Bishop-designate Joseph M. Sigel's Remarks During Oct. 18 Press Conference
Following are Bishop-designate Joseph M. Siegel’s remarks during the Diocese of Evansville’s Oct. 18 introductory press conference at St. Benedict Cathedral.
Thank you for your presence here this morning.
Pope St. John Paul II would begin every talk and homily with the acclamation – Laudetur Jesus Christus – May Jesus Christ be praised!
It is that prayer that is in my heart this morning, as I give thanks and praise to the Lord for the gifts of life and faith, for my vocation, and now for the opportunity to serve as the 6th bishop of the Diocese of Evansville.
I am certainly humbled and honored to standing here before you as your new shepherd. I am most grateful to our Holy Father, Pope Francis for the confidence he has shown in appointing me to this position.
Having studied at St. Meinrad College back in the 1980’s, I am somewhat familiar with the Evansville area. For the past six years, Archbishop Thompson and I have been in the same bishop support group; and in our conversations, he has often shared what a wonderful community of faith this is.
I am grateful for the presence this morning of Archbishop Thompson and Bishop Gettlefinger, who through their years of faithful ministry and excellent leadership have laid a solid foundation for the future growth and spiritual development of this local Church. I’m sure I will be tapping into their wisdom and experience.
I am grateful for the work of Father Bernie Etienne who has served as diocesan administrator these past few months and I look forward to working closely with him in the future.
As you know, the plan is for the installation Mass to be celebrated on December 15, with more details to come.
I was raised on a farm in Lockport Township, near Joliet, Illinois, the youngest of nine children.
While all my assignments as a priest have been in cities or suburbs, I have never lost my love for the rural life and my deep respect for farmers and farm workers.
Actually, it was driving home after a confirmation at one of our country parishes on Sunday October 8 that I received “the call” on my cellphone.
I didn’t recognize the number and almost didn’t answer it – but I’m glad I did – via bluetooth, of course.
It was Archbishop Pierre, the Apostolic Nuncio, and he asked if I was alone and if I could pull over so we could talk.
It was then that he told me that Pope Francis had appointed me the new Bishop of Evansville.
Needless to say I was shocked, and a myriad of doubts swirled in my mind; but after the Archbishop kindly assured me that he felt I was capable of fulfilling this role, I accepted – trusting more in God’s help than my abilities.
While it will be hard to leave my home diocese of Joliet, Illinois, where I was raised, where most of my family still lives and where I served almost 30 years as a priest, I am very excited to come to Evansville, to serve as the Bishop of a local Church that has such a rich history and heritage, with its roots in the Diocese of Vincennes and Bishop Bruté.
I look forward to getting to know my brother priests, my chief collaborators in ministry here in the diocese, and to support and encourage them in their work in our parishes, schools and institutions.
As a priest and bishop, I have tried to be involved in vocation work and with our seminarians, and this will certainly be a priority for me as Bishop.
I was blessed in my parochial work to have deacons assigned to my parishes, and I am happy to see that we have a good number of deacons in this diocese as well.
I have already had a wonderful welcome from the diocesan staff, as we celebrated Mass together and then had a chance to get acquainted. The diocese is blessed to have such committed professionals working in the service of our parishes and people.
I am happy to see the number of religious woman in the diocese. My aunt was a Joliet Franciscan sister and I was instructed by sisters throughout my school years, so I was formed with a deep respect and appreciation for religious woman and all they contribute to the life of the Church, whether in active ministry or in contemplative prayer for God’s people.
And to the almost 80,000 Catholic faithful that make up our diocese, I want express my joy in soon being among you as your Bishop and experiencing first-hand the strong faith, generosity and hospitality that I have heard so much about.
Editor’s note – Bishop-designate Siegel delivered the next paragraph (published here in italics) in Spanish.
Greetings to all faithful Hispanics of the diocese. I hope to be committed to your community and ask beforehand your patience with my limited ability to speak Spanish. With study and practice, I hope to understand and speak Spanish much better in the future. Meanwhile, thank you for your prayers.
As soon as feasible after my installation, I look forward to getting out on the road and visiting the people, parishes and schools in our 12 counties.
I’m sure at some point I will be asked – Do you have a vision or plan for the Diocese?
My clear answer is “no” – I won’t be coming in with any preconceived ideas or agenda. Like a good pastor entering a new parish, I plan to watch, listen and learn during my first months here.
Certainly, the thorough diocesan pastoral plan adopted in 2016 gives a clear vision for the life and ministry of the diocese; and I will work with our clergy, diocesan staff and lay leaders on how we can continue to implement the goals laid out in the plan.
The diocese is in a strong position having completed a restructuring over the past few years and is in the process of a capital campaign to ensure financial stability our parishes, schools and institutions in the years to come.
There is a very hopeful and dynamic future for this diocese as we approach our 75th year, and I feel blessed to soon be part of it.
On a personal level, I want to say that it is my hope and prayer that I may be a faithful shepherd after the heart of Jesus Christ, serving the people of this local church with love, wisdom and courage.
I am committed to giving myself completely to my ministry as your bishop, and to make every effort to effectively fulfill my role of teaching, governing and sanctifying in the name of Jesus, always relying on the grace of God and the intercession of Mary the Mother of God, our diocesan patroness.
I have already begun to remember all in the Diocese in my daily prayers and Masses. I ask for your prayers as well during this time of transition as well as after I am installed.
In all things, may Jesus Christ be praised – now and forever! Amen.