Bishop Ronald Gainer, working closely with the Priest Personnel Board for the Diocese of Harrisburg, announced June 29 the following changes to clergy assignments:
- Father John B. Bateman, from assignment with the Archdiocese for the Military Services to Administrator of Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish, Lancaster.
- Father David R. Hereshko, Administrator of Mary Gate of Heaven Parish, Myerstown, to Pastor of the parish.
- Father Jose Mera-Vallejos, Administrator of St. Benedict the Abbot Parish, Lebanon, to Pastor of the parish.
- Father Brian J. Wayne, Pastor of Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish, Lancaster, has been granted permission for a Leave of Absence for personal reasons.
These changes took effect on June 26.
Father Bateman and Father Mera-Vallejos spoke with The Witness about their assignments.
Father Bateman, who returned to the Diocese earlier this month after an eight-month chaplain assignment at the Al Dhafra Air Base in the United Arab Emirates, said he is looking forward to being a parish priest again. Prior to his most recent deployment and a three-month period working in the Diocesan Tribunal last fall, he had served in Rome for three years as Secretary to the Grand Master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem.
“It is awesome to be back home,” Father Bateman emphasized. “I’ve looked forward to this for a long time. My past two assignments have been really fantastic opportunities – Rome and the military deployment – but I am a parish priest at heart; that’s where I belong.
He said he spent some time adjusting to the “new normal” brought on by the pandemic, and was quarantined for 14 days after his arrival from the air base.
He missed being a parish priest, and his brother priests while away, he said.
“It truly is where my passion lies – serving the people of God in a parish. So I’ve missed that these four-plus years. But I’ve also missed my brother priests. There is a special bond between priests – a true brotherhood,” Father Bateman said. “We, in Harrisburg, have long been known for our priestly fraternity and I have missed it. I’m very blessed, and very grateful, that the priests in my Emmaus Group made it a point to keep in close contact all these years – we spoke every single week via social media – and as the COVID-19 Pandemic hit, we spoke twice a week. It was a great consolation to remain connected with my brother priests in this way.”
As administrator at Historic St. Mary’s in Lancaster, Father Bateman said he will be responsible to “keep the ship going forward,” making no innovations or major changes, and that he “looks forward to being with people in the Sacramental moments of their lives.”
Administrator of St. Benedict the Abbot Parish in Lebanon since 2017, Father Mera-Vallejos expressed his gratitude to serve the people there.
“We have great people in the parish, and I’m very happy to be a priest here,” he said.
“We have parishioners who enjoy celebrating their customs and cultures, from Puerto Rico, Guatemala, and the Dominican. The church is like a house or a second home to them, and they are so faithful in taking care of it,” Father Mera-Vallejos said.
“I’ve been part of their sacramental life, and they’ve welcomed me into their own lives, so I am very happy to continue to serve them,” he said.
Every year, Bishop Gainer, working with the Priest Personnel Board, makes assignment decisions for the Diocese’s clergy in an effort to meet the needs of the parishes and to fulfill the mission of the Church. Priests are selected for assignments based on a variety of factors, including local needs, their skills and experience, availability and health. Priests within the Diocese of Harrisburg can be reassigned for a number of reasons, including a request from the clergy member, an opening due to a retirement or death, or a clergy member has the skills and talents that are considered a good match for a specific ministry need.
By Jen Reed, The Catholic Witness