Bishop celebrates Mass of thanksgiving for Poor Clares

By Tim Lilley

The Message

Bishop Joseph M. Siegel celebrated the 10:30 a.m. Mass Dec. 17 at St. Benedict Cathedral in Evansville in thanksgiving for the Poor Clare Sisters presence in the diocese for more than 130 years. As reported previously in The Message, the Poor Clare Monastery in Evansville closed earlier in the year, and the remaining nuns have relocated.  

Bishop Joseph M. Siegel, center, visits with the Poor Clare Sisters who attended Mass Dec. 17 at St. Benedict Cathedral, which the bishop celebrated as a way to recognize and thank the Poor Clares for their presence in the Diocese of Evansville for more than 130 years. Standing with the Bishop is Poor Clare Sister Jane Marie Deland, front center, the former Abbess of Evansville’s Monastery of St. Clare. She has relocated to the motherhouse of the Sisters of St. Francis in Oldenburg, Indiana. With her are Poor Clare Sister Luisa Bayate, left, of the Franciscan Monastery of St. Clare in Cincinnati, Ohio; and Poor Clare Sister Beatrice Hunja, who has relocated from Evansville to the Cincinnati monastery. The Message photo by Tim Lilley

Abbess Poor Clare Sister Jane Marie Deland and Poor Clare Sister Beatrice Hunja returned to Evansville for the Mass. Sister Jane Marie made brief comments before Mass began.

She said, “We’re here to thank you for all your support and for the generations before you who helped to keep the monastery going. We’ve all been praying for you.

“Our sisters are all moved and settled now. I’m hopeful, and we’re praying, that another contemplative community will join our monastery so that you have someone dedicating their prayer life to you and the whole diocese. Thank you and God bless you.”

As he opened the Mass, Bishop Siegel explained that the Third Sunday in Advent is also known as Gaudete Sunday. The Church encourages us to rejoice on this day because the Lord is near. He added that, on this Guadete Sunday, we also rejoice with the presence of the Poor Clare nuns, and for the opportunity to pray with them, to express our gratitude for their presence, their prayers and their ongoing legacy, which will continue in our diocese because of their prayer and their presence in our diocese for the past 130 years.

He also welcomed some of the priests of the diocese who served as chaplains and celebrated Masses at the monastery over the years. Father Ray Brenner, Father Donald Dilger, Father Jim Koressel and Father Lowell Will attended and concelebrated Mass with Bishop Siegel and Father Alex Zenthoefer, Vicar General of the Diocese of Evansville and Rector of St. Benedict Cathedral. 

In his homily, Bishop Siegel noted that the question “Who are you?” from the priests and Levites to John the Baptist in the day’s Gospel (John 1:19) is a question that the world still asks Christians today. The bishop explained that we must answer that question by living lives that shows clearly that our faith makes a difference in our own lives. 

He said that if we look carefully in the world today, we can see many people who may not see Jesus here among us. For that reason, we are needed for our witness. Without it, Jesus will stand among us unrecognized. 

Concluding, the bishop said, “May John the Baptist be our example as we seek to share the light of Christ with the world.”

At the conclusion of Mass, before the final blessing and dismissal, Bishop Siegel noted that the legacy of the Poor Clares will continue in one very concrete way through the tabernacle in the renovated St. Benedict Cathedral. It came from the public chapel in the first Monastery of St. Clare, which was located on South Kentucky Avenue in Evansville and serves as the current home of the Evansville Christian Life Center. When St. Benedict Parish was formed and before it had its own church, the parish family gathered for Masses in the public chapel at the monastery. 

Bishop Siegel then offered the following blessing for the Sisters:

“May God keep you from all harm and bless you with every good gift, Amen

“May he send his Word in your heart and fill you with lasting joy, Amen

“May you walk in his ways, always knowing what is right and good until you enter your heavenly inheritance, Amen”

Tim Lilley retired from the Diocese of Evansville Dec. 19.