Southwestern Indiana's Catholic Community Newspaper

Looking Back Over An Eventful Beginning

By Bishop Joseph M. Siegel
Bishop Joseph M. Siegel

As I was thinking about the topic for my first article in the Message, I figured that I didn’t need to introduce myself, as that was done so comprehensively by this paper in the issues before my Installation.  I am grateful to Tim Lilley and the whole Message staff for the wonderful coverage of those events as well as the marvelous job they do covering the life and activities of the diocese. Their efforts with this periodical serve to unify the people of the 12 counties that make up our diocesan family as we are informed about what is happening at our parishes, schools and institutions, as well as the wider Church and world.  As Bishop, I also serve as publisher of the Message and I look forward to occasionally writing a column offering my thoughts as shepherd of this part of southwest Indiana.     

By the time this edition is published, I will have completed six weeks of service as your Bishop.  Looking back over my calendar, I realize that it has been an eventful, if at times overwhelming period. I would like to share some of my experiences and impressions from my first weeks in the diocese as I began to learn about this local Church and my new role as Diocesan Bishop.

After the beautiful Installation liturgies and receptions, planned and hosted by many priests, diocesan staff members and volunteers, we moved right into the Christmas holidays, during which I had the joy of celebrating my first Midnight Mass at St. Benedict Cathedral, along with our diocesan patronal feast day of Mary, Mother of God on Jan. 1. Early in the new year, Father Bernie Etienne, Tim McGuire, Diane Keller from the Steier Group and I began a series of parish town hall meetings for the fourth and final wave of the Stewards of God’s Grace capital campaign.  I have enjoyed meeting the people of these parishes and have been impressed by their generous receptivity to the campaign, which will help provide for the needs of our parishes and diocese.

I had an opportunity to gather for prayer and fellowship with our priests at St. Bernard Parish in Snake Run, and later celebrated Mass and had lunch with our retired priests at the Sarto Retreat House.  Just before Christmas, I had an opportunity to meet with our seminarians as well.  These encounters reminded me how blessed our diocese is to have such fine priests and excellent candidates for Holy Orders. On Jan. 21, at the invitation of Archabbot Kurt, I returned to my alma mater of St. Meinrad to celebrate Mass for the feast of St. Meinrad with the monks and students. 

I have started travelling to parishes to confer the Sacrament of Confirmation upon our high school students.  As a bishop, I have found it to be a great privilege to be able to meet with these youth and to bestow on them the Gifts of the Holy Spirit. I also joined more than 200 of our young people in Washington D.C., for the annual Pilgrimage for Life, during which we marched with thousands of people from around the country to mark the 45th anniversary of the infamous Roe vs. Wade Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion in our country. 

Along with these events have been daily appointments at Catholic Center, as I have met with diocesan staff members to learn about their responsibilities. I have begun meeting with the consultative bodies of the diocese, including the Clergy Personnel Board and will meet with Priest Council and Diocesan Finance Committee in February. Next month, I will also begin my visits to our four deaneries, during which I will celebrate Mass and have the opportunity to meet the local clergy and lay faithful. I have enjoyed some smaller encounters as well, such as blessing a new Habitat for Humanity home and meeting with local civic officials and business owners.

Yes, these have been full and sometimes hectic weeks, yet the wide range of activities have helped me grow in my appreciation for our diocese, love for her people and a better understanding of how I am to serve as your shepherd.  As this process of orientation and learning unfolds, I am feeling more at home each day. Know that you and your intentions are remembered in my daily Masses, and I ask for your prayers as well.