Fr. Eric Bergman’s Advent and Christmas message

Fr. Eric Bergman, pastor of the newly-erected Parish of St. Thomas More, Scranton, PA, has addressed the following message to members and friends of this Ordinariate community:

3 December 2014

Dear Members, Friends, and Associates of St. Thomas More Catholic Church,

When I wrote to you last year at this time Fr. Richard Rojas and his family had just arrived, and we were planning the restoration of the St. Joseph Convent, so that they could live here on our campus. Well, the restoration happened, they lived there since April, but as I write to you they are moving out. With the permission of our Ordinary, Msgr. Jeffrey Steenson, Fr. Rojas received from Bishop of Scranton Joseph Bambera an assignment as the administrator of a parish in Sullivan County, about an hour west of here. His duties began this past Monday, and we anticipate he will be there for the next few years. Our prayers are with him, even as we express our gratitude for the thirteen months we had him in our back yard and for the service he and his beautiful family offered to our parish. We will miss them, but you will have the opportunity to say good-bye: after Lessons and Carols at 5PM on Sunday, January 4th, the Rojas family will join us in the Parish Hall so we may bid them farewell.

His departure will not leave our mission in Bath in the lurch. The Lord in his providence has seen fit to place Msgr. Dale Rupert as the Pastor of St. Peter’s Cathedral downtown. Msgr. Rupert has been saying our form of the Mass for over nine years now, and he has agreed to help with our Sunday Evening Mass when I am in the Lehigh Valley saying Mass for the Blessed John Henry Newman Society. In addition, Fr. Brian Clarke, Bishop Bambera’s Master of Ceremonies, will undergo training and apply for faculties in the Ordinariate. Thus, even though Fr. Ed Scott has had to withdraw and Fr. Rojas is moving away, we still have the men we need to move forward with our mission and ministry.
This affirms and reinforces our faith and experience that year after year God provides.

We shall require that providence anew over the coming year. At the most recent Parish Pastoral Council meeting it was decided that we need to appoint a separate committee for the establishment of our parish school. Over the next month or so I will approach people who I believe have an interest in this project, and we will begin gauging interest, formulating a business plan, and otherwise laying the groundwork to provide a Catholic education in our tradition for our children. Holy Mother Church has been so generous in allowing us to preserve those elements of our patrimony that are consistent with Catholic faith and practice. We would be delinquent if we did not do all we could to transmit that heritage to the youngest generation, so we will press hard in 2015 to make this goal a reality. Please pray with me for God’s providence in this regard, and share with me your own hopes and dreams for our children as this work gets underway in earnest.

The school project was part of my motivation this year for acquiring the lot adjacent to our garage. With the blown-out hulk across the street now finally being restored to house retirees, we expect fourteen months from now to lose on-street parking when that project is complete. Thus, I spoke with the owner of the burned-out property on the corner of Theodore and Church about purchasing that to expand our upper lot, and he agreed in principle to sell it to us. I told him we had no money and he said we could take our time, that the church had been so good to his family that he doesn’t want to sell it to anyone else. With an eye towards future growth, keeping in mind the challenges of ministry in an urban setting we will seek to acquire that lot, too. Again, please pray for God’s providence.

Thus, we make our Christmas appeal to you. Our mission in Bath, the school we hope to found, the land we need for parking, and what we need simply to run the parish on a daily basis – all of this is costly. Please read the materials enclosed and consider a generous gift to our parish, that this trajectory of growth (we had fifteen baptisms this year!) may continue. As we give thanks for the gift of our Lord’s birth, know that your monetary gifts are the means by which we present the gift of Jesus to others. Finally, we have included a slip for memorial and thanksgiving contributions, by which we will adorn our beautiful church with Christmas decorations. In anticipation and in advance of your gifts, I thank you. My own gift will be in memory of Jerry McGreevy, a founding member of our parish, whom we lost last month. Pray with me for the repose of his soul. May God’s blessings this Advent be upon him and all those from our parish whom he loved so dearly.

Yours in Christ
The Rev. Eric L. Bergman, Pastor
St. Thomas More Catholic Church

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6 Responses to Fr. Eric Bergman’s Advent and Christmas message

  1. EPMS says:

    Norm, you are our expert on incardination: does this mean Fr Rojas is leaving the OCSP?

    • If the practice in the United Kingdom is anything to go by, it certainly does not necessarily mean his leaving the Ordinariate. Several OLW priests are pastors of diocesan parishes which have no connection whatsoever to Ordinariate groups, Mgr Burnham not least among them. Whereas many of these priests do have Ordinariate groups which they pastor elsewhere, there are some who have no official link of any kind with an Ordinariate group.

      To be truthful, I am at a loss to understand why it is not possible for the diocesan bishops concerned to appoint the Ordinariate priests to parishes in the vicinity of the groups they pastor, if not to the parish itself which hosts the Ordinariate community. Could one not have found a way to appoint Fr. Rojas in or near the Lehigh Valley?

      In the English diocese of Plymouth, which is a notoriously chaotic example, each of the Ordinariate pastors lives and works (as prison or university chaplain, or pastor of a diocesan parish) at least an hour (!) away from the Ordinariate group, and one of the priests is in the middle of nowhere with four diocesan places of worship and no Ordinariate presence at all.

      • Rev22:17 says:


        You wrote: To be truthful, I am at a loss to understand why it is not possible for the diocesan bishops concerned to appoint the Ordinariate priests to parishes in the vicinity of the groups they pastor, if not to the parish itself which hosts the Ordinariate community. Could one not have found a way to appoint Fr. Rojas in or near the Lehigh Valley?

        Bishops and ordinariates typically do what makes sense, given their knowledge of the context. I’m not sufficiently familiar with the situation surrounding this assignment, but there most assuredly are several good reasons why a decision like this might make sense. By way of example, it’s certainly plausible that Fr. Rojas is going to a parish with a substantial number of former Anglicans among its membership, in the hope that they will coalesce into an ordinariate congregation, or that there is a group asking to come into the ordinariate from a congregation of an Anglican or “continuing Anglican” body nearby and that he will prepare, receive, and minister to them.


    • Rev22:17 says:


      You asked: Norm, you are our expert on incardination: does this mean Fr Rojas is leaving the OCSP?

      No, though it certainly does not exclude that possibility. Note the following provision in Article VI of the apostolic constitution Anglicanorum coetibus.

      § 4. Priests incardinated into an Ordinariate, who constitute the presbyterate of the Ordinariate, are also to cultivate bonds of unity with the presbyterate of the Diocese in which they exercise their ministry. They should promote common pastoral and charitable initiatives and activities, which can be the object of agreements between the Ordinary and the local Diocesan Bishop.

      The following article of the associated complementary norms are even more explicit (boldface in original).

      Article 9

      §1. The clerics incardinated in the Ordinariate should be available to assist the Diocese in which they have a domicile or quasi-domicile, where it is deemed suitable for the pastoral care of the faithful. In such cases they are subject to the Diocesan Bishop in respect to that which pertains to the pastoral charge or office they receive.

      §2. Where and when it is deemed suitable, clergy incardinated in a Diocese or in an Institute of Consecrated Life or a Society of Apostolic Life, with the written consent of their respective Diocesan Bishop or their Superior, can collaborate in the pastoral care of the Ordinariate. In such case they are subject to the Ordinary in respect to that which pertains to the pastoral charge or office they receive.

      §3. In the cases treated in the preceding paragraphs there should be a written agreement between the Ordinary and the Diocesan Bishop or the Superior of the Institute of Consecrated Life or the Moderator of the Society of Apostolic Life, in which the terms of collaboration and all that pertains to the means of support are clearly established.

      This basically means that a diocesan bishop can appoint an ordinariate cleric to a diocesan ministry with the consent of the ordinary and, conversely, that an ordinary can appoint a diocesan cleric to an ordinariate ministry with the consent of the diocesan bishop, subject to a written agreement in either case. This is basically the same procedure used to appoint clerics of religious orders to diocesan ministries. It’s also possible for a bishop of one diocese to appoint a cleric from another diocese to a position of ministry, though such appointments tend to happen primarily in exceptional situations (Fr. Smith needs to be in close proximity to assist his aging parents who retired to Florida or Arizona or wherever), in the cases of clergy who hold special qualifications (seminary faculty, canon lawyers, etc.), and chaplains in the military and naval forces (whose ministry falls under the Archdiocese for the Military Services here in the States, the Bishopric of the Forces in the United Kingdom, or the military ordinariate of most other countries). In such situations, clerics usually remain incardinated in the diocese for which they were ordained, ostensibly with the intent of returning thereto when their ministry elsewhere comes to an end. Note, also, that this provision makes no distinction between a full time ministry such as pastor of a parish and a collateral ministry such as a chaplain at a hospital, a prison, or a university.

      When a cleric wishes to transfer from one diocese to another, the normal practice is for the bishops to agree to an assignment in the diocese to which the cleric asks to transfer for a probationary period, which usually extends for several years. This probationary period gives the bishop of the cleric’s prospective new diocese a chance to evaluate the cleric’s performance in ministry, and it also gives the cleric a chance to build working relationships in the new diocese and to get a better sense of the situation before going through the excardination/incardination process to make the transfer permanent. This permits either the individual or the bishop of the prospective new diocese to abort the process if the probationary arrangement does not work out.

      But, as David pointed out, the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham and the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter have an abundance of clergy in certain geographical areas. In such cases, it’s natural for the surplus clergy to serve the needs of the local diocese.


  2. EPMS says:

    An apparently analogous case is that of Fr Seraiah, who was ordained for the OCSP but has been serving as pastor of parish in the Diocese of Des Moines for about a year and a half. There is no expectation that he will be able to form an Ordinariate community in Atlantic, IA—a town which doesn’t even have an Episcopal church. But he, like Fr Rojas, is a man with a large young family and clearly he needs stipendiary employment and a place to live. As Mr Murphy points out, the ideal would be to find a full-time diocesan appointment which allowed the priest to also minister to an Ordinariate community otherwise without a pastor. I assume Fr Catania will be in this situation, as he is a long way from retirement age and the Sodality of St Edmund, which has about a dozen members, is clearly not in a position to offer any significant financial support.

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