Dear Friends in Christ,

On December 1, I returned from a weeklong trip to Rome, along with the bishops of Pennsylvania and New Jersey. We had just completed our ad limina visit during which every bishop provides a report the Holy See on the state of the Diocese entrusted to his care, celebrates Mass in the four great basilicas of Rome and has the privilege of meeting with our Holy Father. Needless to say, our visit, highlighted by a two and a half hour conversation with Pope Francis, proved to be challenging, encouraging and hopeful, not only for us as bishops but also for our priests and the faithful people who make up the Church in the United States.

Pope Francis attends the unveiling of a large bronze statue titled, “Angels Unawares,” by Canadian artist Timothy Schmalz, in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican Sept. 29, 2019. The statue depicts a group of migrants and refugees on a boat. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

During our few days in Rome, like every visitor, I found myself walking across the great piazza in front of Saint Peter’s Basilica, at times overwhelmed by the splendor of that space and at others, simply rushing from one meeting to the next. Whenever I was fortunate enough to pause and reflect a bit on where I stood and why, I couldn’t help but focus upon a massive, new statue installed in the piazza by Pope Francis, entitled “Angels Unawares.”

The statue, the first to be installed in Saint Peter’s Square in over 400 years, is a 20-foot-long and 12-foot-high bronze and clay work of art depicting 140 immigrants of different cultures, faiths and ethnicities. The artist, Timothy Schmalz, took inspiration from pictures of refugees and immigrants throughout history — from persecuted Jews to Christians fleeing the Middle East, from Irish escaping the potato famine to Poles running from communism. Mary, Joseph and Jesus are also hidden among the figures. At the center of the crowd of 140 immigrants, the same number as the saintly figures topping the colonnade surrounding the piazza, are a pair of wings directed at the sky. The angel wings hearken to the title of the artwork, “Angels Unawares,” which is taken directly from Hebrews 13:2: “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.”

In a very literal way, the artwork challenged me to appreciate all that was taking place in the bustling piazza that I crossed several times a day during my few days in Rome. I found myself walking side by side with religious sisters, cardinals, tourists, shopkeepers and workers. And interspersed among all of us were the poor – beggars looking for a few coins – immigrants seeking a place to rest – angels in our midst – of whom we all seemed to be unaware. God with us!

Therein, my friends, lies the heart of what we celebrate at Christmas. When our need for a savior was great, God broke through the heavens and sent his son, Jesus, into our midst to give us hope and a way forward in life.

It was hardly by accident that God chose to have his son born into poverty amid a broken and hostile world. For human nature being what it is, regardless of the technological and scientific advances that have consumed our lives over the past two millennia and in particular, in the last few decades, we need the presence of God in our lives more than ever. People continue to war one with another. Terrorism and the consequences of hatred are rampant in all corners of the globe, including our own. Self-centeredness and pride tear apart relationships with those we love. Our Church continues to deal with the tragic consequences of the behavior of some of its very own leaders who abused the most innocent among us. The treasured gift of life is increasingly disregarded, especially in the unborn, the poor, disabled and elderly. And immigrants and refugees seeking a better life are still so often forced to the margins of society by discrimination, bigotry and hatred.

Pope Francis greets children as he leads a special audience for patients and workers of Rome’s Bambino Gesu children’s hospital. The audience was in Paul VI hall at the Vatican Nov. 16, 2019. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

Yet, in a world that seems to have gone awry due to a lack of respect for lives that are made in the very image of the Christ whose birth we celebrate, we have reason to hope. Through the wonder of the incarnation, God is in our midst and Jesus walks among us – especially in the poor. In his apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis reminds us of this reality, “We are called to find Christ in the poor, to lend our voice to their causes, but also to be their friends, to listen to them, to speak for them and to embrace the mysterious wisdom which God wishes to share with us through them.”

When all is said and done, we are all poor in one way or another, aren’t we? Some of us are poor because of a lack of resources. Many of us are poor due to a lack of welcome, due to unfair judgment by others, and due to loneliness that comes from a lack of love and forgiveness. On our own, we will never be able to provide ourselves with the meaning, purpose and peace that each of us so desperately seeks in life.

Yet, when we are humble enough to open our hearts to the presence of God, to admit our need for a Savior and to, in turn, follow the pattern of Jesus’ life in service of our sisters and brothers, we discover just how rich we are. Through the grace of God, each of us is given the power to discover authentic love and a reason to hope. … And if we look carefully enough at our lives, we will surely recognize the presence of angels, even if the rest of our world is unaware of their presence.

Thank you for the privilege of walking with you in faith as your Bishop. Thank you as well for reflecting the presence of Christ within your lives and for respecting Christ’s presence in the lives of those whom God has entrusted to your care.

With prayers for a blessed Christmas, I am

Faithfully yours in Christ,
Most Rev. Joseph C. Bambera, D.D., J.C.L.
Bishop of Scranton

 

 

While many people regard the days leading up to Christmas as a joyful time, for some it can be very stressful and even a time of great struggle.

As a result, Saint John Neumann Parish, Nativity of Our Lord Church, will offer its first “Blue Christmas Mass” on Christmas morning, Dec. 25, at 9:30 a.m.

“We read about it in some other places and we as a team sat down and said, ‘Should we do this?’ and we all said yes,” Rev. Michael Bryant, pastor, said.

The Blue Christmas Mass will be a Mass for people and their family or friends who might feel at odds with – or estranged from – the general feeling of joy and happiness at this time of year.

“It’s not necessarily people that are in deep depression but it’s people remembering that they’ve lost loved ones who are not going to be around this year, it’s people who are struggling to make ends meet financially or it’s people who are trying to take care of an ill parent or child who has a chronic disease,” Rev. Bryant said.

The Mass will seek to comfort people by reminding them that they are not alone. While the Mass will still focus on Christmas itself, the birth of Christ, organizers hope to emphasize God’s hope and joy.

“It is open to anyone,” Rev. Bryant said. “It’s Christmas. Our theme this year has been HOPE so we want to emphasize that there is hope for all of God’s people!” Rev. Bryant added.

The music for the Mass is still being finalized, but it is expected to be mellow, relaxing and peaceful without triumphant organ fanfares or majestic hymns.

Saint John Neumann Parish, Nativity of Our Lord Church, is located at 633 Orchard Street in South Scranton.

For more information, please contact Saint John Neumann Parish at (570) 344-6159 or check out the parish website at stjnparish.org or its Facebook page.

 

Pope Francis greets Bishop Joseph C. Bambera of Scranton, Pa., during a meeting with U.S. bishops from New Jersey and Pennsylvania in the Apostolic Palace at the Vatican Nov. 28, 2019. The bishops were making their “ad limina” visits to the Vatican to report on the status of their dioceses to the pope and Vatican officials. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

While many families in northeastern and north central Pennsylvania spent Thanksgiving discussing football and politics over turkey dinner, Bishop Joseph C. Bambera was in Rome for a two-and-a-half-hour meeting with Pope Francis.

The meeting, which involved all of the bishops of Pennsylvania and New Jersey, was an important part of the bishops’ “ad limina” visit.

“He was welcoming, he was disarming in terms of his ordinary, simple demeanor, he was funny, he was extremely well-versed on our situation locally and was very encouraging,” Bishop Bambera said reflecting on the meeting with the Holy Father.

Pope Francis greeted the bishops by saying “Happy Thanksgiving” at the beginning of their discussion. He then encouraged them to ask questions, offer observations or seek input on any situation they wanted to.

The wide-ranging conversation focused on topics including the clerical sexual abuse scandal, ways to be responsive to survivors of sexual abuse and the decreasing number of Catholics in many parts of the East Coast.

“He was very, very in tune to where we are,” Bishop Bambera said.

At the time of the meeting on Nov. 28, Pope Francis had just returned from a weeklong trip to Thailand and Japan. Bishop Bambera said the Holy Father’s comments were very much “like a father.”

“He challenged us, in the best way, to be sensitive to our priests because of what they’re dealing with on the front lines,” Bishop Bambera said. “He encouraged us to be supportive of them and all our people.”

Bishop Bambera says one of the main themes, woven into many of Pope Francis’ comments, was the notion of synodality.

“He was encouraging us to face decision-making and our future in a collaborative way with our people, in a thoughtful and discerning matter and really to encourage us to engage the entire people of God,” Bishop Bambera said.

The bishop was glad to see that synodality is a topic that is important to Pope Francis.

“I found that very, very encouraging. It reflects a lot of the agenda that we’ve set forth for our own Diocese and the vision that we put forward in my pastoral letter when I first started ten years ago as bishop,” he added.

AD LIMINA VISIT PURPOSE

The bishops’ meeting with Pope Francis came during their visits “ad limina apostolorum” – to the threshold of the apostles.

As the “Directory for the ‘Ad Limina’ Visit” makes clear, the bishops’ visits are a pilgrimage with a “very definite purpose: that is, the strengthening of their own responsibility as successors of the Apostles and of their hierarchical communion with the Successor of Peter.”

Throughout November, December, January and February, a total of 15 groups of U.S. bishops will travel to Rome; the visits should conclude Feb. 22 with the bishops of the Eastern Catholic churches in the United States.

At the heart of the bishops’ pilgrimage are Masses at the Rome basilicas of Saint Peter, Saint Paul Outside the Walls, Saint John Lateran and Saint Mary Major.

Bishop Bambera’s visit to Rome Nov. 25 – Nov. 30 was his second ad limina pilgrimage. He was joined by Monsignor Thomas M. Muldowney, V.G., Vicar General of the Diocese of Scranton and Moderator of the Curia.

The U.S. bishops’ last “ad limina” visits were eight years ago, in 2011-2012.

“It really does challenge you. It gives you the opportunity to step aside for a time to reflect upon what you’re called to do and be as a bishop,” Bishop Bambera said.

For Bishop Bambera, the Masses at the basilicas of Saint Peter and Saint Paul Outside the Walls held special meaning.

“Those Masses were powerful moments to reflect upon the gift of faith and the call of Jesus to follow after Him. They afforded all of us the opportunity to think about Saint Paul and the message that he preached and proclaimed beyond Jerusalem to the whole Mediterranean world and Saint Peter, the one to whom Jesus entrusted the leadership of the Church!” Bishop Bambera said.

The bishop added that being in those locations was both inspiring and humbling.

“In reflecting upon the great gift of our Catholic faith and the beginnings of our Church, you realize that for all of our brokenness and imperfections, you are a tiny part of something that has touched our world for 2,000 years and continues to provide hope and meaning to people everywhere!” the bishop added.

MEETINGS WITH HOLY SEE OFFICES

In addition to the meeting with Pope Francis and celebrating Masses at the four basilicas, Bishop Bambera also participated in numerous meetings at various offices of the Roman Curia.

The offices that the bishops met with included: Laity, Family and Life; Christian Unity; Congregation for Clergy and the Protection of Minors, among many others.

“The meetings were markedly different,” Bishop Bambera said, comparing them to his first ad limina experience. “They were engaging meetings that acknowledged the challenges and opportunities that we face as leaders of Dioceses and suggested how we can best respond to the needs of the people God has entrusted to our care.”

Prior to arriving in Rome, the bishops of every diocese prepare detailed reports on the life of the Catholic Church in their region.

With 13 total dioceses represented between Pennsylvania and New Jersey, Bishop Bambera said many of the dioceses are facing similar challenges.

“They clearly understood what is going on in New Jersey and Pennsylvania,” the bishop said.

REALIZING THE UNIVERSALITY OF THE CHURCH

With Bishop Bambera now back home in the Diocese, he has been able to reflect on the meaning of his pilgrimage.

“It helps me realize the universality of the Church,” Bishop Bambera said.

While many people experience faith in their individual parishes, the bishop said there is so much to celebrate globally.

“We are a part of this incredible reality of faith that has grown and flourished from the tiniest of roots in the Middle East 2,000 years ago and touches this whole world and we realize how much we are all alike and how much we are all struggling and looking for the same meaning and purpose and hope in our lives,” he said.

Bishop Bambera said a new sculpture in Saint Peter’s Square helped showcase that for him.

Pope Francis attends the unveiling of a large bronze statue titled, “Angels Unawares,” by Canadian artist Timothy Schmalz, in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican Sept. 29, 2019. The statue depicts a group of migrants and refugees on a boat. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

On Sept. 29, Timothy P. Schmalz’s sculpture on the theme of refugees and migration, “Angels Unawares,” was unveiled on the occasion of the World Day of Migrants and Refugees. The artwork was the first to be added to Saint Peter’s Square in 400 years.

The 20-foot-long and 12-foot-high bronze and clay statue depicts 140 immigrants of different cultures, faiths and ethnicities.

“I think it is extremely meaningful,” the bishop said. “Forever, people have been searching for something more. That search began with Jesus, Mary and Joseph fleeing into Egypt, immigrants, refugees in a foreign land.”

As he traveled around Saint Peter’s Square, Bishop Bambera reflected upon the presence of God in the people he encountered.

“Wherever you walk, especially around the Vatican, you see beggars looking for help. It struck me that, there is something sacred about their presence. You realize that God is present not just in the places that you’d think most obvious, the big magnificent church buildings, as beautiful and as meaningful as they are to our faith tradition,” Bishop Bambera explained. “Pope Francis, in a very unique way, has reminded us time and again that God is very much present in these simple souls who are wandering about and in the people who put a coin in their cup. Being a part of that exchange touched me deeply, more than ever before.”

 

On June 14, Bishop Joseph C. Bambera will celebrate a Wedding Anniversary Mass at 2:30 p.m. in the Cathedral of Saint Peter, Scranton, for couples celebrating their 25th or 50th year of marriage in 2020.

This is an occasion to recognize the role married couples play in the Church’s mission to bring God’s faithful love into the world.  Couples will have the opportunity to renew their commitment to marriage and to receive a blessing on their marriage from the Bishop.

A reception will follow in the Diocesan Pastoral Center, where anniversary couples will be able to have their picture taken with the Bishop.

Eligible couples should give their names and an April mailing address to their parish office before March 16.  Parish lists are due to the Office for Parish Life by March 23.

 

As she navigated tables filled with toys, Chary Isley was on a mission.

The mother of 11 children was looking to make Christmas special for each one of them.

Isley joined hundreds of other parents on Tuesday, Dec. 17, at the University of Scranton for a Christmas toy distribution put together by Catholic Social Services of the Diocese of Scranton and Friends of the Poor.

“Without this, there wouldn’t be much of a Christmas,” Isley admitted as she navigated a table of sporting goods. “Between bills and your normal life, Christmas just adds onto it.”

Isley couldn’t express enough thankfulness to all of the individuals, parishes, schools and groups, including the U.S. Marines Toys for Tots, which helped collect the toys.

“It is so appreciated. I can’t even express how thankful I am,” Isley said.

Mandy Delonti of Jermyn agrees.

As she shopped for toys for her three-year-old daughter, Delonti was almost overcome by the kindness of strangers.

“It’s a wonderful thing that all these people come together and have an abundance of things for the children,” Delonti said.

Like many young girls, Delonti’s daughter loves princesses so she was able to get several “Frozen” items to go under the tree.

“She brought the holiday back in my life. I didn’t have the holiday for a long, long time. I lost most of my family so she is my Christmas!” Delonti said. “Hopefully one of these days, when I get back on my feet, I can be part of how this (toy distribution) happens instead of being on the receiving end.”

Throughout the third week of December, Catholic Social Services of the Diocese of Scranton helps bring the magic of Christmas to thousands of families throughout northeastern Pennsylvania.

Brooke Fetsock of Scranton has helped volunteer at the Scranton toy distribution for the last three years. She loves getting to interact with the parents and learn about their children.

“One woman I helped today was so excited to shop for her kids and get the presents and so excited to go home and wrap them and she was so happy. She smiled the whole time. She actually started to cry a little because of how happy she was,” Fetsock said.

The toy distribution in Scranton on Tuesday followed a similar distribution that took place in Wilkes-Barre on Monday, Dec. 16. In Wilkes-Barre, the toy distribution was organized through the Saint Vincent de Paul Kitchen and held at Saint Mary’s Church of the Immaculate Conception.

“I love it,” said Krystal Jenceleski of Plymouth, who was able to select toys for her four children. “This makes it so much easier for Christmas, especially for big families. I enjoy coming here and the gifts are great. I’m very grateful.”

In Wilkes-Barre, more than 1,300 gifts were distributed, helping to brighten the holiday for more than 650 children.

In Scranton, more than 6,000 gifts were distributed, benefitting nearly 1,700 kids.

Ashante Anderson of Pittston was also able to bring home some toys for her two young children.

“It’s very helpful,” Anderson said. “Especially when you’re employed and you’re on a budget and you can barely afford food. To be honest, I can’t really afford toys. I appreciate it very much.”

For the last 15 years, the annual toy drive and distribution in Wilkes-Barre has been coordinated by Dianne Lucas Colleran, who first began volunteering with her late husband, Frank. Colleran says about eight devoted volunteers work on the toy drive for several weeks each year in the weeks leading up to the distribution, sometimes working more than eight hours per day. On the day of the distribution, nearly 20 volunteers are on hand.

“It makes me feel good inside,” Colleran said. “No kid should wake up without anything under the tree on Christmas. Not one child.”

In addition to Wilkes-Barre and Scranton, Catholic Social Services of the Diocese of Scranton held similar toy distributions in Carbondale and Hazleton.

Thanks to such efforts, Nicole Suprum of Edwardsville was also able acquire gifts for her three children.  Suprum said the availability of such toys helps make the entire holiday season less stressful.

“It’s a blessing,” she said. “As a single mother with three children, it helps me out a lot. I like to see the smiles on my kids’ faces in the morning.”

The toy distributions involve a lot of preparation. At each site, hundreds of families pre-register in advance and details must be coordinated between the hosting sites, the Toys for Tots program and the parishes and community groups that collect and deliver toys. But for those that tirelessly work on such toy drives throughout the holiday season, it’s all worth it, especially in knowing that Santa was able to visit everyone.

“They’re very thankful,” says Colleran of the families served. “We try to do the best we can. The hearts of the children can’t be broken. There will not be a child without a gift. There simply will not.”

Helping individuals and families in need is one of the core missions of Catholic Social Services of the Diocese of Scranton. In addition to providing help during the holidays, the agency operates the Saint Vincent de Paul Kitchen which provides warm meals every day of the year. Catholic Social Services also operates several shelters located in Scranton, Wilkes-Barre and Hazleton and operates several programs that benefit families and youth.

If you would like more information about Catholic Social Services of the Diocese of Scranton, visit www.dioceseofscranton.org or call (570) 3808.

 

December 13, 2019

WASHINGTON— Bishop Joseph C. Bambera of Scranton, and chairman of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, issued the following statement:

“The recent attack on a Kosher Market in Jersey City, alongside many other recent hateful and at times violent actions, have highlighted the importance of, once again, publicly condemning any and all forms of antisemitism whether in thought, word or action. The past has taught us silence and passivity can result in the advancement of the worst crimes humanity can commit.

“The Catholic Church has an irrevocable commitment to the Jewish community. This commitment is clear and straightforward: antisemitism is anti-Christian and should not be tolerated in any form. At the Second Vatican Council, in Nostra Aetate, the Catholic Church articulated, ‘Mindful of the inheritance she shares with the Jews, the Church decries hatreds, persecutions, and manifestations of antisemitism directed against Jews at any time and by anyone.’

“We offer our prayerful support for all victims of antisemitic violence and their families. It is our hope that through continued respectful collaboration and dialogue with our Jewish brothers and sisters Catholics will help build a culture that completely rejects antisemitism.”

As the Diocesan Annual Appeal continues in all 118 parishes, a renewed focus is being placed on the percentage of parishioners from each parish who donate to the Appeal.

“We would like to make a special request to all parishes to join with us at this time to help increase the number of parishioners who contribute to the Appeal. Gifts of any amount are welcome and the support of all of our parishes is very much appreciated,” James Bebla, Diocesan Secretary for Development, said.

“Last year we saw a decrease in the number of donors to the Appeal. So far this year, many loyal donors who give every year have again pledged their support and several hundred parishioners who did not give last year have renewed their gift. We have also had a number of first-time donors contribute this year.”

Seventeen parishes have achieved a participation rate among their parishioners of 30% or more for the 2019 Diocesan Annual Appeal. More than 30% of parishioners have made contributions to the Annual Appeal in the following parishes: Blessed Virgin Mary, Queen of Peace Parish, Hawley; Epiphany Parish, Sayre; Exaltation of the Holy Cross Parish, Hanover Township; Holy Child Parish, Mansfield; Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish, Dushore; Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish, Wyalusing; SS. Peter & Paul Parish, Towanda; Saint Boniface Parish, Williamsport; Saint Brigid Parish, Friendsville; Saint Elizabeth Parish, Bear Creek; Saint Frances X. Cabrini Parish, Carverton; Saint Joseph the Worker Parish, Williamsport; Saint Lawrence Parish, South Williamsport; Saint Michael Parish, Scranton; Saint Peter Parish, Wellsboro; Saint Thomas the Apostle Parish, Elkland: and Saint Thomas More Parish, Lake Ariel.

“At this point in the campaign, we are so grateful to see the number of parishes with a participation rate of 30% or more,” Bebla said.

Diocesan ministries supported by gifts to the Annual Appeal include Catholic Social Services; parish social justice and faith formation programs; Catholic education in our Catholic schools and parish religious education programs; care for our current and retired priests and support for seminarians preparing for the priesthood; parish life and pastoral planning efforts; and communication programs such as The Catholic Light and Catholic Television.

To date, $3.5 million in gifts and pledges has been raised, bringing the campaign to 70% of the $5 million goal. More than 19,000 donors have made pledges to this year’s Diocesan Annual Appeal. Fifteen parishes have surpassed their Annual Appeal goal so far.

Parishioners and friends who have not yet made an Appeal gift are asked to consider a donation in support of the wonderful ministries funded by the Appeal. Interested donors may make a gift to the Diocesan Annual Appeal by visiting www.annualappeal.org to give online, by calling the Diocesan Development Office at (570) 207-2250 or by sending a donation to: Diocesan Annual Appeal, 300 Wyoming Ave., Scranton, PA, 18503.

 

SCRANTON – The U.S. Surgeon General has called it an epidemic and local experts agree, highlighting the importance of parents understanding and taking action regarding youth e-cigarette use.

“Statistics show that in 2018, more than 3.6 million youth, including one in five high school students and one in 20 middle school students were e-cigarette users,” Trooper Robert Urban with the Pennsylvania State Police said during an “Evening with the Experts” on Dec. 5, 2019.

Recognizing the health risks associated with vaping, the Diocese of Scranton Catholic School System put together a program featuring panelists from the fields of law enforcement, health and education. More than 30 parents and educators attended the session which was held at the Diocesan Pastoral Center.

“Less than a decade ago, the e-cigarette was an obscure product marketed as a safe, tobacco-free alternative to conventional cigarettes by a single company in China,” Trooper Urban explained. “Now it is a $3 billion global industry with over 600 brands and 8,000 flavors and liquids.”

The panel began by explaining exactly what e-cigarettes are — battery-powered devices that deliver nicotine, flavorings and other ingredients to the user. The panelists then explained that they do not create harmless “water vapor,” instead they create an aerosol that can contain harmful chemicals.

Benjamin Tolerico, principal, Holy Cross High School, highlighted that every school district is confronting problems associated with vaping and e-cigarette usage.

Tolerico highlighted the difference between the current use of e-cigarettes by students and the cigarette-smoking generation decades ago.

“Years ago, if a kid was smoking the bathroom, you could certainly smell it…now it’s not these giant plumes of smoke or vape. You really can’t see anything and they’re odorless,” Tolerico explained.

As of Dec. 4, 2019, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 2,291 cases of lung injury linked to vaping. It also reported 48 deaths have been confirmed in 25 states and the District of Columbia.

Dr. Sreelatha Naik, a specialist in pulmonary, critical care and sleep medicine with Geisinger, explained many of the health dangers associated with vaping.

“There is so much inflammation in the lungs that it is hard for the lungs to take oxygen from the air,” Dr. Naik said as she showed photographs of lungs damaged by vaping and described her experiences in treating patients locally.

The panel explained that e-cigarettes come in many shapes and sizes. Some look like regular cigarettes, cigars or pipes while larger e-cigarettes such as tank systems – or “mods” – do not look like other tobacco products.

Parents also learned that some e-cigarettes look like other items commonly used by young people, such as pens and USB flash drives.

Judy Price, First Assistant District Attorney for Lackawanna County, ended the panel discussion by discussing ways that local, state and federal officials are working to tackle the vaping problem.

“Right now, it’s not illegal to buy or sell to minors, vaping products, under our (Pennsylvania) laws as they exist. It’s illegal to sell tobacco so we are trying to broaden our tobacco laws to include vaping products,” Price said.

Price also emphasized that all Lackawanna County school districts, including the Diocesan School System, participate in the Safe Schools Coalition where information on topics like vaping is discussed on a regular basis.

This was the second “Evening with the Experts” hosted by the Diocese of Scranton Catholic School System. The first program, held earlier this year, focused on the potential dangers associated with social media usage.

 

 

With a new decade now just days away, the Diocese of Scranton is beginning the process of taking a good look at the life of its parishes in order to project a future vision in response to God’s call.

On the second Sunday of Advent, Bishop Joseph C. Bambera delivered a homily by video to all parishes, in which he invited parishioners to begin the process of thinking about the challenges and opportunities that the next decade will present.

“What do we see when we look around us and confront changing realities in our world – in our society and in our church?” Bishop Bambera asked in his homily. “How are we called to respond in faithfulness to the Gospel values and to the promises of God in which we have placed our hope?”

Northeastern and north central Pennsylvania has experienced a number of changes that warrant this examination. In terms of demographics, an aging population and shifts in the make-up of some communities factor into the situation. The expected diminishment in the number of ordained priests that will be available to serve as full-time pastors will also play a part.

“Looking squarely at each of these and other realities impacting our present and future parish life, we must work together to create a manner of responding which is innovative, achievable and respectful of the mission that we have been given as baptized followers of Jesus,” Bishop Bambera said.

Unlike the process of consolidations that took place a decade ago that resulted in a radically different profile of parishes serving more than 250,000 Catholics, the bishop is simply asking parishioners to look at how we wisely use our resources.

“In engaging this process, while every parish is similar in what it’s been called to do and to be, each parish will respond in ways that are unique to its situation and circumstance. When faced with change, such as the retirement of a pastor, the need to address the condition of aging parish buildings or a diminishment of parishioners due to changing demographics, each parish will be asked to reflect upon and propose ways in which it can best move forward in a manner that continues to give life to our faith and to our responsibility as Christian disciples,” the bishop said.

Pastors and Parish Life Coordinators have already started the process of looking towards the future and are expected to broaden the conversation with parish leadership and all parishioners in the coming months.

“We continue to work very hard to foster vocations to the priesthood, diaconate and consecrated life. We so desperately need the unique gifts of those who are called to these vocations within the Church, especially those of our priests. Yet, each of you, because of your baptism, also has a vocational calling to which we need you to respond,” Bishop Bambera said. “Your involvement in the life of the Church and in this process, more than anything else, will give us a vision into your particular parish and, in turn, will serve the needs of our Diocese as a whole.”

 

WILKES-BARRE, PA — After months of planning and construction, the opening of the new CYC Annex Child Care Center will help to meet the growing needs of child care in the Wyoming Valley.

A ribbon cutting ceremony for the new facility located on South Washington Street was held on Wednesday, December 4, at 1:00 p.m.

The new facility includes two infant rooms, a pre-school classroom, kitchen area and laundry room.

“We are elated to be able to convert this vacant space into something valuable for our community,” Mark Soprano, Executive Director of the Catholic Youth Center, said. “We are excited to be able to provide more families in Luzerne County with quality child care!”

Within the last year, the Catholic Youth Center has seen a tremendous increase in need for its child care services. During the months of December 2018 through February 2019, the center went from an average enrollment of 227 children per day to more than 300 per day.

The new CYC Annex Child Care Center will provide additional space to increase enrollment by 45 children and will also create six new full-time positions at the agency.

“Since opening our doors in 1948, the CYC has been a backbone of our community. This year marks the 20th year that the CYC has provided child care 24 hours a day. Over the years, our facility has become much more than just a place of recreational opportunities as we have also focused on educational programs and social development,” Soprano said.

Funding for the project was made possible by a grant provided by the Moses Taylor Foundation. Work on the Annex began this summer. In addition to the grant money, more than 300 hours of volunteer time has helped prepare the facility for its grand opening.

 

“So many people hear about the CYC and see the front of our building but once they come inside, they really are in awe of what is taking place on a daily basis. We invite and welcome members of our community to come and see the new CYC Annex Child Care Center and learn more about our activities and programs,” Soprano added.

The annex location that has been renovated has a long history in the community. The space, which had been vacant since August 2018, was most recently occupied by Coordinated Child Care which offered subsidized care for working families.

The annex was also previously home to the Catholic Guild Studios and Catholic Social Services office until the early 1990’s at which time the Guild closed at Catholic Social Services moved to Northampton Street. Luzerne County also previously rented the space for its Single Point of Contact (SPOC) program which provided job training/placement for young parents. While the parent was attending training, submitting applications or attending job interviews, their children were cared for by CYC staff on site.

Even with the opening of the new facility, the planning is not compete. An outdoor courtyard with picnic tables, play space and greenery is expected to be added in the spring.