Saturday, August 11, 2018

The Group In Bath, PA

My regular correspondent has brought to my attention a biweekly DW mass that takes place at the Sacred Heart parish, Bath, PA. My correspondent says, "Bath has a population of fewer than 3,000 and I can hardly imagine that Sacred Heart has a lot of resources to share." In fact, I'm somewhat familiar with the area, which is known as the Cement Belt, located near Allentown-Bethlehem, PA, and while there are many Catholics, they tend to be blue-collar ethnics who work, or used to work, in the railroad, steel, and mining industries. It's hard to imagine upscale Anglicans in Bath, but someone may be able to correct me.

The biweekly DW mass in Bath does not appear on either the OCSP Find a Parish feature on its site or on the Anglicanorum Coetibus Society map. The history of this group is puzzling. As best my regular correspondent can determine, the group began in January 2014 as a venue for Fr Richard Rojas, who was ordained a priest in the OCSP in 2013 while serving as a military chaplain in Guam. He had been a Presbyterian pastor who subsequently joined the Anglican communion (although I assume this was not a denomination in communion with Canterbury).

My correspondent notes that Fr Rojas was in fact able to switch denominations twice while a chaplain with no interruption to his military career. However, once ordained in the OCSP, he remained in Guam only three months before moving to Scranton, where he and his family lived in the former convent on the STM, Scranton property for a little over a year before he was excardinated to the Diocese of Scranton.

During this time, he celebrated the DW mass at Sacred Heart, Bath. At one time there was a website for the Bath group, but since it appears on neither the OCSP map nor the Anglicanorum Coetibus Society map, there appears not to have been much sustained interest or enthusiasm. In any case, Fr Rojas no longer serves the group, having become administrator of the Immaculate Heart of Mary parish in Dushore, PA.

Now Fr Bergman travels to Bath twice a month for the 5PM DW mass and social hour. However, this requires that a local priest from the Diocese of Scranton celebrate the 7PM Sunday mass at STM. I assume the local priest receives a stipend. My regular correspondent notes,

Whatever Fr Bergman's limitations he is totally committed to the Ordinariate enterprise. Fr Rojas on the other hand seems to have used it merely to parlay his career into a congenial place.

Bp Lopes will be visiting the congregation in Bath, PA this month. My correspondent speculates that he may wish to evaluate the future of the community. The new administrator of Sacred Heart has already canceled an EF mas that had been held there.

I can only conclude that this case illustrates the desultory and unstable nature of so many marginal OCSP communities, and it also carries with it a troubling suggestion of opportunism among clergy who come into the OCSP, no matter how marginal their Anglican connections, along with the willingness of the ordinaries to enable it.