Prayerfully and joyously welcomed into St. Patrick Cathedral for his installation Mass as the 11th bishop of the diocese of Harrisburg on Wednesday, Bishop Ronald Gainer held up St. Joseph -- whose feast the church celebrated that day -- as "a challenging example" for the members of the church.
Speaking of Joseph's designation as a "just man," Gainer said the description of the saint goes far beyond his decision to take Mary into his home, as was recounted in the day's Gospel.
Celebrating Mass just a few miles from the hallowed grounds of its Civil War battlefields, New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan called Gettysburg "a shrine and a sanctuary" to which pilgrims journey with "a deep sense of honor, awe, reverence, patriotism and gratitude."
Dolan, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, celebrated the outdoor Mass on Saturday on the grounds of Xavier Center, home to the parish center and parochial school of St. Francis Xavier Parish in the diocese of Harrisburg.
HARRISBURG, Pa. -- On the day of his birth, July 28, 1912, Vincent Topper was expected to die. The newborn, suffering from tuberculosis, was baptized by a parish priest as his parents prepared to lose yet another child to the dreaded disease.
But God had plans for Vincent, namely that he serve the Catholic Church of Harrisburg as a priest, a ministry he has faithfully fulfilled for 75 years.
At age 98, Msgr. Topper is the diocese's oldest and longest-serving priest. He resides at St. Catherine Laboure Parish in Harrisburg, where he continues to celebrate Mass and administer the sacrament of reconciliation.
"People ask me what's my secret. My secret to a long life is to get baptized on the day you're born because you're supposed to die, and you'll live to be 100," said the priest quipped in an interview with The Catholic Witness, Harrisburg's diocesan newspaper.
Msgr. Topper's early childhood was filled with the reality of death. His mother and three siblings died, and his father nearly succumbed to the influenza epidemic of 1918. Those harsh realities led young Vincent to consider the priesthood by the time he was in second grade.