By Tim Lilley
The Message editor
Bishop Joseph M. Siegel dedicated the renovated St. Benedict Cathedral and kicked off the celebration of the Diocese of Evansville’s 75th Anniversary during a Nov. 6 Mass at the Evansville cathedral. He said the Rite of Dedication had “a simple but profound beauty,” and he invited those who filled the cathedral to absorb it all and ponder every prayer.
Visiting Evansville for the dedication, Monsignor Dennis Kuruppassery represented the Apostolic Nunciature to the United States on behalf of Nuncio Archbishop Christoph Pierre. He made brief remarks as the Mass opened.
“Certainly, you have welcomed me,” he said. “May Christ be a guest in this church and in our hearts.” He offered “humble gratitude” to Bishop Siegel and Benedictine Father Godfrey Mullen, St. Benedict Cathedral rector. “We can all give thanks to God,” he added.
“Today we rejoice in the dedication of the cathedral,” Msgr. Kuruppassery said. ”This renovation would not have been possible without the generous sacrifices of so many. Let us praise God’s goodness.”
Bishops from across the country also traveled to Evansville for the Mass, joining Bishop Siegel and Bishop-Emeritus Gerald A. Gettelfinger. They included Archbishop Charles C. Thompson of Indianapolis, who served from 2012 to mid-2017 as the fifth bishop of Evansville; Archbishop Paul Etienne of Seattle, a son of Perry County and the Indianapolis Archdiocese, and a brother of Fathers Bernie and Zach Etienne, priests of the Diocese of Evansville; Bishop Daniel Conlon of Joliet, Illinois, Bishop Siegel’s home diocese and the diocese he served as auxiliary bishop before his 2017 appointment as the sixth bishop of Evansville.
Other bishops attending and concelebrating included Bishop-Emeritus Dale Melczek of Gary; Bishop Timothy Doherty of Lafayette-in-Indiana; Bishop William Medley of Owensboro, Kentucky; Bishop David Malloy of Rockford, Illinois; and Bishop David Ricken of Green Bay, Wisconsin. Benedictine Archabbot Kurt Stasiak of Saint Meinrad Archabbey in St. Meinrad and former Archabbot Lambert Reilly also attended and concelebrated.
Concelebrating with Bishop Siegel, Msgr. Kuruppassery, the other bishops and the archabbots were more than four dozen priests. Many were priests of the Diocese of Evansville, but several visiting priests also concelebrated.
The Mass’ Introductory Rites included Bishop Siegel blessing and sprinkling water throughout the cathedral before the Gloria. The University of Evansville’s Shepard Brass joined diocesan director of music Jeremy Korba to provide accompaniment, and cathedral choir director Jennifer Korba led the diocesan choir.
Bishop Siegel opened his homily with a reference to the Mass’ Responsorial Psalm, from Psalm 84: “How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord, God of Hosts” (Psalm 84:2). He said that, in dedicating St. Benedict Cathedral, we embrace those sentiments.
The bishop recognized the cathedral-parish family for its patience in enduring all that the renovation necessitated, including floor-to-ceiling scaffolding; temporary chairs without kneelers; reduced seating capacity; and other inconveniences. He also hailed the “ever-watchful eye” of rector Father Godfrey.
Bishop Siegel talked about the multiple occasions during the Rite of Dedication when we ask the Holy Spirit to bless the completed work and take the sanctuary into His loving care and use it to inspire us all. He also emphasized that St. Benedict Cathedral symbolizes the people of the parish and the diocese – all the faithful who make up this local Church, a 12-county household of God.
He noted that our cathedral and other diocesan churches have been set aside and made sacred – dedicated to worshipping God and consecrated to Him. He drew the parallels between our own consecrations and dedications to God in baptism and confirmation with the sprinkling of holy water and anointing of the altar and walls with chrism, and incensation during the Rite of Dedication.
The bishop turned his attention to the diocese’s 75th anniversary, calling to mind all who have served the diocese over more than seven decades – including our former bishops, priests, deacons, religious and lay leaders in parishes across Southwest Indiana. He recognized the joys and accomplishments of our first 75 years, and also the struggles and challenges.
Bishop Siegel reminded those in attendance that the 75th anniversary also gives us the opportunity to recognize where the diocese is now and where the Holy Spirit is leading us all as we enter our next 75 years. He encouraged everyone to ponder the questions of how we use all of our blessings to evangelize, to invite those who no longer practice the faith to return to Mass and the sacraments, to help our young people become tomorrow’s church leaders, and how we can be of greater service to all in need.
The bishop encouraged those in attendance to use the Mass as an opportunity to recommit themselves – personally and as a family in faith – to their baptismal promises and to renew themselves as temples of the Holy Spirit. He closed with a simple-but-powerful prayer, which underscores the theme of our jubilee year:
“May Jesus Christ – who is the same yesterday, today and forever – be praised and glorified, now and forever. Amen!”
Following the Litany of the Saints, at the beginning of the Dedication Rite, Bishop Siegel placed relics in the base of the altar, including the First Class Relic of St. Pius X that appeared on the front page of the Nov. 8 issue of The Message. St. Pius X was pope when St. Benedict Parish was established in 1912. The bishop then anointed the altar and walls of the cathedral with sacred Chrism, and he censed the altar. A brazier filled with incense sat atop the altar as Deacons David Rice and Jay VanHooiser made their way throughout the church with the censors, censing the cathedral and all those in attendance.
Archbishop Thompson made brief remarks at the end of Mass before the final blessing. “I snuck in and took a peek (at the ongoing renovation) at the end of July,” he said. “It was so gorgeous even then. But Bishop Siegel hit it on the head (during his homily) … the greatest beauty is the beauty of the people. Thank you for the witness of faith you live day in and day out.”