Savio program experiencing continued growth

By John Rohlf 

The Message assistant editor 

The Diocese of Evansville’s Savio program continues to see growth in both size and depth since its inception nearly six years ago.

Diocese of Evansville Director of Vocations Father Tyler Tenbarge said the program’s first meeting in October 2018 had about a dozen youth and a few of their fathers. Since that time, the organization has seen immense growth, with more than 67 percent of all parishes in the diocese having parishioners involved in Savio. Their largest gathering brought 135 youth together for three hours of faith formation and vocational discernment. 

“The mission was and still is quite simple,” Father Tenbarge said. “Young men want authentic, Catholic brotherhood. And that brotherhood fosters vocational openness, acceptance and support.” 

Father Tenbarge said in the past year alone, more than 230 boys joined Savio, with 87 of them participating in Savio at least once each month during the past school year. 

Father Tenbarge said of the incoming class of seminarians for the diocese this fall, four of them were involved with the Savio program in high school. 

“The relationships the young men are forming with one another and with our Lord are the real and most powerful fruit, though,” Father Tenbarge said. “Whether it is praying a daily Rosary with one another, attending a discernment retreat together or seeing one another at various school or parish functions, the young men in Savio are finding and following Christ together, becoming more virtuous and hearing the Lord’s call for them.”

An incoming senior at Gibson Southern High School, Noah Kiesel has attended the Savio meetings since he was in sixth grade. He is a member of St. James Parish in Haubstadt. He said there is a social hour for the first hour of the Savio meetings, which is followed by a faith lesson. Speakers have included Father Tenbarge, Bishop Joseph M. Siegel and diocesan seminarians. 

“The lesson that Father Tyler gives is always really good,” Kiesel said. “And he always gives it like a conversation too. We really love it.” 

The program ends with night prayer at Sacred Heart Church. 

Recent Mater Dei High School graduate Evan Sexton has attended Savio nearly since the inception of the program. The Holy Redeemer Parish member went to the second-ever Savio event the first year and has been attending them consistently since. He thinks one of the benefits of the program is introducing diocesan youth to others within the diocese. 

“I enjoy hanging out with people that otherwise I wouldn’t be able to hang out with,” Sexton said. “I know there’s some that come from out in Gibson County. I know for me at Holy Redeemer, I wouldn’t normally have contact with those people. But just being able to see them even once a month is probably the main part of it that I enjoy.” 

Current Mater Dei student Rudy Zenthoefer has attended Savio since its second year. He is a member of St. Boniface Parish in Evansville. He said Savio is “a really good time.” He said it allows young men to develop their faith and enrich it. He also believes it helps create a stronger diocese. 

“I really like how involved it is,” Zenthoefer said. “Even though it’s not really 1-on-1, it seems like it’s a 1-on-1 with God. Even with all those guys around you.”

Savio will meet again in the fall after their summer break.