Bishop Gettelfinger celebrates 35 years as consecrated Bishop 

Bishop Emeritus Gerald A. Gettelfinger, right, said it was a delight to be back at the Catholic Center in Evansville to celebrate the 35th anniversary of his ordination and installation as Bishop of the Diocese of Evansville. Bishop Joseph M. Siegel is pictured with him. The Message photo by Megan Erbacher

By John Rohlf

The Message Assistant Editor 

Bishop Joseph M. Siegel celebrated Mass June 4 to celebrate Bishop Emeritus Gerald A. Gettelfinger’s 35th anniversary of his ordination and installation as Bishop of the Diocese of Evansville. 

The Mass was celebrated in the Mary, Mother of God Chapel, and a luncheon followed at the Catholic Center in Evansville. Bishop Gettelfinger, Father Bernie Etienne, Father Pastory Hange Masunga and Father Tyler Tenbarge concelebrated the Mass.

Bishop Gettelfinger, 88, was ordained as a priest in May 1961. He was named Bishop of the diocese in March 1989 and was ordained and installed in April 1989. He served as the Bishop of Evansville until 2011, when he was named Apostolic Administrator and Bishop Emeritus.

“It’s a delight to see you here and to be able to come back once again,” Bishop Emeritus Gettelfinger said. “It’s also my 63rd year as a priest too. It’s been a very interesting journey all the way around.”

During the luncheon following Mass, Bishop Siegel said the image of the shepherd is a very important one for a Bishop. Bishop Siegel said Bishop Emeritus Gettelfinger has been a faithful guide. Bishop Gettelfinger served among his clergy and people, getting to know them, their needs and listening to their voices and advice, Bishop Siegel said. He continued and said Bishop Emeritus Gettelfinger also had a great concern for those on the peripheries and those seemingly left behind. 

Bishop Siegel said he thinks in Bishop Gettlefinger, he has seen and come to know a faithful servant in our midst, one who lives and serves after the heart of Jesus. He thanked Bishop Emeritus Gettelfinger for his ministry among us. 

Father Bernie Etienne, pastor at Holy Rosary Parish in Evansville, delivered the homily during the Mass for the celebration. Bishop Gettelfinger ordained Father Etienne as a priest. Father Etienne noted Bishop Gettelfinger’s 35 years since being ordained as Bishop, which he said “that’s been a blessing for us.” 

Father Etienne focused his homily on the gospel passage from the Gospel of John that speaks of the Good Shepherd. He said there are challenging moments in being a shepherd, such as isolation, fearful moments, threats and an uncooperative flock. 

“And I’m sure Bishop Gettelfinger, when you got that call, there was a charge that went through you,” Father Etienne said. “You willingly said yes. You showed up with an idea of what this means. You had worked with Archbishop (Edward T.) O’Meara. You saw from the inside what it looks like. It wasn’t exactly what you thought it would be I bet. It had its joys but every generation has its challenge. And many of us had a chance to walk in that challenge with you.” 

Father Etienne said he believes servant leadership permeated what Bishop Emeritus Gettelfinger did for the diocese. 

“It is a selfless act to serve as our Bishop,” Father Etienne said. “There are a lot of misconceptions about that … Nothing can prepare you for that moment except your ability to pray and trust in the Lord. And that was a great blessing for us. And we congratulate you on this 35th anniversary.”

Father Bernie Etienne laughs as he delivers the homily during the Mass to celebrate Bishop Emeritus Gettelfinger’s 35 years as a consecrated Bishop. The Message photo by Megan Erbacher