Father Michael Berner, a priest of the Diocese of Des Moines, Iowa, knows exactly what it's like to win $1 million, because it happened to him Aug. 20.
That was the day he
was a grand-prize winner in the Publishers Clearing House Sweepstakes.He got the news on live television, as is the company's fashion, and within 15 minutes several hundred people had gathered on the front lawn of the rectory at St. Joseph's parish in Earling, Iowa, where he is pastor and sole priest of the 268-family parish.
Last week, Publishers Clearing House brought Father Berner
and a priest friend, Father Thomas Crowley, to New York on an all-expenses-paid trip which all big winners receive.
found the crowd friendly, but a bit overwhelming, coming as he
does from a town of 400 people.
The highlight of his
week was a chance to concelebrate Sunday Mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral
with Cardinal O'Connor.He
had written the cardinal soon after learning of the trip and was pleased when the cardinal extended an invitation to drop by his
residence for breakfast before Mass.
"I admire the man very much, especially his
theological stance," Father Berner
The newfound money, payable over 30 years starting with an initial sum of $50,000 which he
already has received, has had one immediate effect.He
is now debt-free for the first time in a long while, having eliminated his
credit card bills and car payment all at once.He
plans to put part of his
winnings toward the installation of an air-conditioning system in St. Joseph's Church
is quick to explain in his
straightforward Midwest manner that the heat of the Iowa summers can be "one little ordeal."He's been pastor at St. Joseph's for two and a half years, and also served the parish as a transitional deacon.
Parishioners in the German-American farming community take their faith seriously, with an average of 75 people attending Mass each weekday morning.
"They're an absolute gift," he
said."They love the Church."He
truly sounds like a man who had discovered his
treasure before he
won the big prize.