This month we have already heard of the successes of two projects in Scranton, the Music Scholarships and the organ pipe facades.
Fr. Eric Bergman’s letter to this Ordinariate community in September’s newsletter reveals more good news and potential good news for the future, God willing:
“… My time in Texas gave me the opportunity to visit another old friend. Fr. Christopher Phillips is the Pastor of Our Lady of the Atonement Catholic Church in the Archdiocese of San Antonio, and he was the first former Episcopal minister with a parish to be ordained a Catholic priest. Thus, he was a mentor to me and a benefactor to our community as I prepared for ordination. He’s come north several times to share in person his wisdom gleaned from long experience. Fr. Phillips and I were able to spend hours together the day I was scheduled to leave and we shared lunch with Deacon James Orr before they took me to the airport.
Because he founded Our Lady of the Atonement Academy, now undergoing a ten million dollar expansion project, I asked him about our own plans for a school. His advice to me was that we not give up on the building that Venerable Maria Kaupas once staffed with the Sisters of St. Casimir to teach the children of Lithuanian immigrants. He told me, “See what you must do to get an occupancy permit, because it may take a lot longer than you think to raise enough money to build a new school altogether. You’ll be able to get started a lot earlier if you’re able to use the school building you already have.” He also told me it was smart to acquire the available lot adjacent to our property, as a growing parish always needs room to expand. We even talked tuition and teacher salaries.
I imagine we’ll have many more conversations along the same lines, and we can count ourselves blessed that we have such a helpful resource and friend.
Fr. Phillips’ advice on the school helped me understand why perhaps we have not received any contributions towards the renovation of our rectory basement for Christian education purposes. While we have received ten percent of what we need for the handicapped ramp into the nave and twenty percent of what we need to purchase the empty lot that abuts our garage, the basement project seems dead. We got permission from the Ordinariate to purchase for $10,000 the lot next door, and as I write to you a title search is being undertaken to ensure it is free of any liens. How soon we actually acquire it is dependent upon what gifts are given, so I ask you prayerfully to consider making a contribution to this end. In the meantime we can begin to investigate what renovations are necessary to restore St. Joseph School, indeed if renovation of the structure is even possible. It may be the Lord has provided us with the means to house both our aspirations and the growing number of Sunday School classes for which we already need more room. If so, I will be happy to tell you I was wrong for having written off the building that inarguably looks like a disaster but may, in fact, be the answer to our prayers. After all, of all people, we in the Church know how often beauty is more than skin deep.
Msgr. Steenson, when he came to us for Confirmation last month, was very impressed with the progress we have made these past two years since his last pastoral visit to Scranton. He complimented both the improvements to our physical plant and the vibrancy and devotion of our parishioners.
Then he surprised everyone with an announcement: St. Thomas More will soon be erected a parish of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter, and I will be named the first pastor. You see, it seems that officially we have been a quasi-parish, a mission of our principle church in Houston, and I have been the administrator. This will soon be corrected, so that what we have been saying about our community will in short order be the reality.
We are grateful that Msgr. Steenson has enough confidence in our work and in my service to make these twin moves, and we rejoice with five other missions across the country that will soon be granted the same status. Praise God that Pope Emeritus Benedict’s vision for stability and growth amongst our missions is coming to fruition, and we pray the growth we have known will happen for those communities too small yet to receive this honor. …
Your Servant in Christ,
The Rev. Eric L. Bergman”