In the Lent issue of the newsletter of St. Thomas More Ordinariate Parish in Scranton, Pennsylvania, Father Eric Bergman, the pastor of this community, writes:
Dear Members & Friends,
When talking about my conversion to Catholicism I am often asked how my family reacted. Having always taken this to mean my family of origin, my canned answer has been that they came into the Church with me, my two sisters preceding us by eight and four years respectively. What I have not told people until now is that my maternal grandmother’s reaction was quite different. She told me ten years ago, “You know, I’m not going to become a Catholic.” I never pressed her after that, but my sister enrolled her into a society which prays for conversions to the Faith, and my brother led his family in praying the rosary for her conversion. Well, the Lord heard those prayers.
Last Saturday evening my grandmother asked my youngest sister to take her to Mass. When Sarah told our grandmother she was too frail to go, but that Protestant services would be offered in the morning, Grandma said, “I’m not going to that church anymore. I want to go to Mass with you.” Sarah called to tell us the news and my Mass intention thenceforth became for her to be conscious and lucid the next time I talked to her, since at #age 96 she had become prone to spells of impenetrable drowsiness, even as in her waking moments her mind remained sharp. And, finally, after ten years, I joined my siblings in praying for her conversion.
Kristina, the children, and I made it to Bethlehem Tuesday morning, February 16th, and we found her eagerly anticipating our arrival. After a beautiful conversation we wheeled her into the nursing home chapel, where I conditionally baptized her, confirmed her, and gave to her her First Holy Communion. My father and mother were her sponsors. For twenty hours my grandmother was the newest member of the Blessed John Henry Newman Society of St. Thomas More Parish, our mission congregation in Northampton County. She died peacefully the morning after her entry into the Church, and we all marveled at the graces we had witnessed, our tears of sorrow mingling with tears of joy. Esther Mary Haldeman was laid to rest in Doylestown Cemetery on February 20, just one week after asking for the first time to go to Mass. Our family offers our sincere thanks to all you who held us up in prayer and participated in Grandma’s funeral. Your willingness to share both our joy and sorrow has touched us deeply. We are grateful you were part of a week our family will never forget.
The Lord’s graces multiplied this week. After getting home late from the burial and reception down in Bucks County we hit the pillows hard Saturday night. Well before dawn Sunday morning, however, I was again administering the sacrament of baptism, this time at Moses Taylor Hospital. Andrew and Marie Smith’s baby boy, Jonah, was born early, and Annie Lefler, whose daughter, Montserrat, I had baptized on January 24, came in her role as godmother, while godfather, Nathan, stayed home with their children. We undertook the full baptismal rite, right there in the neonatal intensive care unit, minus the salt and candle, of course. Jonah is doing very well, though he won’t be taken home probably until April. Please keep the Smith family in your prayers, as well as the doctors and nurses now caring for the newest and most fragile member of the parish. And give thanks with me for the blessing of life God has once again bestowed upon our community.
The events that transpired over the course of the eight days I’ve just described led me to give thanks for the responsibility the Lord has given me to serve as your pastor. And they occurred just a few weeks before I will travel down to Washington, DC, where for the first time the Ordinariate’s own bishop will celebrate our Chrism Mass. At this Mass each year we priests of the Ordinariate will renew before Bishop Lopes the promises we made on the day of our ordination. We will promise to be faithful dispensers of the Sacraments and to discharge our sacred office not seeking any gain “but moved only by zeal for souls.” Please know that I cherish the privilege of dispensing the Sacraments to God’s glory and your benefit, but I know at the same time I am a mere instrument of God’s grace. I can take no credit for my grandmother’s amazing conversion in the twilight of her life, nor for Jonah’s redemption in the Blood of the Lamb, other than I was there to do what the Lord required when He wanted. I hope that in these instances, as with every other occasion of grace, my presence and actions have served only to direct your gaze toward Jesus our Lord, “who alone is the source of all salvation.” …
Your Servant in Christ
The Rev. Eric L. Bergman