HARRISBURG, Pa. -- On the day of his birth, July 28, 1912, Vincent Topper was expected to die. The newborn, suffering from tuberculosis, was baptized by a parish priest as his parents prepared to lose yet another child to the dreaded disease.
But God had plans for Vincent, namely that he serve the Catholic Church of Harrisburg as a priest, a ministry he has faithfully fulfilled for 75 years.
At age 98, Msgr. Topper is the diocese's oldest and longest-serving priest. He resides at St. Catherine Laboure Parish in Harrisburg, where he continues to celebrate Mass and administer the sacrament of reconciliation.
"People ask me what's my secret. My secret to a long life is to get baptized on the day you're born because you're supposed to die, and you'll live to be 100," said the priest quipped in an interview with The Catholic Witness, Harrisburg's diocesan newspaper.
Msgr. Topper's early childhood was filled with the reality of death. His mother and three siblings died, and his father nearly succumbed to the influenza epidemic of 1918. Those harsh realities led young Vincent to consider the priesthood by the time he was in second grade.