Ministry of presence

By on July 27, 2012

Father Seigel welcomed to St. Gall
by Lynn Meredith
ELBURN—The Rev. Timothy Seigel says that a church at its very core is all about presence. Through a ministry of presence, the church can put into the practice Christ’s admonition to love each other as He loves us. With many years of pastoral experience doing just that, Father Seigel hopes to bring that presence to his work at St. Gall.

“My goal now is to grow the community before we build a facility. We can do that by providing good service and making good decisions, by visiting nursing homes and hospitals, being present to the sick and dying and to the kids and youth ministries,” Seigel said. “As I study the Gospels and gain experience from ministry, I understand my greatest skill is to relate to people and be present. It’s something I’m good at and look forward to doing here.”

Seigel began his career in Iowa, graduating from high school in Cedar Rapids and attending college in Dubuque at Loras College, where he majored in sociology.

“I was working in the direction of the priesthood, and I took an intro course in sociology. I thought that since it was the study of cultures and people that maybe a priest would want to know that kind of stuff,” he said.

After completing a Masters of Theological Studies at St. Meinrad in southern Indiana, Seigel left the seminary because he still wasn’t completely sure he wanted to become a priest. He didn’t go far, however. He moved to Oregon, Ill., where he worked as a lay parish coordinator at St. Mary Parish. He had the opportunity to do the kind of work needed in the life of a church and really liked it, he said.

Also at that time, he worked at a residential facility for the mentally disabled and found the residents there, whom he cared for and socialized with “all love.”

He soon joined the Rockford Diocese and attended the Sacred Heart School of Theology in Hales Corner, Wis., receiving a Masters of Divinity. He was ordained a priest on May 18, 1991.

His first assignment was at St. Patrick Parish in St. Charles. Seigel went on to serve in Rockford and Crystal Lake before being named sole pastor at St. John the Baptist in Savanna, Ill.

“It was a great experience. Because it was a smaller parish, I got to know people and get home skills. You realize that you’re not going to please everyone, but you do the best for the common good,” Seigel said. “I’ve always been a bit impulsive, a bit unorganized, a bit impatient. Those years in Savanna taught me well how to listen. I learned to make decisions by listening rather than making them unilaterally.”

In 2001, he moved on to St. Mary Parish in East Dubuque, where the lesson of listening continued to serve him well. He also had some memorable experiences.

“One thing that proved to be my saving grace is my pastoral skills. I’m a pretty good homilist. I work on what I’m going to say, how I’m going to say it. I get passionate and try to touch people with my words,” he said.

He found that he was good with grieving people, particularly when he faced the death of a 7-year-old boy with a horrible disease.

“I was working with the school—he was a first-grader and had a twin brother—and going to University of Iowa (for the boy’s treatment) and being present with the family the evening he died. I helped to put the funeral service together. It was probably one of the highlights of my time there,” he said.

Before coming to St. Gall Parish, Seigel spent seven years at St. Catherine Parish in Genoa, Ill.—his longest assignment.

“I got to know a lot of people and got to know them better than any other parish. Our relationships just got stronger and stronger,” he said. “The biggest challenge of leaving is that I’m not there.”

St. Gall’s is about 100 members bigger than St. Catherine’s and has a more suburban feel. Seigel is confident that with a little bit of the work the parish will grow.

In his spare time, Father Seigel enjoys cooking, reading and writing journals and poetry. He stays in shape by walking the Elburn Forest Preserve Trail and working out at Snap Fitness.

And as a Chicago Bears and Minnesota Vikings fan, he’s of the belief that football season is just too short.