By Tim Lilley
The Message editor
Faithful from across the Diocese of Evansville filled Sacred Heart Church on Evansville’s west side to capacity June 25 for a Mass in celebration of the fifth anniversary of the Father Deydier House of Discernment.
Located on the Sacred Heart Campus, the house has been home to 17 men from across the diocese - many of whom have gone on to begin studies for priestly ordination. Six priests of the diocese concelebrated the Mass with Bishop Joseph M. Siegel, including Diocesan Director of Vocations and House Director and Chaplain Father Tyler Tenbarge, who served as homilist; Father Christopher Droste, pastor of Evansville’s St. Boniface Parish, which includes Sacred Heart Campus; Father Luke Hassler, pastor of St. Mary Parish in Ireland; Father Chris Forler, pastor of St. John the Evangelist Parish in Daylight and St. Bernard Parish in Snake Run; and senior priests Father Jim Koressel and Father Lowell Will.
Deacons Robert Mattingly and Caleb Scherzinger served as deacons of the Mass. Diocesan seminarians and Savio members were servers, and Phil Durcholz and Melanie Blanton served as lectors.
Of the House of Discernment, Bishop Siegel said, “Over these past five years, the House of Discernment has borne fruit in so many ways. Seventeen men have called the Deydier House ‘home,’ and many subsequently entered seminary. I have been inspired to witness the outpouring of support from the clergy and laity of the diocese for the House and its ministries.
Bishop Siegel added, “From the generosity of many benefactors from all over the diocese for renovation projects and weekly meals, to the consistently large community of Catholics worshipping together at the Monday night vocation Mass – and with the increasing number of seminarians – it is clear the Holy Spirit is moving our local Church to renew and sustain a culture of vocations. The Father Deydier House of Discernment has become a hub for these efforts and a font of many graces.”
Father Tyler began his homily by thanking Bishop Siegel, his brother priests, diocesan deacons and all the faithful who support the House of Discernment. He said, “Glory to God! I love my life as a priest!”
Father Tyler noted that it would take too long to discuss all of the blessings that have come through the House of Discernment. Instead, he provided a brief biography of Father Anthony Deydier, for whom the house is named. He explained that a young Anthony left France for America in June 1810 with Father Simon Bruté and Father Benedict Flaget. Father Flaget became bishop of Bardstown, Kentucky, and Father Bruté became the first bishop of the Diocese of Vincennes, which included Evansville.
Father Bruté and young Anthony arrived at what is now Mount St. Mary University in Emmitsburg, Maryland, and Anthony entered seminary. Among other duties at Mount St. Mary, Father Bruté served as spiritual director for St. Elizabeth Ann Seton.
Young Anthony left seminary in 1814 or 1815, Father Tyler explained, and served as a teacher - ultimately being hired by a wealthy New York City family to teach its children. In 1837, after being named the first bishop of Vincennes, Bishop Bruté reached out to Anthony and urged him to consider the priesthood again because of the need for priests in what was then the western frontier of Catholicism and the U.S. When Bruté became bishop, the Diocese of Vincennes included all of Indiana and the eastern third of Illinois - up to and including Chicago.
Anthony accepted the call and, on March 25, 1837, became the first priest ordained in the Diocese of Vincennes. He was ordained in what is now the Minor Basilica of St. Francis Xavier. Less than two months later, on May 3, 1937, he came to Evansville. He celebrated his first Evansville Mass May 4, 1837, in a tavern located on the site of what is now the Old National Bank campus in downtown Evansville.
Father Tyler said that Father Deydier built the first Assumption Church in Evansville, which later would become the cathedral of the diocese. He noted that reports claim Father Deydier even built the organ for the church by himself.
Father Tyler said, “St. Mother Theodore Guerin once wrote that she didn’t think anyone would believe her if she described Father Deydier’s life in Evansville in full detail. She called him ‘a good and holy man.’ And a secular history of this area reports that Father Deydier lived ‘a blameless and well-spent life.’”
Father Tyler noted that, following his death in February 1864, Father Deydier was buried in the orphanage cemetery that is on the grounds of St. Francis Xavier in Vincennes.
As he concluded, Father Tyler said, to those in attendance, “Father Deydier did everything. At this house named after him, you have done everything! That is what has made this ministry so powerful. Without you, this celebration and ministry would not be possible.”
The Office of Vocations hosted an open house before and after Mass, giving the faithful an opportunity to tour the house and learn about it.