by Gordon Nary
Gordon: What colleges did you attend and what degrees have you earned?
Bishop Bryan: Like most clergy in the Independent Sacramental Movement (ISM), I have a rather complicated educational history. After graduating high school in Orlando, Florida, I took a few years off to travel and find myself spiritually. I guess you could say that I was going through a spiritual identity crisis, gravitating somewhere between that of being an atheist and an agnostic. It was during this time, however, that I had a profound spiritual experience that led me to discover my vocation to the Catholic priesthood. I was baptized Roman Catholic as an infant, but my family was not very religious, so we almost never attended Mass. I did attend a Catholic middle school, but religious observance was not really encouraged or required there. As you can probably imagine, a call from God like this, to a person like me, was rather surprising and a bit terrifying. This means that I worked very hard to run from it, as much as I could, until I couldn’t ignore it any further.
Over time and with a lot of prayer, I developed my vocation further by exploring contemplative monasticism (first the Cistercians and then the Carthusians). After going on several Cistercian retreats as a postulant, and even though I loved the monastic life, I felt God was calling me to active ministry. I explored this with both the Archdiocese of Chicago and the Diocese of Palm Beach, Florida, finally settling on the Diocese of Palm Beach. I was accepted by the bishop at the time and was sent to St. John Vianney Seminary in Miami. This would be short-lived, however, due to certain irreconcilable differences, not so much with the theology or the seminary, as much as it was with me being a very complicated person, trying to fit into a very rigid system.
I left seminary with the intention to put myself through undergraduate school and return to the major seminary in Boynton Beach, Florida, St. Vincent de Paul (a place I felt I would be more compatible with, due to some positive retreats I had there in the past). I enrolled at Palm Beach Atlantic University and graduated Magna Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology, minoring
During my freshmen to junior years, I also served as the RCIA teacher for my parish and developed a close friendship with a Pastor Emeritus from another parish in another diocese who had retired to Palm Beach. He knew about my vocation, my spiritual difficulties, and my inability to fit in at the minor seminary. He then took it upon himself to mentor me directly in Catholic theology, liturgical form, and exorcism ministry (what he termed spiritual problem resolution) in the evenings, while I completed my degree in psychology during the day. He was a profoundly educated man and he felt he could more than make up for any lack of religious education I failed to receive by not attending minor seminary; and he was right! What he taught me during those years would be more useful and complete than any formal program I either accomplished or could have entered.
But even with this incredible support system, I was still drowning spiritually inside and as my senior year approached, I found myself continuing to struggle with my vocation, my spirituality and my ministerial direction. It was at this time that I made two very difficult choices. First, I enrolled in a Master of Education program at my university (I liked teaching and felt this might be a good way to make a living) and I also started exploring Buddhism, which through some colleagues of mine at the time, led me to enroll at the University of Sedona to study New Thought, Religious Syncretism, and Metaphysics. While not accredited programs like the psychology and education programs were at Palm Beach Atlantic, I found them to be what I personally needed to ‘find’ myself spiritually. There, I was ordained a metaphysician and was awarded the ministerial degrees of Bachelor of Metaphysical Science, a Master of Metaphysical Science, and a Doctor of Philosophy in Metaphysics.
My work in this arena became so engaging that I quickly lost interest in the field of education and my former life as a Catholic seminarian. I completed the credit hours, but was never awarded the Masters degree in Education because I never completed the student teaching requirement. It was at this point that I was working in Intensive Case Management with psychotic disorders at the local mental health facility during the day and was helping people with their spiritual problems at night. From there, my vocation would rest dormant until it returned with a vengeance many years later, leading to my eventual consecration in the ISM.
Gordon: Where did you study religion and what was the most interesting course that you took, and why was it so interesting?
Bishop Bryan: Because the financial resources of independent sacramental churches are so limited when compared to the larger conventional establishment of the Roman Catholic Church, religious education is handled much differently in our system. Formal education is recommended, but sometimes not even required. Mentorship is the primary educational facilitation and one’s bishop decides when one is ready to take an office within the church. I, personally, find this approach to be disappointing and problematic, as I often encounter many priests (even bishops) who are not sufficiently educated in theological matters, at least not to the degree that a bishop requires. But it is born out of necessity and at least there is some historical foundation to it as this is no doubt how the early church operated.
Fortunately, I had a great deal of Roman Catholic support from the priest who mentored me and many others, including my own bishop who presided at my ordination to priesthood and subsequent consecration to the episcopacy. Whatever aspects my accredited education failed to prepare me for in ministry, this mentorship, combined with my ministerial education at Sedona, more than filled in.
I would say the most interesting course I took was the Fundamentals of Buddhism. Strange as I am sure it would sound to most Catholics/Christians, my Christianity only started to make sense to me after I studied Buddhism and practiced it for many years.
Gordon: Please provide an overview of your work with clients suffering from schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and traumatic brain injury.
Bishop Bryan: Soon after graduating university, I took a position with a local mental health facility counseling many patients who had been actively diagnosed with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Because many of them had come under our care by legal order, my primary responsibility was to assess their progress and rehabilitate them into a [mostly] independent way of life. Some of our clients had other psychological and neurological problems like traumatic brain injury. My role was always to act as an advocate for them to their medical doctors or even to the court. While it was a very stressful job, the experience it provided proved indispensable for where God would lead me to next.
Gordon: Please provide our readers with an overview of your current responsibilities with the Holy Nicholean Catholic Church and the Old Roman Catholic Sacred Order of St. Michael the Archangel.
Bishop Bryan: I currently serve as the Presiding Bishop of the Holy Nicholean Catholic Church and the Lead Exorcist for the Atlanta Division of the Old Roman Catholic Sacred Order of St. Michael the Archangel (Order of Exorcists). As the Presiding Bishop, I lead and administrate the Nicholean Catholic tradition, which is an autocephalous independent esoteric Catholic church inspired by early Christianity in union with the Old Catholic Church through its affiliation with the Order of St. Michael the Archangel. The Holy Nicholean Catholic Church was established in 2011 by a conglomeration of several Roman Catholics, Russian Orthodox, Independent Catholics, and even a few non-Christians to become a successfully working example of a unified (eastern and western) non-dogmatic Christianity, something they all felt could benefit the people of this age. I was commissioned by these founders with the Patriarchal responsibility of leading the tradition and my first order of business was to establish its outreach and purpose. I decreed that the Nicholean tradition would be at its heart a teaching ministry through a semi-monastic and mystical focus. We have continued to maintain this mission by offering an online Mass on our YouTube channel [NicholeanTV] along with an entertaining podcast: Vestiges After Dark.
As Lead Exorcist, I am responsible for assessing, investigating, and resolving the cases that we receive of alleged demonic and/or paranormal activity. My office receives cases from all over the world, but we mostly investigate cases within the fifty states of the United States of America.
Gordon: What interested you in serving as an exorcist and approximately how many exorcisms have you performed?
Bishop Bryan: I honestly had no interest whatsoever in becoming an exorcist. I wanted to realize my vocation to priesthood in more of a basic pastoral sense, baptizing babies, marrying couples, offering absolution, and serving the Mass. It was only when large numbers of people were coming to us as a “last resort,” in a state of absolute desperation, that I fully understood [at long last] what God was calling me to do. These were individuals from all walks of life, from all different Christian denominations and religions, looking for release from what they believed was the hold of a demonic entity. Those that had a pastor said that their pastors either didn’t know what to do or didn’t believe them. Some were being sent to us from other churches, even Roman Catholic parishes. So, it was in light of all of this suffering that I did what I felt obligated as a bishop to do and that was put to use the extensive and unique mentorship experience I was given. That, combined with my mental health background, allowed me to do what I needed to do to try and help them. And that’s what we did, as a church, and miraculously, by the hand of Christ, they were healed of their afflictions. Word apparently got out and more started coming to us until now we have hundreds upon hundreds of cases coming in each year with no means to help them all.
I’ve performed hundreds of minor exorcisms (more than I can remember), but only a handful of solemn exorcisms. True demonic possession is rare and for most people, a solemn blessing, the Sacrament of the Sick, the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and a minor exorcism (if absolutely required) is all that is needed to start them on the path to healing.
Gordon: Please share with our readers an overview of the process of exorcism.
Bishop Bryan: No one process is the same for everyone. We draft a unique treatment plan based upon the individual circumstances involved. But for most, the process first requires a medical and psychological profile conducted by a medical doctor and mental health professional. If these medical reports come back inconclusive or if conventional treatment is failing and there is no good reason for it to do so, we will then explore further into the case. Most of our clients have fallen victim to spiritual apathy, so our job is always to instruct them in the importance of returning to the Church, receiving the Sacraments, and engaging in prayer. We never try to collect our clients into becoming Nicholean Catholics. We always prefer that they return to their churches of origin. Some may even find it ironic if they knew just how many people our ministry brought back to the Roman Catholic Church.
If the usual pastoral methods fail to produce a remarkable improvement, we will then proceed with a stronger approach. Often times, hearing a confession and offering absolution is all that it takes to break the demonic attachment. Sometimes a solemn blessing is more than enough. But in a handful of cases, exorcism is required. This is usually a minor exorcism conducted either on a person, an object, or on the environment itself. Solemn exorcism, the full Rite of Exorcism, which takes hours to confer and can take weeks or even years to fully complete, is reserved for only those few souls who have reached an integration point with a fallen angel.
Gordon: Do people who have been exorcised ever suffer any aftereffects of exorcism?
Bishop Bryan: As would be expected with any trauma (and demonic attachment is very traumatic), there are almost always long-lasting negative psychological, emotional, (and even sometimes) physical ramifications. We prefer to take a holistic approach to this work by encouraging conventional psychological counseling throughout the entire process. We find the most successful cases follow the model of maintaining their medical care, psychological treatment, and pastoral obligations by returning to the Church.
Gordon: How is Saint Michael the Archangel associated with exorcism?
Bishop Bryan: St. Michael primarily gets his patronage against Satan through his mention in Revelation Chapter 12. Interestingly enough, the only true minor exorcism approved by the Church for use by the laity is the St. Michael Prayer. So, it goes without saying, St. Michael is a wonderful ally in this work. But of course, we are all but mere facilitators, St. Michael and myself included. Jesus Christ is the exorcist. We are simply the instruments of his Grace.
Gordon: Thank you for a fascinating. Interview.