Saint Thomas More, Scranton, goes from strength to strength

I can hardly await the monthly newsletter from St. Thomas More Ordinariate Catholic Parish, Scranton, Pennsylvania, as every month seems to herald new developments, some of them rather spectacular.

One example of such a development is the plan for a Catholic school. Last month’s newsletter whetted our appetite, Father Christopher Phillips from San Antonio advised Father Eric Bergman to see whether the old school buildings the parish had inherited could be renovated. And now this month we are informed of a finalised plan to raise money to make the vision of a school a reality in the foreseeable future. Fr. Bergman writes:

Many of you have heard that the Diocese of Scranton recently sold the Guild Building on Wyoming Avenue in downtown Scranton, which for decades housed the Guild Studios, the area’s only Catholic goods and book store.

Guild Building, ScrantonThe couple that bought it, Dr. John Evanish and his wife, Janine, learned on St. Joseph Day, March 19, that the Diocese was willing to sell the building to them, but it took until September 12, the Feast of the Most Holy Name of Mary, for closing to occur. Dr. and Mrs. Evanish plan to open a dental practice in the building, and my brother-in-law, Dr. Phil Huffman, will open his own physician’s office there.

This sale directly concerns our parish, however, because Dr. and Mrs. Evanish have been generous benefactors to St. Thomas More Catholic Church for more than four years now, and they now hope to aid us in the establishment of our parish school.

Dr. and Mrs. Evanish are both converts to Catholicism themselves – Janine was actuallyraised Episcopalian. So it’s easy to understand why they would want to support us in ourmission to reconcile our separated brethren to Holy Mother Church. But they also have a heart for Catholic education and for our desire to offer the children of our parish and neighborhood schooling that imparts to students those elements of our Anglican heritage that are consistent with Catholic faith and practice.

Therefore, over the course of many months we put together a plan to open a store and coffee shop in the first floor of the Guild Building that would offer many of the same products sold there before the Guild Studios closed in August of last year. (Editor’s note: In case like me you were wondering why this facility should be located one floor above ground level, I just realised that “first floor” in the States means “ground floor” for Brits.) The store and coffee shop will be operated by a Pennsylvania non-profit corporation whose purpose will be to aid our parish in the establishment and operation of a Catholic school, work we intend to place under the patronage of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, an Episcopalian convert to Catholicism and the foundress of Catholic education in the United States.

Whatever proceeds the store and coffee shop earn over and above expenses will be used to restore our school building, pay teacher salaries, offer tuition assistance, and cover whatever other costs our parish may incur in running a Catholic school. We are immensely grateful for the blessings God continues to bestow upon our parish, especially now for Dr. and Mrs. Evanish and their help in bringing to fruition a vision for Catholic education we have had for our parish going back several years.

We are hopeful that, with God’s help, we will open the store and coffee shop by Lent of next year, well in advance of the Easter season, during which time so many of our fellow Catholics receive the sacraments of First Holy Communion and Confirmation. To meet this goal our non-profit corporation will have to hire some people for management purposes, but we shall also require capital to stock our shelves with appropriate inventory. Of course we will be happy to receive monetary donations, and I would be glad to speak with any potential benefactors who would like to help us move forward.

In the meantime I ask for your prayers that this endeavor will bear fruit, that the reintroduction to Scranton of a store selling Catholic products will augment the city’s Catholic culture, and in doing so will help introduce people to the Catholic faith. Even those patrons who don’t know their purchases are aiding in the establishment of a Catholic school will be participating in the dissemination of Catholic truth, and we also hope to make the coffee shop an inviting place for that truth to be discussed, if only informally. If you would like to volunteer to help us make this dream a reality, please do not hesitate to call the parish office to offer your time.

These plans have been kept relatively quiet because we did not want to presume God’s generosity, so I ask your understanding in not having shared such big news until the ink was dry on the paper. Nevertheless, the purchase of the Guild Building was undertaken with the full knowledge of our Ordinary, Msgr. Jeffrey Steenson and after we had explained our plans fully to Bishop Joseph Bambera, the Bishop of Scranton, at a meeting with him this past April.

While he was frank in telling me we do not need his blessing for this project, it is nonetheless true that we could not have taken this huge step in the life of or parish without Bishop Bambera’s help. Again he has proven to be a great friend to St. Thomas More Catholic Church, and I ask that you remember him in your daily prayers, just as I pray from him on the altar by name at every daily Mass. We see in this project, as we did in the purchase of St. Joseph Church, a glimpse of the cooperation between the Latin Dioceses and the Ordinariates for the propagation of the Gospel that Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI envisioned when in 2009 he wrote the Apostolic Constitution. May we be a model for such cooperation in other parts of the country as communities like ours come to be. …

Your Servant in Christ,
The Rev. Eric L. Bergman

Apart from this bombshell news, the parish newsletter also announces plans for First Friday family evenings with potluck supper and Movie Night, the Altus course for women (to bring together committed Catholic women from Northeastern Pennsylvania in order to provide them with support, companionship, and spiritual growth), an adult education series on Wednesday evenings, an Ignatius Press Book and Film Fair, the donation of new vestments which have been handmade and embroidered in England, the reconfiguration of the choirstalls in a monastic way for Evensong, a rummage (or “jumble”) sale, the second annual Christmas Bazaar (this year over two days rather than one), Sunday Brunch every other month, etc., etc.

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5 Responses to Saint Thomas More, Scranton, goes from strength to strength

  1. EPMS says:

    It is not surprising that Fr Bergman is consulting with Fr Phillips. Our Lady of the Atonement started in 1983 with 18 people, including Fr Phillips and his family; two years later they purchased land for $83,000 ($185,000 in 2014 dollars) for a churchbuilding, ten years later joined by a school described as the “jewel in the crown” of local Catholic education. Current ASA is over 1200. What is the difference between a parish which grows and one which doesn’t?

    • Rev22:17 says:


      You asked: What is the difference between a parish which grows and one which doesn’t?

      The Christian life is sometimes depicted as a wheel in which Christ is the hub and the four spokes are (1) prayer, (2) study, (3) fellowship, and (4) mission — and this is just as true of the life of a successful parish or other community as it is of the life of an individual Christian. If the spokes of a wheel are of equal length and properly balanced, the wheel rolls smoothly. If the spokes of the wheel are not equal, on the other hand, the hub will be off center and the ride will be rough (think of the wheels on a clown car in a parade).

      In the case of a parish, here’s what it takes.

      >> Prayer: The prayer of the community — that is, its liturgy — is celebrated in a prayerful manner, and there are also groups that meet informally to pray for the needs and the ministries of the community of faith and its members, the larger community, the diocese (ordinariate), the nation, the whole church, and the world.

      >> Study: The homilies in the community’s liturgy are effective teaching moments rooted in scripture, and there are also classes or study groups that offer all members of the community to grow in knowledge of their faith and to equip themselves for various ministries.

      >> Fellowship: The community gathers in informal settings, such as social hours after mass and after classes, study, and prayer groups to get to know one another, forming bonds of fraternity in Christian fellowship that enable collaboration in prayer, study, and mission.

      >> Mission: The members of the community are committed, both individually and collectively, to discipleship, evangelism, and other forms of outreach according to local need, with the aim of drawing new members into their number.

      Note that exaggeration of any of these at the expense of the others will impair the growth of the community, both in faith and in number.


  2. EPMS says:

    Where would you put leadership in the equation?

    • I don’t know about Norm, but I believe that a well-functioning community shares leadership – it is not a one-man show. Because of the nature of the Church with its magisterium there will be a pastor, group leader, moderator, teacher, animator, but he will share his role as far as possible with others. I HOPE !


    • Rev22:17 says:


      You asked: Where would you put leadership in the equation?

      The proper role of a pastor is to equip and empower the people, to discern when they are ready to take on new missions and ministries, and to facilitate the process. (By “equip” in this context, I’m encompassing preparation through prayer, teaching, and sacraments and making available of facilities and other material needs to inaugurate a viable ministry.)

      An effective pastor is never a one man show. The center of the parish must be Christ — NOT its pastor!


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