Very Reverend John B.
Bateman, V. F., Pastor
Installed June 21, 2009
Ordained May 18, 1996
PROFILE IN FAITH: Rev. John B. Bateman
Article from the Record Hearld June 2011
Please share a little bit about your career.
After high school, I tried to join the Air Force several times, but I was rejected. I applied for a scholarship to Penn State (my parishioners will love hearing me say that, because I’m an Ohio State fan), but I didn’t get it. So, I decided to major in recreational therapy and minor in gerontology at Temple University, where I graduated from in 1990. Instead of going the ROTC route, I took a job as director of activities in a nursing home that had 60 skilled nursing care and 40 independent living beds. There was one lady with Alzheimer’s, Grace (I do not believe her name was a coincidence), and every day at 3 p.m. she would come sit in my office, let out a big sigh and say, “Pastor, I’ve been at this church all day long. Can I go home now?” Her room was just next door, so I would take her “home.” With her thinking she was in church, and calling me “pastor,” God kept making sure I was being reminded not of what I wanted to do with my life, but what He wanted me to do with it.
I was ordained as a Roman Catholic priest on May 18, 1996, and installed at St. Andrew on June 21, 2009. I am very blessed to be here. This is a wonderful parish. I also served for three years as priest of St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church in Harrisburg. Also during that time, I was chaplain of Bishop McDevitt High School in Harrisburg. For four years, I was the priest at St. Joseph Catholic Church and chaplain of Delone Catholic High School, both in Hanover. For six years, I served two parishes at the same time, and each was the only parish in its county: Sacred Heart of Jesus in Mifflin County and St. Jude Thaddeus in Juniata County.
What do you like most about your work, and what do you like least?
What I tell people, is: I love being a priest; I hate being a boss. I enjoy being involved in the community, working with youth, being there for families. I don’t enjoy some things about administration — hiring, firing, office work — but I do the best I can because it’s necessary.
What is something about your work most people may not know?
Every day begins with about an hour of prayer. Without that, I’m not rooted for the day. I also mentor young men to help them become Catholic young gentlemen, in every sense of the word. We talk about how to eat, how to dress, how to treat young ladies and what vocation they are interested in. I am very involved in activities in Waynesboro, as well as the diocesan community (St. Andrew is part of the Diocese of Harrisburg). At Mount St. Mary’s Seminary, during the school year, we have six seminarians who come to work in our parish and school, and I help facilitate that.
I have tried to revitalize the parish through starting a number of ministries in the two years I’ve been here, including a bereavement committee to help families, a welcoming committee for people who are new to the parish or community and a committee that supports military families.
What two ministry memories stick with you most?
I remember the death of a parishioner’s 14-year-old son, who was killed in a car accident on the way home from a state wrestling tournament in Hershey. As soon as I heard about the accident, I went over to the family’s home and was crying with them. I just said, “There is nothing that I can say. So I’ll just pray.” And we prayed. A similar memory is being with the family of Judithann “Judy” Clement, a St. Andrew’s parishioner who died when her van was hit by a speeding car March 17 in Waynesboro, and just witnessing the amazing outpouring of love and support for her family.
At another parish, a group of high school boys were going to help me burn the palm for Ash Wednesday. For those who don’t know, Catholics traditionally burn the Palm Sunday palm fronds and use the resulting ashes on Ash Wednesday. Burning the palm creates nasty, black, gray, stinky, horrific smoke. Well, they were being boys. The neighbors saw them running around, and then they saw that awful smoke, and they called the fire department. The fire chief was a parishioner of mine, and he came and said, “Father, what are you doing?” I said, “Just burning the palm.” And he said, “Next time, call me!”
In a recent Pastor’s Pulpit, you wrote that you recently began the process of joining the Pennsylvania Air National Guard as a chaplain for the 193rd Special Operations Wing out of Harrisburg International Airport. How did that come about?
Early in my priesthood, I had friends in the first Iraq war and wanted to become a chaplain then, but the bishop said no, and in obedience, I did not pursue it any further. Then in December, the bishop’s aide sent an e-mail to priests saying there was a need for a chaplain with the 193rd, and I jumped on it. The bishop said that because I am a seasoned pastor in a stable parish, I could begin the process. I applied and have completed all my requirements so far, and I’m waiting on my commissioning, which I’m told should happen soon. The physical training is the same as for any airman. Once I am commissioned, I will head to commissioned officer training next May in Fort Jackson, S.C. As a chaplain, I am being trained for three main duties: suicide prevention, building strong marriages and dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder. That training is helping me, as I can bring those skills back into my parish. I’m shocked already at the doors this opens, at the points of connection I can make when I say I am working to be a military chaplain. When I started this process, I told my parish: “Just like any military family that sends someone off to war, as a parish family, you will need to make sacrifices during the time I am gone.” I spend one weekend a month with the airmen, and there is always a possibility I could be deployed.
Is there anything else you would like to share?
I really love being a priest! This is my 15th year, and every day is just a joy. It’s a wonderful gift of which I am not worthy. I am so grateful that God allows me to be His presence, to bring His presence, to other people. I love it here in Waynesboro — the small-town atmosphere, how safe it is, how friendly people are.
People sometimes lament that a priest cannot marry or have children. If, tomorrow, the pope changed that, I still wouldn’t choose to marry because, with the amount of time I need to be available to my parish, it would not be fair to a wife or children. I have more spiritual children than I could ever imagine, both young and old. I always tell people: Don’t pity me. I have made certain sacrifices, just like you make for your families every day.