My name is William Bergmann, and I’m pleased that I’ll be serving St. Mark’s, Westford, and Trinity Chapel in Shirley as your bridge priest. I live in Ayer with my wife Maria, an Army brat, born at the old Ft. Devens Hospital. (Although growing up, her family was stationed in a number of places, Ayer was always home, and when her dad retired, her family returned here). A second marriage for both of us, we will celebrate our twenty-fifth anniversary in October.
I was born in Syracuse, New York, where my father was finishing the first of a few master's degrees. When I was still a baby, my family (mother, father, and two older sisters who are identical twins) moved to Chicago as my father took a job at Abbott Laboratories. I grew up in the Chicago area, mostly in Waukegan. My dad was a cradle Episcopalian and my mother a Methodist, but she would become an Episcopalian, being confirmed, in fact, at the same service when I was confirmed. Needless to say, the Church was a central part of our family life: my dad served on the vestry and as a Senior Warden, singing in the choir and serving on the Diocesan Council; my mom served on the altar guild; and my sisters participating in the youth group and volunteering in the nursery. Being a rather hyperactive kid with more than a bit of ADHD, I admit that I hated church until I was old enough to be confirmed and to become an acolyte. The beauty and movement within the liturgy, wearing vestments ( a cassock and cotta) gave me a way to connect with God and the worship and the Church came alive for me, which is one of the central reasons I encourage children to be in church for worship and to be involved wherever they can.
I first felt a call to ordained ministry when I was a teenager, but a wise older priest strongly encouraged me to pursue “anything else” before answering that call. I earned my undergraduate degree at the Loyola University of Chicago in Pre-med studies and worked while in college and a couple of years after for a home healthcare agency. That sense of a call to priesthood became increasingly irresistible. I applied and was accepted to Nashotah House Theological Seminary in Wisconsin. Upon graduation, I was ordained a Deacon, then a Priest in the Diocese of Chicago in 1979.
My Bishop, James Winchester Montgomery, appointed me to serve as the curate at St. Paul’s Church in DeKalb, Illinois, and as Chaplain to Northern Illinois University when I was ordained to the diaconate and priesthood. (My father, who I mentioned earlier, presented me for ordination to the priesthood on December 8, 1979. The next day, presiding at Eucharist for the first time, I baptized my only son, Nathan. Just two weeks later, I would preside at my first funeral, that of my father, who died suddenly and unexpectedly on Christmas Eve).
In 1981, I became the Vicar of St Ann’s Church in Woodstock, Illinois (a lovely town you have seen if you ever watched the movies “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles” with Steve Martin and John Candy or “Groundhog Day” with Bill Murray, both of which were filmed there). I was the eighteenth or so priest in its forty-nine-year history, and I became its first rector. In 1988, I accepted a call to become the Rector of Trinity Church, Northport, NY, in the Diocese of Long Island. While it was a lovely Church in a beautiful town, I succeeded a rector who had served there for thirty-seven years, and I soon discovered that I was the interim priest the parish never had. As an act of self-care, I took classes at a local Roman Catholic Seminary ( the Seminary of the Immaculate Conception), where I earned an additional Masters's Degree in Ethics. This chapter led me to pursue a doctoral degree which brought me to Massachusetts and to the Boston University School of Theology.
While I was licensed to serve in the Diocese of Massachusetts, I made a variety of clerical missteps (no reference to clergy but “clerical” in the sense of office documentation and administration); I did not serve any parishes in the Diocese of Massachusetts. A fellow priest, also pursuing his doctorate, suggested I call the diocesan office in Springfield, and after a wonderful meeting with Bp Robert Denig, I ended up serving a number of interim positions in Western Massachusetts, where I have been and remain canonically resident. Since I was still at the School of Theology at BU; serving as a teaching assistant and as Head of Public Service in the STH Library; I served several different parishes as a part-time assistant, interim, and supply priest before returning to full-time ministry twenty years ago.
I served as the Priest in Charge at the Chapel of All Saints in the Whalom area of Leominster for several years before becoming the Rector of the Church of the Good Shepherd in Clinton, where I served for fifteen years. Over the years, I was active in both diocesan and community affairs, including serving as Dean of the North Worcester Deanery; as a Member of the Diocesan Board of Examining Chaplains; as Ecumenical and Interreligious Officer of the DioWMA and as the Province One Chair of Episcopal Ecumenical and Interreligious Officers; and as a Board Member of the Mass Council of Churches; and as a member of the Transitions Committee for the DIOWMA Committee for the Election and Consecration of A Bishop in 2012. I retired from full-time ministry in 2018.
Truly loving being a priest, I have continued to serve the Church as a Supply Priest and as an Interim. When the Rector of St Mark’s in Leominster retired in 2019, I eagerly returned to serve as the part-time Interim since it was the first parish I served when I came to Massachusetts and since Maria and I were married there. Of course, the COVID pandemic transformed that six to twelve-month position into more than three years, leading me to suggest that the vestry should change my official title to “The Vicar of Gillian’s Island.” All kidding aside, it was a wonderful experience and deepened my commitment to helping parishes in transition continue to function, grow, and live as the Body of Christ while growing into the future God has prepared for all of us. I look forward to our life and work together.