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The Catholic Church was founded by Jesus of Nazareth two thousand years ago while he yet walked the earth. During that time he promised that his Church - his body of believers - would be built upon the rock of his Apostle Peter, and on the eve of his execution for the sake of the world, he prayed that his Church would be perfectly united, in order that the love of God for the world might be fully known.
For a thousand years, the Catholic Church remained essentially undivided, with its bishops and people around the world united with the successors of St. Peter, the Bishops of Rome. But sadly, though founded by Jesus, the Church is nevertheless governed and populated by broken and sinful people, and this unity was not to last forever. A Great Schism between East and West occurred in 1054, with another major splintering occurring at the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century.
One of the Christian bodies produced by that split was the Anglican Church, founded in England by King Henry VIII when the Pope would not grant him a divorce. Britain's penchant for Colonialism in subsequent centuries saw the spread of Anglicanism throughout the world, and its adherents now number in excess of 85 million. Anglicanism has nurtured a beautiful liturgical tradition as enshrined in The Book of Common Prayer, and an exceptional musical tradition that encompasses the great English hymns and the superb choral tradition exemplified in the English Cathedrals to this day.
Throughout the twentieth century, various quarters of Anglicanism began to reject universal historic Christian teaching and practice in areas such as contraception, divorce, ordination, abortion, and the historic Book of Common Prayer, leading some entire Anglican parishes and their clergy to perceive a call to be reunited with the Catholic Church from which their denomination had split over 400 years prior. Responding to these requests, in 1980 Blessed Pope John Paul II issued the Pastoral Provision, allowing married Anglican clergy to be ordained Catholic Priests, and for their parishes to retain significant portions of their beautiful liturgical and musical heritage that are consistent with Catholic faith and practice.
For various reasons, the Pastoral Provision took place on a limited scale; the only Bishops' Conference to implement it was in the United States, and within that scope, individual bishops could either allow or reject the presence of these married clergy and their parishes within their Dioceses. Happily, one Bishop who did allow it was Bishop Joseph Martino of the Diocese of Scranton, whom Anglican clergyman Fr. Eric Bergman approached in 2004 to discuss the possibility of founding a Pastoral Provision parish in Scranton. (Fr. Bergman had discerned a call to be reconciled to the Catholic Church, and half of his parishioners at the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd had approached him about coming with him.)
So it was that the St. Thomas More Society was founded in 2005, with Fr. Bergman (now a layman) as its Executive Director, under the Pastoral oversight of Msgr. William Feldcamp at nearby St. Clare Church. The newly formed congregation underwent nine months of catechesis with Fr. Charles Connor (widely known for his Church history teaching on EWTN), and were received into the Catholic Church on the eve of All Saints, October 31, 2005. For two years, several priests celebrated the Anglican Use Mass for the congregation as Fr. Bergman pursued studies for the Catholic Priesthood, culminating in his ordination in 2007.
With Fr. Bergman now its Chaplain, the St. Thomas More Society increasingly functioned as a freestanding congregation, though still under the watchful eye of Msgr. Feldcamp. The congregation underwent significant growth, both in former Anglicans reconciled to the Catholic Church, and in others of a variety of backgrounds who found themselves attracted to our worship and ministries. For several years we worshiped at St. Anthony of Padua Church in North Scranton, and returned to St. Clare upon the closure and sale of St. Anthony's.
Then, in 2009, Pope Benedict XVI issued a historic Apostolic Constitution, Anglicanorum Coetibus ("groups of Anglicans"), establishing a new worldwide structure for Anglican clergy and congregations to be reconciled to the Catholic Church, worshiping in their beloved liturgical and musical traditions and under their own leadership, sidestepping the hindrances that had caused the Pastoral Provision to take place on such a limited scale. Nationwide dioceses called "Ordinariates" were erected, each encompassing all the former Anglican parishes, clergy, and people within its boundaries, overseen by an "Ordinary" of the Pope's choosing (so called because a married man may not be a bishop). The Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham was erected in Britain in 2011 under former Anglican Bishop Msgr. Keith Newton, and the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter was erected in the United States and Canada in 2012 under former Anglican Bishop Msgr. Jeffrey Steenson.
On May 8, 2012, The St. Thomas More Society became St. Thomas More Catholic Church, the first Parish of the U.S. Ordinariate, with Fr. Bergman as its first Priest. Finally ending our nomadic existence in rented properties, on the same day we purchased the St. Joseph's Church property in the Providence neighborhood of Scranton, including the church, parish hall, rectory, school building, convent, and parking lot. We look forward to an exciting future as we continue to fulfill our mission of reconciling people of all walks of life to the Catholic Church through beautiful worship, authentic fellowship, robust teaching, compassionate outreach, and joy in sharing the Good News, an we are humbled to have been used by God as an instrument for attaining some small measure of the Christian unity for which our Lord prayed those two thousand years ago.
Some images couresy of David Castillo Dominici & foto76 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
St. Thomas More Catholic Parish | 116 Theodore Street, Scranton, PA 18508
570.343.0634 | www.stmscranton.org | firstname.lastname@example.org
Are you an open-minded seeker with questions about Truth, God, the Christian Faith, and the Catholic Church?
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