Roman Catholic Diocese of Evansville
|Diocese of Evansville
|Territory||Southwestern Indiana &
Lower Wabash Valley
|Area||12,684 km2 (4,897 sq mi)|
|(as of 2010)
|Established||October 21, 1944 (71 years ago)|
|Cathedral||St. Benedict Cathedral, Evansville, Indiana|
|Patron saint||Mary, Mother of God|
|Bishop||Charles C. Thompson|
|Emeritus Bishops||Gerald Gettelfinger|
Map of the Diocese of Evansville
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Evansville (Latin: Dioecesis Evansvicensis) is a division of the Roman Catholic Church in Southwestern Indiana. On October 21, 1944, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Indianapolis was split into the Archdiocese of Indianapolis and the Diocese of Evansville. At the same time, all of Indiana split away from the Ecclesiastical Province of Cincinnati to form the new Ecclesiastical Province of Indianapolis.
The Diocese of Evansville includes all or part of 12 counties in Southwestern Indiana. (Harrison Township in Spencer County, where St. Meinrad Archabbey is located, is part of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.) There are 507,553 people in the territory that makes up the diocese, according to the 2010 census, and 83,343 are Catholic.
The diocese is divided into 53 parishes grouped into 4 deaneries, which are served by 72 diocesan priests along with several religious order priests.
The Diocese of Evansville was founded on October 21, 1944, at which time it included 5 deaneries (Evansville, Jasper, Vincennes, Princeton, and Washington), 63 parishes and missions, 49,737 Catholics, and 75 diocesan priests. Henry Grimmelsman,a priest of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati and rector of the Pontifical College Josephinum in suburban Columbus, Ohio, was named the first bishop, and Assumption Church in downtown Evansville was named the cathedral. The diocese purchased the John Augustus Reitz Home from the Daughters of Isabella for use as the chancery and bishop’s residence.
The Catholic population of the diocese grew rapidly in the post-war years and 12 new parishes were founded between 1944 and 1962 among suburban areas of Evansville and Jasper and the small towns of Fort Branch and Bloomfield, while mission churches in New Harmony and Oakland City were elevated to parish status. The population growth necessitated the building of new schools as well, and three high schools in Evansville – Mater Dei on the west side, Rex Mundi on the north side, and Magister Noster, a high school seminary – were founded, along with high schools in Ferdinand, Loogootee, and Vincennes, and a college operated by the Sisters of St. Benedict in Ferdinand. Catholic social institutions also experienced growth with the founding of Memorial Hospital, sponsored by the Sisters of the Little Company of Mary, in Jasper, and the construction of a new facility on Evansville’s east side for St. Mary’s Medical Center, sponsored by the Daughters of Charity.
In contrast to other areas of the diocese, the population of downtown Evansville was experiencing decline, and Assumption Cathedral was closed in 1965. The buildings were razed and the land sold for use in the construction of a new government complex (the federal building stands on the former Assumption site). Holy Trinity church, also downtown, and the home of the chancery since 1957, was named the pro-cathedral, or temporary cathedral. Although the church lost its status as cathedral, the old cathedra remains the most prominent feature within the oratory.
1965 also brought the retirement of Bishop Grimmelsman. Paul Leibold, an auxiliary bishop in Cincinnati, was appointed to lead the Evansville diocese. Bishop Leibold left the diocese just over three years later, though, when he was appointed archbishop of Cincinnati. Francis Shea of the Diocese of Knoxville was named Evansville’s third bishop in 1969.
A new mission church was opened in the growing town of Santa Claus in 1967, and in 1970, St. Francis Xavier church in Vincennes, the oldest parish in Indiana, was named a basilica. Although the two nursing homes in the diocese, St. John Home in Evansville and the Providence Home in Jasper, both built expanded facilities in the 1970s, the strong growth of diocesan institutions generally abated in that decade. The recently opened high schools in Ferdinand and Loogootee were sold to the local public school districts. Rex Mundi and Magister Noster High Schools in Evansville were closed; Rex Mundi was sold to Ivy Tech Community College, and the chancery moved from Holy Trinity church to the former Magister Noster building. St. Benedict College in Ferdinand was closed, and the high schools in Vincennes consolidated. In Sullivan County, two mission churches, St. Ann in Shelburn and Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Dugger, closed in 1978 and 1982, respectively.
Bishop Shea retired in 1989, and Gerald Gettelfinger, the vicar general of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, was appointed the diocese’s fourth bishop. Several parishes built new churches in the 1990s, and the mission in Santa Claus, the last in the diocese, became a parish. As the number of priests in the diocese began to decline and population shifted from rural areas to suburban areas, three rural parishes in Daviess County, St. Patrick in Corning, St. Mary in Barr Township, and St. Michael, north of Montgomery, were closed in 1997. St. Patrick and St. Mary became chapels, while St. Michael was razed. In 1999, Bishop Gettelfinger named St. Benedict, the largest church building in Evansville, as the new cathedral for the diocese, which had not had a permanent cathedral since Assumption was closed in 1965.
Recognizing the influx of Latin American Catholics into the diocese, a Hispanic ministry center was opened in 2000. Although the number of priests continued to decrease, the diocese began to ordain several large classes of permanent deacons. In 2008, St. Mary and St. Simon parishes in Washington merged to become Our Lady of Hope Parish, and St. Mary church was closed and razed. Faced with a declining number of priests and demographic shifts, the diocese began a formal planning process beginning in 2009 to allocate resources for the future. A new high school, named for John Paul the Great, was opened in Jasper in 2009; however the school was closed at the end of the 2011/12 school year due to low enrollment.
In 2011, Charles Thompson, the vicar general of the Archdiocese of Louisville, was appointed the fifth bishop of the diocese, replacing the retiring Bishop Gettelfinger.
On July 1, 2014, a decree from Bishop Thompson merged several parishes, since the population no longer demanded as many parishes as it did during the mid-20th century. At the same time, the Diocese returned to enforcing a long-waived rule that no priest may say Mass more than three times on Sunday (including the evening vigil on Saturday), meaning some churches in the newly merged parishes would have no Sunday Masses at all.
- Henry Joseph Grimmelsman (1944–1965)
- Paul Francis Leibold (1966–1969)
- Francis Raymond Shea (1969–1989)
- Gerald Andrew Gettelfinger (1989–2011)
- Charles Coleman Thompson (2011—)
Parish names in bold print. Except where otherwise indicated, a parish consists of a single church bearing the same name.
- Primary Schools
- St. Benedict School, Evansville
- Christ the King School, Evansville
- Good Shepherd School, Evansville
- Holy Rosary School, Evansville
- Holy Spirit School, Evansville
- Corpus Christ School, Evansville
- Holy Redeemer School, Evansville
- Resurrection School, Evansville
- Westside Catholic School, Evansville
- St. Joseph School, St. Joseph
- St. Matthew School, Mt. Vernon
- St. Philip School, St. Philip
- St. Wendel School, St. Wendel
- Holy Trinity Catholic School, Jasper
- St. Bernard School, Rockport
- St. John the Baptist School, Newburgh
- Holy Cross School, Fort Branch
- Ss. Peter and Paul School, Haubstadt
- St. Joseph School, Princeton
- St. James School, St. James
- Flaget Elementary School, Vincennes
- Washington Catholic Elementary School, Washington
- Secondary Schools
- Mater Dei High School, Evansville
- Reitz Memorial High School, Evansville
- Rivet Middle/High School, Vincennes
- Washington Catholic Middle/High School, Washington
- St. Mary’s Medical Center, Evansville - Sponsored by the Daughters of Charity
- Memorial Hospital, Jasper - Sponsored by the Sisters of the Little Company of Mary
- Nursing Homes
- Providence Home, Jasper - Sponsored by the Sons of Divine Providence
Several religious orders are active in the diocese:
- Poor Clare Sisters, who have a monastery southwest of Evansville
- Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament
- Sisters of the Little Company of Mary
- Sisters of the Third Order Regular of St. Francis
- Sons of Divine Providence
- The Little Sisters of the Poor also served in the diocese at St. John's Home for the Aged, Evansville for 131 years, before selling the home to a private management company in November 2013 due to declining vocations.
- Tim Lilley (September 27, 2013). "Bishop announces parish changes in first phase of Diocesan Strategic Plan". The Message 44 (4): 1-2.
- Tim Lilly (May 21, 2015). "Diocese realigns deaneries". The Message. Retrieved 28 Jun 2015.
- Thompson, Most Reverend Charles C. (September 26, 2014). Decree (Speech). Catholic Center. Catholic Diocese of Evansville.
- Thompson, Most Reverend Charles C. (April 10, 2014). Decree (Speech). Catholic Center. Catholic Diocese of Evansville.
- Woebkenberg, Deacon Jim (September 25, 2014). "St. Francis Of Assisi Parish". Evansville.
- Thompson, Most Reverend Charles C. (December 23, 2014). Decree: Holy Trinity School in Evansville (PDF) (Speech). Catholic Center. Catholic Diocese of Evansville.
- Hughes, Mary Ann (October 21, 2013). "Mass On Nov. 24 Will Be Time To Say 'thank You'".