WASHINGTON – Seven U.S. bishop chairmen of committees within the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops have issued a statement in the wake of the death of Mr. George Floyd and the protests which have broken out in Minneapolis and in other cities in the United States.

Bishop Shelton J. Fabre of Houma-Thibodaux, chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism; Archbishop Nelson J. Pérez of Philadelphia, chairman of the Committee on Cultural Diversity in the Church; Archbishop Paul S. Coakley of Oklahoma City, chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development; Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City in Kansas, chairman of the Committee on Pro-Life Activities; Bishop Joseph C. Bambera of Scranton, chairman of the Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs; Bishop David G. O’Connell, auxiliary bishop of Los Angeles, chairman of the Subcommittee on the Catholic Campaign for Human Development; and Bishop Joseph N. Perry, auxiliary bishop of Chicago, chairman of the Subcommittee on African American Affairs have issued the following statement:

We are broken-hearted, sickened, and outraged to watch another video of an African American man being killed before our very eyes. What’s more astounding is that this is happening within mere weeks of several other such occurrences. This is the latest wake-up call that needs to be answered by each of us in a spirit of determined conversion.

Racism is not a thing of the past or simply a throwaway political issue to be bandied about when convenient. It is a real and present danger that must be met head on. As members of the Church, we must stand for the more difficult right and just actions instead of the easy wrongs of indifference. We cannot turn a blind eye to these atrocities and yet still try to profess to respect every human life. We serve a God of love, mercy, and justice.

While it is expected that we will plead for peaceful non-violent protests, and we certainly do, we also stand in passionate support of communities that are understandably outraged. Too many communities around this country feel their voices are not being heard, their complaints about racist treatment are unheeded, and we are not doing enough to point out that this deadly treatment is antithetical to the Gospel of Life.

As we said eighteen months ago in our most recent pastoral letter against racism, Open Wide Our Hearts, for people of color some interactions with police can be fraught with fear and even danger. People of good conscience must never turn a blind eye when citizens are being deprived of their human dignity and even their lives. Indifference is not an option. “As bishops, we unequivocally state that racism is a life issue.”

We join Archbishop Bernard A. Hebda of St. Paul and Minneapolis in praying for the repose of the soul of Mr. George Floyd and all others who have lost their lives in a similar manner. We plead for an end to the violence in the wake of this tragedy and for the victims of the rioting. We pray for comfort for grieving families and friends. We pray for peace across the United States, particularly in Minnesota, while the legal process moves forward. We also anticipate a full investigation that results in rightful accountability and actual justice.

We join our brother bishops to challenge everyone to come together, particularly with those who are from different cultural backgrounds. In this encounter, let us all seek greater understanding amongst God’s people. So many people who historically have been disenfranchised continue to experience sadness and pain, yet they endeavor to persevere and remain people of great faith. We encourage our pastors to encounter and more authentically accompany them, listen to their stories, and learn from them, finding substantive ways to enact systemic change. Such encounters will start to bring about the needed transformation of our understanding of true life, charity, and justice in the United States. Hopefully, then there will be many voices speaking out and seeking healing against the evil of racism in our land.

As we anticipate the Solemnity of Pentecost this weekend, we call upon all Catholics to pray and work toward a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Let us pray for a supernatural desire to rid ourselves of the harm that bias and prejudice cause. We call upon Catholics to pray to the Holy Spirit for the Spirit of Truth to touch the hearts of all in the United States and to come down upon our criminal justice and law enforcement systems. Finally, let each and every Catholic, regardless of their ethnicity, beg God to heal our deeply broken view of each other, as well as our deeply broken society.



SCRANTON (May 27, 2020) – In a video message to parishioners, Bishop Joseph C. Bambera announced details regarding the gradual reopening of additional parishes in the Diocese of Scranton.

Starting on Monday, June 1, 2020, parishes in Luzerne, Monroe, Pike, Susquehanna, Wayne and Wyoming counties can resume in-person Masses.

On Monday, June 8, 2020, parishes in Lackawanna County will also be able to resume in-person Masses. The exact timetable for an individual parish to reopen will be the decision of its pastor with regard to preparedness, especially in regards to maintaining proper social distancing and sanitization.

Mass attendance at all parishes will be limited to no more than 25-percent of a church’s seating capacity. Parishioners will be required to wear face masks and remain a proper social distance of at least six feet away from other individuals/families.

“For the last ten weeks, I know many of our faithful parishioners have been longing to return to church, participate in Mass and receive the Holy Eucharist,” Bishop Bambera said. “The Diocese has been working hard to resume in-person worship in a safe, comfortable and reverent manner.”

Masses in four counties, Bradford, Lycoming, Sullivan and Tioga counties, resumed on Monday, May 18, 2020. While initially limited to a capacity of 25 people, parishes in those four counties can now also increase their Mass capacity to no more than 25-percent of total church occupancy.

Additional guidance for all parishes includes:

  • Those who feel vulnerable because of their age or underlying medical conditions will be encouraged to stay home. People who are feeling ill will be directed not to attend public Masses.
  • The Sunday Mass obligation remains suspended at this time.
  • Parishes are encouraged to continue livestreaming Masses and a daily Mass will continue to be broadcast on CTV: Catholic Television of the Diocese of Scranton.
  • Pews will be marked off or designated in order to maintain proper social distancing guidelines.
  • Holy Communion will be distributed at the end of Mass. Parishioners are strongly advised to receive the Body of Christ in the hand. Distribution of the Precious Blood remains suspended at this time.

“As the doors of our parishes reopen, everyone has an important role to play. The safety of our faithful people, our clergy and our community is the most important factor guiding any decisions that are made,” Bishop Bambera added.

Bishop Bambera encourages the faithful to visit the Diocese of Scranton’s website (www.dioceseofscranton.org) for the latest news and information regarding the ongoing response to the COVID-19 pandemic.


LONG POND (May 21, 2020) – Pocono Raceway has agreed to host the Notre Dame Class of 2020 high school graduation ceremony on Saturday, May 30, 2020 at 11:00 a.m. The event will follow recommended guidelines for social distancing and safety precautions provided by the Pennsylvania Department of Health and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Notre Dame Graduation ceremony will consist of four parts: Baccalaureate, Senior Awards, Conferring of Diplomas and a Congratulatory (Victory) Lap. Members of the Class of 2020, along with a limited number of their family members and loved ones will all take part in this event while remaining inside their personal vehicles. Graduating seniors and their loved ones would be encouraged to decorate their cars in celebration of their high school accomplishments. The ceremony will be broadcast via the Pocono Raceway’s internal FM radio station and the track’s double-sided video boards. Blue Ridge Cable (BRCTV 13) has graciously agreed to provide video coverage of the event.

As the name of each of the 51 graduates is called, the graduate’s photo will be displayed on the Raceway’s video board. The graduate’s vehicle would then proceed to the track to line up behind the Pocono Raceway’s “Pace Car.” When the name of the last graduate has been called, the “Pace Car” will lead all 51 vehicles for a “victory lap,” ending the ceremony as they cross the “finish line” concluding the ceremony.

“Pocono Raceway is honored to host these joyous graduations for local high school seniors and their loved ones,” said Pocono Raceway CEO, Nick Igdalsky. “It is all about the students and giving them the chance to celebrate all they have accomplished during their high school careers. Our facility will work directly with each school district to provide social distancing guidelines and outlines to all those participating.”

“As we looked for options for graduation during these uncertain and challenging times, we wanted to ensure our students had an experience to remember as they move onto their next chapter. We found a great partner with Pocono Raceway in order to make this a reality and are grateful that they are allowing us to use their facility,” said Jeffrey N. Lyons, principal of Notre Dame High School. “We are also thankful to Blue Ridge Cable for their generous offer to provide technical support to carry out this special graduation ceremony.”


May 25, 2020

WASHINGTON – On the anniversary of the encyclical on the Catholic Church’s commitment to ecumenism, Bishop Joseph C. Bambera of Scranton and chairman of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, has issued the following statement:

“May 25, 2020, marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of the promulgation of Pope St. John Paul II’s encyclical on the Catholic Church’s commitment to ecumenism, Ut Unum Sint. This anniversary should serve as a reminder that the way of ecumenism is the way of the Church (7), and that all Catholics are called to espouse a strong commitment to building Christian unity.

“Pope St. John Paul II, who worked tirelessly to build ecumenical relationships, described the impulse of working for unity between Christians as ‘a duty of Christian conscience enlightened by faith and guided by love’ (8). We rejoice that Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis have continued to advance this singular mission between the Catholic Church and other Christian communities. We celebrate numerous theological convergences that have been discovered in ecumenical dialogues over the course of the past twenty-five years as we seek to grow closer together.

“Pope St. John Paul II concluded this encyclical with a profound insight from St. Cyprian’s Commentary on the Lord’s Prayer: ‘God can be appeased only by prayers that make peace. For God, the better offering is peace, brotherly concord, and a people made one by the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit’ (102). In a time of pandemic, people seek refuge and unity in their faith community. May this anniversary of Pope St. John Paul II’s call for Christian unity serve as a unique pastoral opportunity to build bridges by continuing to reach out with love to all of our brothers and sisters in Christ. May He heal our wounds of division and help us grow closer in unity, especially in this moment, by witnessing together to the peace of Christ that our world needs so very much.”



HARRISBURG (May 18, 2020) – The Pennsylvania Catholic Conference today urged Governor Tom Wolf to halt his administration’s efforts to divert federal CARES Act money away from private schools. The governor and the Pennsylvania Department of Education are looking to take away most of the funding for private schools that Congress wants distributed equitably in COVID-19 relief to ALL schools in Pennsylvania and across the country.

Pennsylvania received $471 million in funding from Washington D.C., but PCC Education Director Sean McAleer says, “The Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) created its own set of rules to distribute that money that blatantly ignores federal guidance. The end result significantly lowers the amounts to be given to Catholic and nonpublic school students.”

McAleer broke down the disparity this way, saying, “The Wolf Administration is calling for roughly $19 million to go to Catholic and nonpublic school students, while Washington is calling for $66 million. The Wolf administration is misappropriating some $47 million in federal funds and harming families who have chosen to send their children to Catholic and nonpublic schools.”

“Catholic and nonpublic school students matter,” McAleer added. “Mr. Wolf, please follow the federal guidelines! In a time when thousands of Pennsylvania’s children and families are suffering and struggling to make ends meet, the administration has chosen to cause further harm by refusing to allocate money as directed by the federal government.”

The Pennsylvania Catholic Conference is based in Harrisburg and is the public affairs arm of Pennsylvania’s Catholic bishops.



May 18, 2020

WASHINGTON—The annual collection for the Catholic Communication Campaign (CCC) is scheduled to take place on the weekend of May 23-24, coinciding with World Communications Day. This annual national appeal supports efforts in the United States and around the world to use the media, internet, and print publications to help people connect with Christ.

The COVID-19 virus has prompted life to change in dramatic ways for more than two months with an increased reliance on communication tools to stay connected. Catholics and non-Catholics alike are using online tools to work and attend school, and stay connected to their families, friends, and their faith. Although most people are unable to gather together in their parishes for Mass, some dioceses offer electronic offertory programs that include the Catholic Communication Campaign or other ways for parishioners to support scheduled appeals. “In these times, the support of the Catholic Communication Campaign is vital to help keep the faithful connected to our faith and for dioceses to communicate the Gospel through all available means,” said Archbishop Gregory J. Hartmayer, OFM Conv. of Atlanta, and chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Subcommittee on the Catholic Communication Campaign (CCC). “The CCC has long recognized the need to reach people and help them connect with Christ. Thanks to the generosity of the faithful in the United States, millions of people throughout the world have been able to connect in new ways with the Good News of Jesus Christ, especially in recent months,” continued Archbishop Hartmayer.

Fifty percent of the funds collected through the campaign remain in each diocese to support local communication efforts. The other half is used to support national efforts in the United States and in developing countries around the world.

With support from the Catholic Communication Campaign, the USCCB developed a resource page in response to the COVID-19 virus, “Together in Christ” on its website with links for families, parishes, and dioceses to prayer resources, livestream of Masses, and catechetical materials.

Two documentaries supported by major CCC grants are now in national broadcast television circulation. Revolution of the Heart: The Dorothy Day Story, about the Catholic Worker movement co-founder who is on the road to sainthood, was released to public television stations in March 2020 and has already exceeded 1,000 broadcasts nationwide. The film won the Religion Communicators Council 2020 Wilbur Award for best documentary. Walking the Good Red Road: Nicholas Black Elk’s Journey to Sainthood, presents the intriguing life of a man born into pre-reservation America and immortalized in author John Neihardt’s classic 1932 book Black Elk Speaks. The program brings to light Black Elk’s conversion to Catholicism and his dedication to bringing other Native Americans to the Catholic faith. In cooperation with the Interfaith Broadcasting Commission, the program will be available on ABC-TV stations nationwide beginning May 17, 2020.

The Subcommittee on the Catholic Communication Campaign oversees the collection and an annual grants program under the direction of the USCCB’s Committee on Communications. Shareable resources for the collection are available online. More information about the Catholic Communication Campaign can be found at www.usccb.org/ccc. Still photos from the documentary films Revolution of the Heart and Walking the Good Red Road are available to the media upon request.


May 18, 2020

His Excellency, Bishop Joseph C. Bambera, announces the following appointments, effective at a time to be determined, given the ongoing health crisis.

Reverend John J. Chmil, from Senior Priest, Saint Matthew Parish, East Stroudsburg, to Pastor, Saint Ann Parish, Williamsport.

Reverend Ryan P. Glenn, from Assistant Pastor, Saint John Neumann Parish, Scranton, to Assistant Pastor, Saint Matthew Parish, East Stroudsburg. Father Glenn is also appointed as Chaplain, Notre Dame High School, East Stroudsburg.

Reverend James Price C.P., from Pastor, Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish, Carbondale, and Saint Rose of Lima Parish, Carbondale, to ministry within the Passionists Congregation.

Reverend Alex J. Roche, from Pastor, Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Lake Silkworth, and Chaplain, Holy Redeemer High School, Wilkes-Barre, to Diocesan Vocations Director.  Father Roche will remain Chaplain, Misericordia University, Dallas.

Reverend Phillip J. Sladicka, V.F., from Administrator, Pro Tem, Saint Maria Goretti Parish, Laflin.  Father Sladicka will continue to serve as Pastor, Queen of the Apostles Parish, Avoca.

Reverend Seth D. Wasnock, from Assistant Pastor, Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish, Carbondale, and Saint Rose of Lima Parish, Carbondale, to Pastor, Saint Maria Goretti Parish, Laflin. Father Wasnock is also appointed as Chaplain, Holy Redeemer High School, Wilkes-Barre.

Reverend Donald J. Williams, from Diocesan Vocations Director, to Pastor, Saint Matthew Parish, East Stroudsburg.

Newly Ordained Priests will be assigned to the following Parishes as Assistant Pastors:

Saint John Neumann Parish, Scranton

Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish and Saint Rose of Lima Parish, Carbondale

Saint Faustina Parish, Nanticoke


Saint Michael Parish in Canton, Bradford County, will be one of the first that is gradually able to resume public Masses

As four counties within the Diocese of Scranton’s territory entered the “yellow phase” of Pennsylvania’s reopening plan on Friday, May 8, 2020, Bishop Joseph C. Bambera announced that public Masses would be allowed to gradually resume for parishes in those specific communities.

Public Masses will initially only be allowed to resume in Bradford, Lycoming, Sullivan and Tioga counties, which were the first four counties to enter the “yellow phase.” Bishop Bambera directed that public Masses in Bradford, Lycoming, Sullivan and Tioga counties could not begin until at least Monday, May 18, 2020, ensuring parishes have the proper time to develop plans to protect the safety and well-being of all parishioners.

“A slow, steady, gradual approach will best enable us to regather,” Bishop Bambera said, emphasizing “gradual” to ensure the health of all the faithful, clergy and the community. In addition to opening their doors for public Masses, parish churches in the four designated counties will also be allowed to offer sacramental confessions and the celebration of wedding and funeral liturgies, but only with strict adherence to current social distancing guidelines and the mandate that no more than 25 people gather in one place at one time.

Bishop Bambera also announced that during the “yellow phase,” much-anticipated First Holy Communion and Confirmation Mass celebrations will be able to take place, with individual parishes determining when and how these are to occur. Lauding the faithful of the Diocese for radiating the “Light of Jesus” and expressing his appreciation for their patience and understanding during these “challenging and unprecedented times , ” Bishop Bambera stressed the call for sacrifice continues. He stated the preparations and planning underway by pastors and parishes for such a transitioning are immense and timelines for the reopening of churches may vary between parishes.

“Jesus’ embrace of our lives and our world powerfully reminds us of why we are charged to take so much care in reopening our churches,” the Bishop said, as he looks forward to welcoming faithful back to the pews. “Our careful attention to keeping each other safe as we regather is the greatest affirmation that we can offer in support of human life and, ultimately, our faith as Christians.” Bishop Bambera cautioned the guidelines required to resume public Masses are fluid and changes should be expected. However, he was also emphatic that it is important that the process begins. The gradual resuming of daily Masses on May 18 in the Bradford County Parish of Saint Michael in Canton was announced by its pastor, Father Joseph Kutch. In addition to Saint Michael Church, the parish community also encompasses the worship sites of Saint Aloysius Church, Ralston, and Saint John Nepomucene Church in Troy. Father Kutch stated the schedule for weekend Masses throughout the parish will be scaled back, with a reservation system being implemented for all liturgies in accordance with the limit of 25 congregants in attendance.

“What I am most thrilled about is the opportunity to now baptize and confirm one of our catechumens and confirm our other two candidates in the RCIA program,” Father Kutch commented. “Of course, we were unable to do this at this year’s Easter Vigil.” Those sacraments are now scheduled to be conferred and celebrated in the parish on the Vigil of Pentecost Sunday on Saturday, May 30.

“This is particularly important to me and our parish,” Father continued, “because once our catechumen is baptized and confirmed and his fiancé is also confirmed, they plan on receiving the Sacrament of Matrimony on June 20 here at Saint Michael’s Church.” The rural pastor also said he is looking forward to the celebration of the sacraments of First Holy Communion and Confirmation for the parish children in the near future. Father Andrew Hvozdovic admitted he initially had mixed feelings about moving his parish, Church of the Epiphany in Sayre, Bradford County, from the socalled “red phase” to the “yellow phase.” “One on hand,” the Epiphany pastor said, “I thought, ‘this is great,’ then reality set in and I thought, ‘how do we make this happen?’”

Father Hvozdovic stated that once the guidance measures and materials for reopening the churches were issued by the Diocese and shared with the Parish Pastoral Council, members were “overwhelmed with initial wonder as to how we would safely be able to make this work.”

Not surprisingly, according to Father, reaction from parish faithful was quick and enthusiastic as parishioners devoutly looked forward to rushing back to church. “Well, not so fast,” he responded.

Blessed with a large worship site able to seat 500 people, Epiphany Church will utilize its capacity to abide by social-distancing requirements for the two dozen worshippers allowed in the church at any given time. Separate doors to enter and exit the church are also available.

The reopening process will begin with the parish’s celebration of daily Mass at 12:10 p.m.

“The opportunity to attend will be offered first to the family of the Mass’ intention and the family requesting the intention,” Father Hvozdovic said. “Then whatever space is available will be on a first-call order system,” to be operated by members of a newly formed Pandemic Coordinating Team.

According to the pastor, the first several weekend Masses to be offered at the reopened parish church will be dedicated to the celebrations of First Holy Communion, Confirmation, and RCIA sacraments.

With regard to First Communion and Confirmation, Father explained, Masses will be limited to just a few of those children receiving the sacrament and their family members. “This would probably take us into the middle of June,” he said.

The Sunday morning Mass at 9 a.m. will also continue to be livestreamed from Epiphany Church.

Father Bryan Wright, pastor of Holy Child Parish in Mansfield, which includes Saint Mary of Czestochowa Church in Blossburg, announced a preliminary schedule of Masses between the two worship sites has been tentatively set as the Tioga County faith community moves forward in its reopening phase.

Holy Child Church, Mansfield, will host a weekend vigil Mass on Saturday at 4 p.m. and Sunday morning Mass at 11:15 a.m. Daily liturgies at the main worship site will now be celebrated on Thursday at 6 p.m. and Friday at 8:30 a.m.

Saint Mary’s in Blossburg will be open for Sunday liturgy at 9 a.m., with weekday Masses scheduled for Monday and Tuesday at 12:10 p.m.

Attendance for Masses is by invitation only. The parish churches will be open for private prayer as follows: Holy Child – Monday, Tuesday & Wednesday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Thursday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Friday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.; and Sunday, 2 to 4 p.m. Saint Mary’s – Wednesday, Thursday & Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 12 noon. “We are very happy to be part of this moving-forward process,” Father Wright said.

“As far as we’re concerned, the congregations for the Masses will be sizable groups, especially given our staggered schedule of celebrations,” he continued. “Many people are excited, but some will be cautious and may not want to return immediately, and that’s understandable.” In Lycoming County, Father Brian Van Fossen, pastor of Saint Joseph the Worker Parish in Williamsport, is also moving forward with safety in mind. “We are approaching this time with tender care,” the Williamsport pastor said as his parish prepares to reopen its church doors.

“We are planning with the Parish Council and our staff in order to allow people time to spend in prayer as well as continue our ministries to those in need.” Father Van Fossen indicated the parish church will be open daily from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and offer Holy Hour from 4 to 5 p.m. Plans are also progressing to expand the Holy Mass celebration schedule in order to offer evening times for those wishing to attend – particularly those who serve at the nearby hospital. He also stated Saint Joseph the Worker will continue its online presence through YouTube and the virtual presentation of Eucharistic liturgies.

“We are very excited to welcome people back to the Sunday celebration in the church,” Father said, “but we are also approaching with caution, just in case we are reverted back to the ‘red zone.’” At this time, parishes in the seven other counties that make-up the Diocese of Scranton (Lackawanna, Luzerne, Monroe, Pike, Susquehanna, Wayne and Wyoming counties), which remain in the “red phase” of Pennsylvania’s reopening plan will not be able to resume public Masses at this time. Pastors in those communities have been encouraged to begin planning for their eventual transition to the “yellow phase.”


Mark DeCelles, 38, will begin the final step of his formation for the priesthood when he is ordained to the transitional diaconate by Bishop Joseph C. Bambera at a Mass on Saturday, May 23, at 10 a.m. in the Cathedral of Saint Peter in Scranton.

The Mass will be broadcast live on CTV: Catholic Television of the Diocese of Scranton.

Ordination as a transitional deacon generally occurs after a seminarian has completed at least three years of study in theology and takes place usually one year prior to priestly ordination. A deacon may serve as an ordinary minster of Baptism and is able to preside at weddings, assist the priest at Mass, proclaim the Gospel and preach, as well as preside at wakes and funeral services.

A member of Immaculate Conception Parish in Scranton’s Hill section, DeCelles is the son of Charles, Ph.D., and Mildred DeCelles, R.N., of Dunmore. The Scranton Diocesan seminarian is completing his theological studies and priestly formation at Saint Mary’s Seminary and University in Baltimore, Md. He is currently serving in his pastoral year at Saint Matthew Parish in East Stroudsburg. A pastoral year provides a year of practical ministry in a parish setting, allowing a seminarian experiences near the end of his priestly training in addition to his formal preparatory education.

“I am very grateful for all of the pastoral assignments I have received during the course of my formation,” DeCelles said, including his 2018 summer assignment at the parish communities of Blessed Sacrament and Holy Cross in the Mid Valley region of Lackawanna County. As for his pastoral year experience, the transitional deacon candidate referred to Saint Matthew Parish as “an amazingly complex and lively community, teeming with opportunities for evangelization, catechesis and community outreach.”

“It has been a profound privilege to witness the growth of young adult ministries, high school and college men discernment groups, the Hispanic community and this year’s catechumens and candidates for the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA),” he said. Additionally, DeCelles was given the opportunity to teach an eighth grade theology class at nearby Notre Dame Junior/Senior High School in East Stroudsburg. The seminarian also reflected on his upcoming diaconate ordination during such challenging and unprecedented times.

“The world of COVID-19 is a world full of pain and uncertainty and despair, a world that needs Christ more than ever,” DeCelles said. “It is because of this that I am eager and excited for the day of my ordination. My desire to carry the light of Christ to the frontlines of our hungry, suffering world has only grown over the course of my almost three years of formation, and the pandemic has made this desire still more acute.” In light of the current health crisis, the seminarian expressed his gratitude for those putting their lives on the line for the health, safety and well-being of others.

“I am also most grateful today for the gift of the priesthood – for priests whose lives give testimony, in and out of season, to the love of God who loved us first, before we were ever able to muster some shred of love for others,” he said. “I am grateful for the priests who continue to say, ‘This is my body. This is my blood,’ to an empty church.” He concluded by saying this is the kind of priest he hopes to be when – by the Lord’s will and grace – he is ordained to the priesthood next year.

“I want everyone to know the God who continues to take the lead in loving me, so that when I just don’t feel like giving any more, I can turn to Him for the grace and strength to love those who might not be able, or willing, to love me back.”


Lynn Pryor, a parishioner at Church of the Resurrection in Muncy, uses her sewing machine to create masks that were donated to patients at the Geisinger Infusion Clinic.

MUNCY – Resourceful, caring and charitable individuals from Catholic parishes across the Diocese of Scranton have responded earnestly to a pressing need that only a global pandemic can create – personal safety masks. As the calendar turned to 2020, it was unthinkable that facial/surgical masks, once only associated with doctors, nurses and healthcare workers, would now be a required commodity for anyone wanting to venture outside their home to guard against an insidious, invisible enemy. When the coronavirus outbreak became a real concern in March, Lynn Pryor of Church of the Resurrection in Muncy, Lycoming County, began her mission to find some way to help others during the pandemic. Her quest ended when she read an article about a hospital reaching out to the community to help make essential, but extremely scarce, N95 masks for staff members.

“I explored websites and found patterns that met the CDC guidelines and starting making masks,” Pryor said. “I wrote to one woman to offer help with masks for nursing homes she was sewing for in Williamsport.” After creating about 15 masks to help the cause, Pryor said the woman urged her to continue her efforts and donate them to as many people in the area as possible. She immediately sought out a parish friend, Pat Merrifield, who is a nurse at the nearby Geisinger Infusion Clinic.

Ann Mullen, a parishioner of Saint Matthew Church in East Stroudsburg, has helped make hundreds of masks for essential workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“(Pat) told me that the staff had masks, but many of the patients didn’t,” explained Pryor, “so I started to make them for the patients.” Thus her mask ministry was born. By early April, the Muncy mask maker contacted the Women’s Organization at Church of the Resurrection Parish looking for some much needed help. Several women responded, including experienced quilters Joann Ort and Teri Snyder. Others like Nan Rusczak and the parish pastor, Father Glenn McCreary, donated materials.

“At that point,” Pryor recalled, “we really got going and have made several hundred masks so far.” In addition to the Infusion Clinic, mask recipients have included family members, neighbors and friends, particularly older members of the Resurrection community.

“While making these masks I often think of the patients and the staff who will use them and of their love and courage,” Ort commented. “They are certainly in our hearts.” Merrifield is very thankful for all of the masks that were provided for home-infusion patients who would normally be receiving their vital medications in the hospital. “These patients accept the masks with so much gratitude,” she said.

Linda Ross, a parishioner of Saint Matthew Church in East Stroudsburg, puts her sewing skills to work to create masks for healthcare providers and other emergency responders.

“Some get quite emotional. Thanks to those at the Church of the Resurrection for these wonderful gifts of mercy!” The Muncy mask ministry is now preparing for the opening of Diocesan churches and the public celebration of Masses, when masks will be required for all faithful in attendance. “During this pandemic, I know many people wish to do something and would love to help from the safety of their own homes,” Pryor said.

“One of the most needed pieces of equipment is the face mask.” She has graciously offered to assist anyone in joining the effort, including, if possible, picking up finished masks and getting them to where they are most needed. Those interested may contact Lynn Pryor via email at: pry0rla@gmail.com. ‘The MassQueens’ As the spring season ushered in the harsh reality of COVID-19, the “MassQueens Community Assistance Mask Sewing Project” also began coming to life on the other side of the Diocese in its eastern-most region. Ann Mullen and Linda Ross learned valuable sewing skills around the same young age – Mullen from her mother, and Ross from taking sewing classes at North Scranton Junior High School. The longtime friends met years ago as parishioners of Saint Matthew Church in East Stroudsburg, where Ross is a choir member and cantor and Mullen serves as music director and organist/pianist, along with being a member of the music faculty at nearby Notre Dame High School. But it has been their love of sewing that launched their mask making apostolate. According to Mullen, it all began with a somewhat prophetic suggestion by another friend, who upon learning of a new virus on the horizon, sensed an urgent need for safety masks. “I really didn’t take her seriously until about a week after she said this,” Mullen recalled. “Then it became apparent that wearing masks would become a way of life, essential to health and safety.” Well known for her sewing abilities, Mullen received her first request from a friend whose daughter is on staff at a hospital in Allentown. Her department was suddenly in need of 50 masks due to the pandemic.

“No sooner had that request been fulfilled, then mask requests for essential workers and service personnel started pouring in,” Mullen said. “When I got a request for 300 masks from another friend at Lehigh Valley Hospital in East Stroudsburg, I knew I would need help.” Enter Linda Ross, who responded to her friend’s desperate plea with a resounding “Yes!”

“We both wanted to do whatever we could to help the community during a time of crisis,” said Ross, “and since we both sew, the mask making was the perfect fit for us.” Early on in the project, the duo began referring to their charitable enterprise as “The MassQueens” – giving a nod to their Catholic Church affiliation while describing their mask making commitment. While working from their homes, Mullen and Ross comprise the sewing portion of the operation; however, they have received much behind-the-scenes support from numerous friends from the Saint Matthew’s community as well as local Immaculate Heart of Mary Sisters. With the creation and donation of more than 1,600 masks – and the number continually rising – the list of beneficiaries from the project is quite lengthy. Grateful recipients of the MassQueens’ handiwork include healthcare providers, emergency responders, police departments, cafeteria workers, homes for the elderly, local businesses and clergy.

“This is and has been such a fulfilling adventure for both of us,” Mullen offered. “We feel that we have been called to make use of our God-given talents to do something positive that will make a difference to those around us.” Despite having worked tirelessly for more than fifty straight days to fill mask requests, the MassQueens are prepared to continue their commitment to the community for as long as it is needed.