This month I feel I cannot abbreviate Father Eric Bergman’s regular letter, as it is like a progress report for the whole year. It makes inspiring reading:
Dear Members and Friends,
Our parish last conducted a stewardship campaign a year and a half ago in the spring of 2015. I explained then that henceforth we would revive the tradition with which we are most familiar: making our pledges to further the ministry of St. Thomas More Catholic Church during the fall, the season of the harvest, that time of year Americans customarily give thanks for all the blessings we have received at God’s hand. I will begin, therefore, by recounting for you some of what God has given us since we last asked you to make a financial commitment to this ministry.
God’s Blessings Upon Us
First, and most importantly, our form of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is now a permanent fixture in the life of the Catholic Church, thanks to the Apostolic See’s approval and publication late last year of Divine Worship: The Missal. Forty-two Catholic communities in the United States and Canada now worship as we have for more than ten years, up from only seven such communities just four years ago, not counting dozens more in the United Kingdom and Australia. This evangelical tool is at the heart of the formation in the coming year of yet more such congregations, and we are thankful for this evidence that we are part of a movement within the Church that is growing and flourishing.
Second, the Holy See accepted the recommendation of the Ordinariate’s Governing Council, on which I serve, that the Most Rev. Steven Lopes serve as our first bishop. Since his ordination on February 2nd, Bishop Lopes has visited more than half of the communities of the Ordinariate. Shortly before arriving here in Scranton for his pastoral visit to St. Thomas More he appointed me your pastor, without term. Bishop Lopes has shown himself to be devoted to our traditions and our mission, and he made many helpful connections while working for more than a decade in Rome as an official at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. His leadership of the Ordinariate promises to be a time for the expansion of our purpose, the reconciliation of our separated brethren to Holy Mother Church. We can be grateful God has granted us so excellent a shepherd.
Third, modeled in part on a similar program at our Cathedral in Houston, St. Thomas More Parish is now home to Maria Kaupas Academy, a homeschool enrichment program devoted to Catholic truth, goodness, and beauty. Under the leadership of parishioner Katy Kadonoff, we have more than 25 children enrolled, meeting Wednesdays and Fridays in our Parish Hall. Our hope is that Maria Kaupas Academy serves as a foundation for an eventual parish school, even as we are encouraged by the enthusiastic response already generated by this effort.
Fourth, we have seen several capital improvement projects finished and others begun. A second lot adjacent to the back of our property was purchased and cleared, and we have received more than $2,000 in donations towards the $10,000 worth of improvements needed to make it our Maria Kaupas Academy playground. Also, a handicapped ramp has been installed in the church to allow wheelchair access to the nave. The parish has benefitted from the 2016 Confirmation Class project, as well, the repainting and redecorating of the Parish Hall, lavatories, stage, and green rooms of our church undercroft. In addition, a generous benefactor gave the $20,000 necessary to repoint the various places in all of our brick and stone buildings that had fallen into disrepair. Finally, exterior lighting improvements to our parking lots and passageways have made our campus more inviting. We give glory to God and thanks to all who contributed towards these enhancements to our property.
Fifth, increased membership and generous donations from benefactors made the last fiscal year the best in terms of income since our establishment in 2005. Though we count only 215 souls as members of our parish, we took in $291,000 between July 2015 and June of this year, a total bolstered by the projects listed above and by our mission congregation, Blessed John Henry Newman Society, in Northampton County. As the Ordinariate expands its reach across our continent, so grows our ministry here, which in turn enables further diocesan-wide growth, since we send ten percent of our operating income to Houston to advance Ordinariate projects and administration. How blessed we are to win souls for Christ here, even as our cathedraticum payments help fund outreach to communities in formation in places as far afield as Louisville, Kentucky and the Mohawk Nation in Canada!
The Benefits of Trailblazing
The five developments enumerated above have all transpired in the past eighteen months, and something else has happened – I have gained a greater appreciation of the rewards and challenges associated with our work in Providence. The rewards come in witnessing the lives transformed precisely because the Lord led us to reopen a Catholic church in a neighborhood that could certainly use more than one. A permanent base for our ministry has bestowed a sense of permanence and fostered our growth. Moreover, because of our purchase of the St. Joseph Church campus, we are again a model for others in the Ordinariate, who have seen, in the closing of Catholic churches in their communities, the chance for their own gain and stability. Indeed, just earlier this year St. John the Baptist bought a closed church in Bridgeport, PA from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, and on November 18th we’ll see them be erected as the eighth parish of the Ordinariate. Poor neighborhoods in the Northeast and the Midwest have empty churches and lots of people that need the joy and truth of the Catholic faith, so this opportunity we seized is a rewarding opportunity for our brothers in arms, as well. Leaders of some other fledgling communities in the Ordinariate have said they plan to follow in our footsteps, and we should be thankful our sacrifices have aided the Lord’s inspiration.
Yet we must be clear that the principal challenge we face is financial. To live and labor among the poor has historically been understood to be mission work, with outside benefactors providing a portion of the funding to make the mission prosper. This is in fact the case with St. Thomas More; the majority of our members and friends do not live in Providence, and our contributions sustain this mission. Because our expenses now outstrip our income, we need two things to happen. For one, we need to cut expenses even as our members give more – and some new sacrificial cost-cutting measures are detailed in the Stewardship brochure. But we also need more benefactors, either as members of our parish or simply as donors to a worthy Catholic mission on the front lines fighting the war on poverty. This poverty, of course, encompasses more than a material dearth and includes poverty of truth, poverty of beauty, and poverty of goodness. Our presence here offers those most afflicted by such poverties the very things they need most to fully live.
We should, therefore, invite others to participate in this work, whether they actually assist at Mass here or not. Share with others what a special parish we have and the difference our presence is making in the lives of our neighbors. Give a testimonial of your own, or let us arrange for those you love to hear from some of the Church’s newest converts to the Faith. Most of all, though, let your sacrifice do the talking. Show by your own generosity that you believe the Truth and you believe in what we’re doing to share Him. In anticipation of your kindness, on behalf of those we serve, I thank you.
Yours in Christ
Fr. Eric Bergman
P.S. To make an online donation to St. Thomas More, Scranton, follow this link to the Parish website. Thank you.