Homily Mass Of Installation
May Jesus Christ be praised!
Your Excellency, Archbishop Pierre; Archbishops and Bishops; Brother Priests, Deacons, Seminarians; Men and Women Religious; dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ Jesus:
It is a great joy to stand before you as the newly installed 6th Bishop of the Diocese of Evansville.
I am grateful to Pope Francis for appointing me to this local Church in southwest Indiana; and I am grateful to all of you for your warm and gracious welcome.
For me, this is a homecoming of sorts.
I attended St. Meinrad College Seminary for three years, and got to know this area. Now, I am truly a Hoosier to stay.
I believe that it is providential that the Diocese of Evansville begins a new chapter in its rich history during this holy Advent season.
Advent is a time of hope and expectation, as we prepare to commemorate, once again, the coming of Christ Jesus in history, born as a child of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and come to be our Lord and Savior.
Advent is a time for hopes and dreams, as we look forward to what God will do in our lives in the days, months, and years ahead.
The coming of Christ Jesus as man changed human existence forever, and Our Lord Jesus continues to work his wonders and miracles in the lives of all believers.
I am here today because the Lord called me, unworthy as I am, to serve him first as a deacon, then a priest, and now a bishop.
The wonderful mystery of vocation is one of the many wonders Christ Jesus works in our lives – whether a call to ordained ministry, religious life, marriage, the single state.
And as the Lord has begun this work in us, he will surely bring it to completion.
Almost 8 years ago, when I became a bishop, I took as my motto one of the final lines from the Church’s great hymn of praise, the “Te Deum” - “In Te Domine, speravi” – “In you, Lord, I have placed my hope.”
I chose this line because I realized that if I would like to accomplish anything good and meaningful in my ministry, my hope had to be in God alone.
I certainly realized that early on as a priest, and knew that it was going to be almost truer as a bishop.
For this very reason, I chose for this Mass the reading from the Book of Wisdom, the prayer of Solomon, as he became the Leader of the people of Israel.
It is a prayer for the gift of Wisdom – Holy Wisdom – to lead and guide him in all that he did.
I certainly pray for that gift today and every day.
The wisdom of which we speak is the wisdom of God, not mere human wisdom, but the wisdom that leads us to all truth.
It is the wisdom that helps us to recognize more deeply the presence and activity of God’s love in our lives, and the lives of those around us.
It is the wisdom to seek the courage to accept and trust in God’s love, even in difficult circumstances, even when that love leads us to accept our own share in the cross.
In the inevitable struggles that life places in our path, this wisdom is the hope that enables us to know that God is with us, even in the darkest times.
This wisdom is also the hope that helps us to recognize that we are not alone in our journey of discipleship, and in our mission to build up the Church.
I certainly learned as a pastor and as an auxiliary bishop that I can do very little by myself.
That is why St. Paul’s words to the Romans---about the necessity that all the parts of the Body step up and fulfill their role in the mission of the Church, the role of Evangelization, of bringing the Good news of Jesus Christ to all people---are as crucial today for you and for me as they were in the first century of Christianity.
St. Paul made it clear that not all have the same roles or functions in this mission.
Some are called exercise pastoral leadership and lead the church in worship and celebration of the sacraments.
Others are called to be teachers and catechists, passing on the faith to young and old alike.
Some are called to full-time work with the Church in parishes or the diocese, while others are called to share the faith in their homes, in their workplaces, schools, and communities.
Some are called in a special way to be the charitable heart of the Church, caring for the sick, the poor, the marginalized – making the love of Christ’s body tangible to those in need.
And then, some are called to be Bishops – to be the chief shepherd of the flock entrusted to their care, through their ministry as sanctifiers, teachers, and leaders, serving after the heart of Jesus, the Good Shepherd.
In the Gospel passage, Jesus describes for us what a Good Shepherd looks like, namely, one who gives his life for his sheep; one who is courageous enough to stand up and defend his flock from anything or persons that comes like a wolf to try to harm and disperse those under his care.
A good shepherd is one who knows his sheep well, and is known by them. And yes, a shepherd after the heart of Christ must also have concern for those outside his flock, providing assistance and guidance to all who come to him.
Clearly, this is a tall order for anyone who is entrusted with the role of shepherding a diocese as its bishop, even for one who stands 6-5.
Again, this is why I call upon the wisdom and grace of God to guide me in all aspects of my ministry of caring for the spiritual and material needs of those in this diocese.
I pray for the wisdom to recognize threats that could have a bad impact on the welfare of our people, and for the courage to confront them, even at personal cost and the disapproval from the secular society around us.
I hope to fulfill my role as shepherd of this diocese in the manner described by Pope Francis, that is:
To lead you, to mark out the road ahead by my example, teaching, and preaching.
To walk beside you, accompanying you in the joys and struggles of your lives, as you strive to live out the moral and ethical teachings of the Church, in challenging situations you encounter each day.
And to follow, making sure no one gets left behind, and always being ready to seek out the lost, to invite back those who have left the practice of their faith, to help to bring healing and reconciliation to these alienated from the Church for any reason.
Yes, this is 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.
So what will I do as the chief shepherd of the Diocese of Evansville?
Time and circumstances will tell. As I said on the day my appointment was announced, I don’t come with any preconceived plans or strategies.
Archbishop Thompson, and Bishop Gettelfinger before him, helped lay a strong foundation on which I hope to build.
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, especially as to how we can best implement the goals and objectives laid out in the 2016 Diocesan Pastoral Plan.
In this context, I am especially grateful to be able to draw on the experience of Fr. Bernie Etienne, who has served as Vicar General and has been Diocesan Administrator since late July.
I know the diocese was praying for a new bishop to be appointed, and I suspect, none more fervently than Fr. Bernie. Considering it took less than three months for my appointment, almost record time, I know I will be turning to him when I have a special intention that needs prayers. Fr. Bernie has done a wonderful job; and in the name of the whole diocese, I want to express thanks to him for his generous service.
In the coming months, I very much look forward to getting to know the people in these 12 counties, the priests and deacons, the religious, and lay faithful, the young and the old.
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.
As I mentioned at Evening Prayer last night, when I was blessed to greet many of our local ecumenical, interfaith, and civic officials, I also look forward to being involved in the communities in our 12 counties, and working with our government leaders and people of faith, to serve the needs of all the people who live in southwest Indiana.
I invite all of us take to heart the final words of St. Paul in our second reading: “Let your love be sincere, hold on to what is good, love one another with mutual affection, rejoice in hope, endure in affliction, persevere in prayer.”
May our diocese be marked by our unity in faith, hope and love, centered in the Eucharist, nourished by our prayer and study of our faith, and marked by our generous service to those in need in our communities.
Editor’s note – Bishop Siegel delivered the following section in Spanish
Hermanos y hermanas hispanos, su presencia en esta diocessis es una benedicion. Ustedes traen muchos dones a nuestra iglesia local y espero que usen esos dones para compartir las Buenas Nuevas de Nuestro Senor Jesucristo, y enriquecer nuestras comunidades con su fe y rica cultura. Que nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, patrona de las Américas, cuya fiesta celebremos el martes, les bendiga y les guie siempre más cerca de su Hijo, Jesus.
As your Bishop, I will count on you, the people of the Diocese of Evansville, clergy, religious and laity, to fulfill your vocation in the Body of Christ as missionary disciples – to carry the Good News of what is proclaimed, celebrated, and received at every Mass, and share it with someone you encounter during the week.
For if we consciously and intentionally do and say all for the greater glory of God, for the building up of his Church, and for the salvation of all people, then indeed the God of peace will be with us and our lives and our faith will bear much good fruit.
I entrust my episcopal ministry to our patroness, Mary the Mother of God, who is our life, our sweetness and our hope.
May she lead us ever closer to her Son in this holy Advent season, that as he continues to incarnate himself in our Church, so also he might be born anew in our world through us. May God bless you all.