Skip to comments.Priest turning 100 remains active in ministry
Posted on 07/27/2012 9:22:14 AM PDT by NYer
A few months after the Titanic sank in 1912, Monsignor Vincent J. Topper was born.
Like the Titanic, Topper came across as charming, strong and unsinkable.
Unlike the Titanic, Topper never sank.
A century after his birth, Topper is the oldest and longest-serving priest in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Harrisburg.
On July 28, the monsignor will mark his 100th birthday by celebrating Mass and enjoying breakfast with family and friends.
“My life has been the church,” said Topper, who for 13 years has lived and worked at St. Catherine Laboure Catholic Church rectory in Swatara Township. “I’ve always tried to bring the people closer to Christ.”
Topper, born in a family of seven children, has been close to Christ his entire life. He grew up one block from St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Hanover, where he served as an altar boy at nearly every daily Mass from third grade until high school.
By the time he was in second grade, he realized he had a vocation to the priesthood. He never swayed from that calling.
Topper’s life wasn’t easy. Three of the seven children in his family — and his mother — died of tuberculosis. His father almost died in the 1918 flu pandemic.
He attended St. Vincent’s Seminary in Latrobe from 1928 to 1936, when he was ordained a priest. He spent the next several decades serving as pastor or assistant pastor in several parishes. He helped found Holy Infant Catholic Church in York Haven in 1936.
He was assistant pastor at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church in Mount Carmel from 1943 to 1948; pastor at St. Joseph Church in Milton from 1950 to 1957, and pastor of St. Columba Catholic Church, Bloomsburg, from 1957 to 1963. He retired in 1977 from Saint Joseph Church in Springettsbury Township.
He said he’s always developed a close relationship with his parishioners.
Topper has lived through momentous changes in the Catholic Church, including celebrating the Mass in English, not Latin. When he was ordained, 85 percent of Catholics regularly attended Mass; now, only 30 percent to 35 percent do.
He said that the world tries to cast God out because he interferes with their pleasures.
“If you say I have to support something contrary to my faith, I can’t do that,” Topper said.
He emphasizes a “back to basics” approach that includes reverence for the sacredness of Mass, Catholic education and visiting parishioners to get to know them.
Topper celebrates several Masses each week, takes an active role in the ministry at St. Catherine Laboure and visits the sick and shut-ins.
“I’ve lived 100 years. Sometimes, the doctors say ‘What are you still doing here?’ I will die when God calls me.”
God bless you, Father! Happy Birthday!
No sense in saying God Bless him. God already has.
God Bless him anyway.
Amen! Amen! amen Amen!
May God continue to bless this good priest, and raise up many more like him!
Amen! What you said!
Just sent this story to my dad who will be 100 years old next February.