History: American ordinariate gets its first priest

The announcement:

The new U.S. ordinariate for Anglican groups entering the Catholic Church achieved a milestone on May 8, 2012 when Reverend Eric Bergman became its first priest. The Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter was established by Pope Benedict XVI on January 1 in response to repeated requests by Anglican groups and clergy who were seeking to become Catholic. It is similar to a diocese, though national in scope.

Fr. Bergman, 41, is a former Episcopal priest who was ordained a Catholic priest five years ago for the Diocese of Scranton. Since that time, he has been chaplain to the 150-member St. Thomas More Anglican Use Society.

The group will become St. Thomas More Parish at St. Joseph Church and will be located at the former St. Joseph property in Scranton’s Providence neighborhood starting in late August. The ordinariate purchased the property from the Diocese of Scranton for $254,000, with $200,000 of that amount raised by the St. Thomas More community during a three-week period this spring.

“This is a significant moment in the young history of the ordinariate. I am grateful to Bishop Joseph Bambera and to the Diocese of Scranton for their support,” said Monsignor Jeffrey N. Steenson, the Ordinary. “The incardination of Fr. Bergman, and the reception of several Anglican communities across the United States and Canada over the past few months, are tangible signs of Christ at work in this new undertaking.”

Approximately 60 current or former Anglican priests are preparing to be ordained Catholic priests for the ordinariate, with 30 ordinations expected in the next few months. Ordinariate parishes will be fully Catholic while retaining elements of their Anglican heritage and traditions, including liturgical traditions.

Fr. Bergman noted, “I am particularly grateful to Bishop Bambera, and to Msgr. William Feldcamp, pastor of St. Paul’s Parish and St. Clare’s Church, who has been instrumental in the maintenance of our ministry over the years. St. Thomas More has thrived, and we look forward to our future as an ordinariate parish.”

Underscoring the historic nature of this announcement, Bishop Joseph C. Bambera, Bishop of Scranton, commented, “I was pleased to be able to cooperate with Monsignor Steenson in order to help facilitate Father Bergman’s incardination process. For the past five years, Father Bergman has faithfully supported the Diocese of Scranton. We are grateful for his service and wish him continued blessings in his ministry.”

Read his biography here.

Comments

  1. Well, I say that the Pope made a mistake by poaching Anglicans, and the Anglicans/Episcopalians should bloom where they were planted.
    The Pope has demonstrated two points here: First, that married men in fact may serve as priests in the Roman Catholic Church, Latin Rite, with there being absolutely no doctrinal impediment. If this is clearly the case, why not alleviate the worldwide shortage of priests and allow cradle Catholics also to become married ordained priests? Instead, the Vatican is imposing an artificial crises of ministry, totally of its own making.
    Secondly, the separate “Ordinariate” is allowed to maintain its own traditions and liturgies. How nice. Isn’t much of the fuss in the Catholic Church today really tugs of war over various traditions and liturgical forms that different Catholic groups wish to have, or wish to see brought back? Why not allow different parishes in the world also to have these freedom to choose their traditions and liturgies, that obviously have meaning for them, and obviously enrich their spiritual lives? I know that these concessions to the Anglicans/Episcopalians are not “carte blanche”, and there are of course limits and guidelines, but why establish this privileged new sect within our religion that has all these privileges that the rest of Catholics may only dream of.
    Finally, I guess the Pope also demonstrated that “I can do anything I want to – I’m Pope!!! That’s the real answer to yesterday’s post about “Why is Benedict smiling”. Power.

  2. As a former Episcopalian I have been following the developments of the Ordinariate in England, and now in the U.S., with great interest. My prayers and the prayers of our monks for Fr. Bergman and his parish, and Mons. Steenson. And we can rejoice that key elements
    of the Anglican heritage are being recognized and affirmed by the successor of St. Peter.

    Fr. Robert Hale, O.S.B., Camald.
    Prior
    New Camaldoli Hermitage
    Big Sur, CA 93920

  3. Daniel T says:

    Wonderful news. I only wonder why the Ordinariate had to pay so much to the diocese to obtain a building that the diocese seemed to have no use for. Of course, the Ordinariate had no money other than what the group entering brought into it. It seems this was earlier done with a building in the Baltimore area being bought from the Episcopal Church, I’d hope that the Catholic Church might be more generous.

  4. Richard M. Sawicki says:

    This is glorious news! Deo Gratias!

    I remember meeting Fr. Bergman and his family when I attended my first Anglican Use Conference in Washington in 2007.

    I remember thinking to myself that I envisioned him as becoming a prominent leader in the U.S. movement in a short period of time. Nice to see this “vision” becoming reality.

    Gaudete in Domino Semper!

  5. Richard M. Sawicki says:

    What a very bitter, cynical, and (sadly) misinformed analysis.

    “…married men in fact may serve as priests in the Roman Catholic Church, Latin Rite, with there being absolutely no doctrinal impediment”.

    No one has ever said there was a “doctrinal” impediment. Presbyterial celibacy is a discipline peculiar to the Latin Rite. These ordinations of married men are exceptional cases.

    “…the Vatican is imposing an artificial crises of ministry, totally of its own making.”

    I don’t think “the Vatican” (a catch-all phrase for all that dissident Catholics despise) created the crisis of ministry. The crisis was created by the large-scale abandonment of the Faith by Catholics in the post-’60s era, especially with regard to marriage and the family. When Catholics turn away from their Church and their faith to embrace the worldly lifestyle and the zeitgeist, it is no surprise that the whole concept of life vocations goes completely out the window. The priestly vocation crisis exists because we have a marriage vocation crisis. Priestly vocations come from families. Families come from marriages. Marriages come from men and women strong in their Catholic faith. If we solve the crisis in marital vocations, we will have all the priestly (and diaconal !) vocations we need.

    “…Why not allow different parishes in the world also to have these freedom to choose their traditions and liturgies”

    Traditions and liturgies are not “chosen”. Traditions and liturgies germinate and develop organically over time (centuries)! They are handed down from one generation to the next and are venerated because they are what our ancestors in the faith lived by, and in some cases were willing to die for. They should not be arbitrarily set aside, and certainly not sacrificed on the altar of whatever modern society, with its extremely short memory-span, deems “meaningful” in the current cultural groove.

    “…privileged new sect”

    Privileged? These ex-Episcopalian suffered greatly for their adherence to Christian orthodoxy and objective moral truths. They were made into pariahs by their former co-religionists. They were mocked and taunted. They are being welcomed as battle-worn refugees coming home.

    “…That’s the real answer to yesterday’s post about “Why is Benedict smiling”. Power.”

    I am so sorry that you see Pope Benedict, whose entire life has been dedicated to bringing the light of the Gospel to a sin-sick world, as merely after “power”, by which I assume you mean worldly power for his own self-aggrandizement. He does have a kind of power. A benevolent power. That of being the chief Apostle and Shepherd of the church, and this power was conferred by Our Lord Himself upon St. Peter and his successors. That power we should be grateful for him having.

    Gaudete in Domino Semper!

  6. Anglicans were the ones who knocked on the door, the Pope is just being an incredibly gracious host.

    As for your two points:

    1) You’re right, the consistent teaching and practice of the Magisterium has been that there is no doctrinal problem with ordaining married men to the priesthood. However, for a generation or more that “issue” has been consistently lumped together with a cluster of “demands” contrary to the faith (e.g., ordain women, let the already-ordained marry, approve gay marriage, approve birth control) and with an actual hatred of celibacy. The Church has had to go to great lengths to defend the truth about celibacy, establishing through encyclicals and Synods the firm teaching that the gift of celibacy is the jewel of the Church, a precious secret that shows forth the priority of God and the true nature of love. Therefore when seeking to call men to the priesthood, the Church has had and always will have a preference in her law for those with the vocation to celibacy, even in the Ordinariate. If the Church is to make exceptions, as she has the right to, she has to be sure that none of the heresies listed above come along with ordaining married men, which leads to your second point…

    2) A distinguishing mark of nearly all those who are received into the Church from Protestant backgrounds is a deep love for and devotion to the Magisterium, especially the Pope. That is because the rudderless chaos that can occur in the Protestant world is often one of the motivations for embracing the Catholic faith. You ask, “Why not allow different parishes in the world these freedoms to choose their traditions and liturgies?” Isn’t it obviously because so many parishes would simply abandon the faith and just pursue what was right in their own eyes, rather than in humility seek simply to reconcile a heritage without contradicting the faith in the slightest? Only those who have demonstrated a clear faithfulness to the unchangeable truths can be trusted with the freedom to change those things that can be changed.

    Pope Benedict is smiling because the Holy Spirit is with him. The Spirit has inspired a master stroke, one that severs the married priests “issue” from the rest of liberalism by entrusting it to those who are as far from liberalism as is possible.

  7. Conchúr says:

    The diocese actually sold the property on the cheap; it includes not only a church but a rectory, convent and school too. It was very generous in the circumstances.

  8. Tony de New York says:

    Congratulations!!!

  9. Father Wilson says:

    The Holy See’s initiative here is not something newly invented. The fathers of Vatican II clearly stated that in the future, reunited Church, the legitimate patrimony of piety of different ecclesial groups could and should find a home.

    To know some of these pilgrims is to be inspired. For generations, there were Anglican priests, Religious and laity who were convinced that their vocation was to live the Catholic Faith as deeply as they knew how in their families, Religious communities and parishes, being at the service of the hope of future reunion.

    Just a bit of history is instructive here. Archbishop Michael Ramsey of Canterbury traveled to Rome in 1966 (just the second meeing of Canterbury with Rome since the sixteenth century). He stayed at the Pontifical English college, the English seminary in Rome. At the end of his three-day visit there was a joint ecumenical prayer service at Saint Paul’s Outside-The-Walls, and the conclusion of which Paul VI removed his episcopal ring (a gift from the Milanese when he was elected Pope) and placed it on Archbishop Ramsey’s finger — to the latter’s astonishment.

    Those were heady days. It seemed as though anything were possible. Sadly, that promise has never been fulfilled. Parts of Anglicanism have drifted far from Christian orthodoxy (we were closer to each other, in terms of what we were teaching, back when we weren’t even talking to each other than we are today).

    I’m blessed to know many marvelous Anglican and ex-Anglican priests, bishops and Religious, as well as committed laity. Many have been received into the full communion of the Cathlic Church — indeed, I have received some myself. Good, faithful clergy who placed their gifts at God’s service, underwent theological training, served in parishes where they faithfully offered the daily Offices and sacraments, extended themselves in pastoral care of congregations they were committed to staying with.

    They have a deep understanding and appreciation of the Catholic Tradition — more so than many of my colleagues. I’m glad the Holy Father has extended this invitation to them. We are immeasurably enriched by their joining us.
    -Fr Wilson

  10. Daniel T says:

    I don’t question that the property may have been more valuable that what was paid for it. But wasn’t it simply a surplus property for the diocese, and what other buyer would have put the property to use as a Catholic Church? I’m not sure the exact condition of the buildings, but won’t they be subject to a hefty maintenance expense being as old as the church building is?

    It seems you have a somewhat unusual circumstance that if the Society had purchased the facility (which it seems they had been planning to do for some time) and yet not been accepted into the Ordinariate, what would have happened? They would have become a personal parish under the Pastoral Provision in the diocese? So if that had happened first, what exactly was going to be the status of the facility; owned by the parish or owned by the diocese? It was rather fortunate that this question got solved thanks to the Personal Ordinariate being willing to accept the gift of the Society and establishing them as a parish while incardinating their priest. What a mess it might otherwise have been.

  11. Daniel T says:

    From Cardinal Wuerl’s report to the USCCB in June 2011:

    “A second area where we can perhaps be of some assistance is to offer worship space to a small community that would be a part of the new Ordinariate. Most of them will not have property such as a church and meeting facilities. Our hospitality in providing them worship space would be a sign of generosity on our part and, I am sure, greatly welcomed by them.”

    At the time, I hadn’t expected this to mean that they might find a buyer for some of their surplus properties with the Ordinariate.

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