Following hard on the heels of the news of the vocations website in Australia, Fr. Eric Bergman has reported the following in the February newsletter of St. Thomas More Parish, Scranton, PA:
Less than a week ago my family and I returned from our trip half-way across the country to Houston, Texas, where we witnessed William Cardinal Levada, Prefect Emeritus of the Congregation for the Doctrine of thea Faith, dedicate and bless the new Chancery for the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter. The building is both large and beautiful, and it will house the Ordinariate offices, … a conference room, a great hall, an oratory for the celebration of private Masses, and an enclosed courtyard that is perfect as a silent retreat in the middle of one of America’s largest cities.
Most importantly, to my mind, however, it also will host the Ordinariate’s House of Anglican Studies, wherein the men that our parishes raise up with vocations to the diaconate and priesthood will receive formation in our liturgical and spiritual heritage. That is, the Ordinariate is already preparing to educate and form for our brand new jurisdiction the next generation of clergy, who will live and learn alongside other Latin Rite students from dioceses across the United States at St. Mary’s Seminary, just two miles away from our Chancery.
The weekend there was an affirmation of both our mission and the growth the Ordinariate is experiencing, and at the same time it highlighted how our parishes and our expression of the Roman Rite Mass are now permanent fixtures in the Catholic Church.
With the future health of these missionary parishes in mind, we must always have an eye towards vocations. Just this week I contacted the Vocations Director of the Ordinariate on behalf of two men in our parish with whom I have been working for well over a year, as they discern God’s call for them in the Church. I ask your prayers for Jack Grimes and
Corey Comstock, who have both sensed the Lord calling them to ordained ministry. There is no guarantee that this is true, as one’s vocation must always be discerned within the context of the mind and heart of the Church. But they are ready to begin with our Vocations Director the formal process of determining whether God is indeed the source of the call they sense, so we must pray with them that in this, as in all things, God’s will be done. Please mention them by name in your daily devotions, and I will keep you apprised of how their discernment progresses.
As I look back thirty years or more I can tell you that I began to sense my own vocation
to the priesthood while serving in the sanctuary of the Episcopal parish in which I was
raised. I was an altar boy and sang in our church choir. Later I was asked to train the
altar servers and was appointed the verger, essentially a glorified sexton with a spot in
the procession each Sunday. Not every boy who serves at the altar will become a priest, as I and so many of my colleagues did, but we have long recognized that service on the altar is often a precursor to entrance at the seminary. Therefore, to aid in raising up vocations to the ordained ministry we would like to foster the growth of our corps of altar servers, while improving and expanding upon the training they receive. In addition, related to this effort, some of the men of our parish will become Instituted Acolytes, a position that is not necessarily a prelude to ordination, but which will allow them to serve in certain liturgical roles, for example, when we offer a Solemn High Mass.
Thus, I hope these potential vocations we have in Corey and Jack are the beginning of a trend at St. Thomas More Parish and that in the coming years many more men will approach me about beginning the discernment process.
To expand our corps and improve our training we will begin offering Saturday evening sessions once a month that will include worship, dinner, instruction, fellowship, and, on occasion, recreation. These sessions, to begin at 6PM in the church on the second
Saturday of every month, will be open to all men and boys of the parish who have received at least their First Holy Communion and wish to serve on the altar. While monthly instruction will be required of all the boys, attendance for our adult servers will be encouraged though not mandatory once they have completed their training. Our goal is to instill a sense of reverence and discipline, without neglecting to nurture the camaraderie that naturally develops whenever a group of men work together toward the fulfillment of a common goal, in this case service to the glory of God in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Ray Nearhood, Jr. and my brother, David, have graciously agreed to help me in this new endeavor, but be assured I intend to be present every month. Please speak with me if you would like to register as a new trainee. May the altar service of the parish’s boys help them to consider that perhaps they themselves have a vocation to the ordained ministry.
Happy to be back home with you, with prayers for a fruitful season of penitence and
fasting for you and yours, and grateful for the many ways you serve the Church, I am,
Your Servant in Christ,
The Rev. Eric L. Bergman