Respect Life Celebration thanks God for gift of life

By Megan Erbacher

The Message assistant editor

Editor's note: Entering Canaan, a post-abortion ministry mentioned in this story, is no longer available from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

On Oct. 19, Bishop Joseph M. Siegel thanked God for the gift of human life during a Celebration of Life Mass at St. Benedict Cathedral in Evansville.

Shown at the altar with Bishop Siegel, center, are Father Tyler Tenbarge, left, Father Chris Forler, behind Father Tyler, Deacon Dan DeCastra, master of ceremonies Matt Miller, Father Lowell Will and Father Alex Zenthoefer. The Message photos by Tim Lilley

The Diocese of Evansville’s 2023 Celebration of Life, organized by the Office of Family and Life, began with Mass, followed by dinner in the Woodward Center and a keynote address from internationally known writer and speaker Theresa Bonapartis.

Four diocesan priests concelebrated Mass with Bishop Siegel: Father Chris Forler, pastor of St. John the Evangelist Parish in Daylight and St. Bernard Parish in Snake Run; Father Tyler Tenbarge, diocesan director of vocations; Father Lowell Will, diocesan senior priest; and Father Alex Zenthoefer, diocesan vicar general and pastor of St. Benedict Cathedral.

Amelia Keen, far right, and Evan Sexton present the gifts to Bishop Siegel. Shown with the bishop are seminarian Nicholas Folz, second from left, and Matt Miller.

Deacons of the Mass were Deacon Dan DeCastra and Deacon Ed Walker. Matt Miller, diocesan director of the Office of Worship, served as master of ceremonies. The lector of the Mass was Heath Hamilton, and the gift bearers were Amelia Keen and Evan Sexton.

During his homily, Bishop Siegel said thanksgiving for the gift of life is something we do every day. 

Bishop Siegel began his homily by stating that as we celebrate and give thanks for human life, the most precious gift from God, we recognize the darkness going on in the world. We see how the darkness can overshadow the gift of life, Bishop Siegel said, but in facing this darkness, the Church reminds us that Christ is our light and hope in every season of life from conception to natural death.

The bishop said it is a constant, consistent call of our hearts to stand up and defend life, especially at its weakest and most vulnerable states. Bishop Siegel noted a culture of life respects all human beings, whether they are healthy or sick, able-bodied or defenseless, chronically-ill, wealthy and productive, or the poorest of the poor.

During his homily, Bishop Siegel said thanksgiving for the gift of life is something we do every day; giving thanks for the gift of life given to us and also for the lives of those whom we are called to serve, including the unborn, the pregnant mother in distress, and others facing the consequences of an abortion. In giving thanks to God for their lives, the bishop said we must move beyond a limited point of view and begin to see those we are sent to serve as God sees them and love them as God loves them.

Diocesan Director of the Office of Family and Life Eric Girten said, “It is no coincidence that a month when we celebrate life is also the month when we turn our eyes to Our Lady. It is she who comforts us and guides us ever to her Son, Jesus, and it is He who shows us that we do not have to bind ourselves to this earth but can and should rather choose His pathway to life and peace. This celebration of life reminds us that we are called to this sacred task of protecting all of our brothers and sisters so that we might all walk His path together.”

After Mass, Theresa Bonapartis spoke to about 130 people in St. Benedict’s Woodward Center and shared her own story of abortion and journey to healing.

After Mass, Theresa Bonapartis spoke to about 130 people in St. Benedict’s Woodward Center and shared her own story of abortion. Bonapartis is the co-developer of “Entering Canaan – a Sacramental Journey to an Inheritance of Mercy,” a post-abortion ministry that was published by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. She authored “A Journey to Healing Through Divine Mercy,” to assist those suffering from abortion.

Bonapartis has worked in post-abortion healing for 30 years.

“It is not easy work,” she said. “It’s a constant standing at the foot of the cross. We have a very wounded world from abortion.”

Father Tyler Tenbarge serves as master of ceremonies for the dinner and reception after Mass.

There are millions and millions of people impacted by abortion, Bonapartis said, and “walking in silence with no one even knowing their pain.”

“They’re everywhere; they’re in our families, schools, workplaces, and in our church pews,” she said. “Each one of you here knows someone suffering because of an abortion, whether you realize it or not.

“Not only are individuals in denial, but our world is in denial of the impact of abortion and it’s so crucial for us to reach out to bring these souls back to God because that’s what he longs for. … Healing comes from Jesus Christ. I think it’s really important to always remember that.”