For Tim Lilley, Evansville feels like home

By Megan Erbacher

The Message Editor

After more than 10 years of serving as the Diocese of Evansville Director of Communications and Editor of The Message, Tim Lilley retired from the diocesan staff Dec. 19.

It was easy for him to make Evansville his new home when he started July 1, 2013, because he found a level of personal comfort here. He quickly learned two major economic drivers in this region are coal and agriculture. As a lifelong baseball fan, he was also thrilled to learn Evansville has a minor league professional baseball team, the Otters, that plays in the stadium where “A League of Their Own” was filmed.

“When I was growing up in Southwestern Pennsylvania, two of the major economic drivers were coal and agriculture,” Lilley said. “So, it felt very familiar. It felt very much like home for me.”

He reflected on his time serving two bishops, now Indianapolis Archbishop Charles C. Thompson and Bishop Joseph M. Siegel, and the diocesan faithful.

“My most basic vision for The Message, in particular, was my hope that somewhere along the way, we would publish something that someone would see who would decide to look into the Catholic church a little more, or think, maybe it’s time to come back to church, that kind of evangelization vision.

“I believe The Message is a newspaper that truly serves a Catholic community that spans 12 counties. That’s the goal for doing what we do with The Message, to help keep this community connected and to try and bring it as close together as we possibly can.”

Two accomplishments Lilley is most proud of during his tenure are creating the digital Diocesan Yearbook and the digital edition of The Message. More than 10 years ago, the cost to print a yearbook was more than $8, he explained. The digital version provides the ability to update more regularly and offers it in a format where people can access and download only the sections they need and print them.

The digital edition of The Message also offers flexibility to subscribers. 

“(It) was something I thought we needed to have from the very beginning,” he said. “It continues to gain traction; more people are finding how convenient it is. The approach that we took, and the format we continue to use, is one that only requires people to have an internet connection long enough to download that week’s digital issue. They then can access it anytime, anywhere, without worrying about an internet connection. I think that’s one of the biggest advantages to doing it the way we do.”

He is also grateful for all of the support and assistance The Message team received during COVID-19. The Message continued regular publication in spite of the challenges associated with the lockdown.

Lilley always tried to celebrate and help others understand the rich history of the Diocese of Evansville, which includes:

  • The first four bishops of the Diocese of Vincennes are buried in a crypt under the Minor Basilica of St. Francis Xavier (the Old Cathedral), the oldest Catholic parish in the state.
  • The diocese also is home to the second oldest Catholic parish in the state, St. Peter in Montgomery.
  • The Old Cathedral Library and Museum in Vincennes is home to a bible that belonged to St. Elizabeth Ann Seton and includes her notes. Servant of God Bishop Simon Bruté, the first bishop of Vincennes, served as her spiritual director in Maryland before he was named the bishop.

“I believe this diocese has an amazing treasure of churches,” he added. “All of the churches I’ve been in have been absolutely wonderful, and there’s such a rich heritage of traditional church architecture here. It’s just been a joy to be a part of.”Lilley said, “God had a hand in” bringing him to our diocese, and he has enjoyed working for the church “a great deal.”

“I was open to wherever he wanted me to go and to do whatever he wanted me to do,” he said. “I felt like this was a wonderful opportunity; and in looking back, I feel like I was blessed with professional opportunities that were a lot of fun but that also provided significant on-the-job training for this job.

“I grew up in a very faithful Catholic family. I had 12 years of Catholic education and was an altar boy when we still celebrated every Mass in Latin. I saw the transition through Vatican II to what we have now. … It’s been wonderful using the talents and the experience I got outside to further the mission of the church.”In retirement, Lilley will miss the people the most.

He said, “This has always been a very friendly and a very collaborative place to work. The most of any work environment I’ve ever had, and I’ve had some pretty good ones. It’s clear to me that everyone here, in their own ways with their own ministries, they’re all working toward the same goal. We’re all on the same team, pushing in the same direction without personal agendas. Archbishop Thompson used to say, ‘We’re in the business of saving souls.’”

Lilley plans to stay in Evansville, which isn’t far from his daughter Jenny, son-in-law Keith and grandchildren Jackson and Kenzie, who live in Clarksville, Tennessee.

"I’m thrilled to be able to stay here,” he said. “I’m not going anywhere, so I’m sure I’ll see a lot of people.”