicated to his calling’

“You are lucky to get him,” said Joliet Diocese Director of Building and Grounds Chris Nye. He is a good man – very unassuming and quiet. He is dedicated to his calling.”

‘A master Liturgist’

“From the Liturgical viewpoint, Bishop Siegel is a master Liturgist, said Benedictine Sister Sharon Marie Stola, Director of the Diocesan Office of Worship and the  Catechumenate. “The people of Evansville will find that when he is celebrating the Eucharist, his whole mind and heart is filled with the grace of God.   

“He is always prayerful and present to every moment of the Liturgy,” Sister Sharon Marie added.  “Bishop Siegel is atoned to celebrating all the Rites in the most gracious and prayerful means.  His understanding of the Rites enables all who are present with him to experience the overwhelming power of God being present in Bishop Siegel and also in them. I have found working with Bishop Siegel in preparing for the various Diocesan Liturgical Ceremonies a prayerful experience and one that enables me to also enter into the celebration with a heart filled with joy and satisfaction that all those present have been part of a prayerful and graced-filled moment.”

‘A very ‘gentle’ man’

“I was a seminary high school classmate of Bishop Siegel’s brother, Richard, so I have been familiar with his family for over 50 years,” said Father Joseph J. Tapella, Judicial Vicar of the Joliet Diocese.  “I know that Bishop Siegel grew up in a very strong Catholic household.  He was given an excellent example of the faith and devotion to the Church by his parents.

“I was able to get to know Bishop Siegel very well when he was assigned as a parochial vicar at the Cathedral of St. Raymond in Joliet, where I was in residence,” Father Tapella said. “I know that his ministry at the Cathedral was very much appreciated.  He is very much a ‘gentle’ man who always has expressed himself in word and deed with kindness and good will.  I am confident that the people in the Diocese of Evansville will be very blessed to have Bishop Siegel as their shepherd.”

‘One of the best possible priests’

Nora Labanauskas has served on the diocesan staff for almost 20 years, and has been the assistant to Bishop Siegel for the past two years. “He is the best person to work for,” she said. “Evansville is getting one of the best possible priests (as Bishop). I’m really going to miss him; we all are. Everyone’s going to miss him; that’s all I’m hearing from everyone. All his decisions will be made in everyone’s best interests and with his heart.”

The real deal’

Diocesan Chief Financial Officer Mike Bava wasted no words. “To the people of the Diocese of Evansville … you got the real deal here,” he said. “He’s a very good pastor, and an even better person. Having worked for him (during Bishop Siegel’s tenure as Diocese of Joliet Administrator), he was very supportive and smart. He trusted me and let me do my job. He was willing to make sure that he was effective and dealing with issues within the boundaries of canon law.

“I’ve never seen him lose his cool,” Bava said. “He serves on and chairs a couple of boards that I run, and he’s a genuinely caring guy in his service. He has prepared himself well for this moment. He’s as good a guy as you can get. Your gain is our loss.”

‘He’s a man you can count on’

Dr. Jim Healy has been Diocesan Director of Family Life Ministry since 1989, but his relationship with Bishop-designate Siegel goes back to days spent on the Siegel farm in Lockport Township, Ill. “You’re gonna like him,” Healy said. “He’s a man you can count on.

“I’ve known him since he was about 7. I kind of grew up with the Siegels. It’s a big fun loving wonderful family; very musical. I remember a lot of wonderful times on the Siegel farm. He has a large family who loves him and (whom) he loves.

I’ve also known him as a parish priest” Healy said. “He’s such a fair-minded, decent, tender-hearted guy. You’re getting someone you can count on. He’s a hard worker. You know who he is.”

The Message thanks Joliet Diocese staff members for sharing their memories of Bishop-designate Siegel and their thoughts on his appointment as the sixth Bishop of Evansville.