More than 600 parishioners and friends have made gifts to the Coronavirus Emergency Fund established by Bishop Joseph C. Bambera to help support public ministries, parishes and Catholic schools during the COVID-19 pandemic.  A total of $130,000 has been raised so far: $40,000 for parishes, $50,000 for kitchens, food pantries, shelters and relief assistance, $14,000 for Catholic Schools and $26,000 to be used where it is needed most.

“I am grateful for the generosity of our friends and neighbors,” Bishop Joseph C. Bambera said. “It is wonderful to see so many people embracing the example of Jesus to reach out to others, especially those most in need of our help at this time.” The Coronavirus Emergency Fund provides an opportunity to financially support a specific parish, a Diocesan Catholic school or one of the kitchens, food pantries, shelters or relief assistance programs provided by Catholic Social and Human Services in Carbondale, Hazleton, Scranton and Wilkes-Barre.

“Thank you to everyone who is responding to the significant need at this time as parishes strive to maintain their weekly offetory collections, Catholic school families struggle to pay tuition due to lost wages, and Catholic Social Services’ kitchens, food pantries and shelters experience a substantial increase in the number of people in need of help,” Jim Bebla, Diocesan Secretary for Development, said.

Parishes, schools and Catholic Social Services are also seeing additional expenses due to COVID-19 for items including cleaning supplies, masks, hand sanitizer and takeout food containers. For example, Catholic Social Services recently incurred a cost of more than $30,000 for equipment needed to properly sanitize and provide a safe environment for visitors, clients, guests and staff at all of its kitchens, food pantries and shelter across the Diocese of Scranton.

Interested donors are encouraged to make gifts to the Coronavirus Emergency Fund online at www. dioceseofscranton.org/emergencyfund.

If donors prefer, they can mail gifts to Coronavirus Emergency Fund, Diocese of Scranton, 300 Wyoming Ave., Scranton, PA 18503. Checks should be made to the Diocese of Scranton and list the gift designation – either the Catholic Human and Social Service program, parish or specific Catholic School they wish to support.

To donate to the Coronavirus Emergency Fund: www.dioceseofscranton.org/emergencyfund

 

Arabella Robbins, a second grade student at Epiphany School in Sayre, shows off her creation for the school’s ‘Build a Car’ STREAM challenge.

Even though students aren’t physically together in their classrooms because of the COVID-19 pandemic, they are still being challenged to use creativity and critical thinking skills. At the beginning of the 2019- 20 academic year, the Diocese of Scranton Catholic School System launched its new STREAM (Science, Technology, Religion, Engineering, Arts and Math) learning initiative, and even the coronavirus cannot stop students and teachers from continuing to use it.

“They’ve embraced it and I think it helps us all stay connected when we’re so separate,” Sara Kitts, computer teacher and librarian at Epiphany School in Sayre, said. In her Bradford County elementary school, Kitts has been sending a weekly blog to families with materials and resources for distance learning. Part of the blog contains a daily Facebook challenge which includes STREAM activities focused on connection, creativity, critical thinking skills and communication. “We have done several different STREAM challenges,” Kitts said.

“One of them asked students to build a car. That was an engineering challenge with whatever materials they have on hand. We asked the kids to design a car and post a picture of their creation to our Facebook page with their parents help. We got quite a few different options. We had some do Legos, some made it out of cardboard. We had a young lady in second grade do it out of Easter candy and cookies which I thought was quite creative.” Epiphany School keeps its STREAM Facebook challenges broad to make sure all students, Pre-K through sixth grade, can participate.

Arabella Robbins, a second grade student at Epiphany School in Sayre, shows off her creation for the school’s ‘Build a Car’ STREAM challenge.

“In an Easter art challenge, there was quite a lot of watercolors showing Jesus on the Cross that the kids made with their families, which I thought was a nice connection between the art and religion of STREAM and of course the technology piece of sharing their creations through social media,” Kitts added. The basic concepts of STREAM learning are that it is student-centered and cross-curricular. It focuses on hands-on projects that connect the six disciplines (Science, Technology, Religion, Engineering, Arts and Math), encouraging students to work collaboratively and communicate effectively.

“Everybody is being very flexible and open-minded and allowing the students to learn in the ways that they can learn in their own environment,” Kitts added. Ongoing STREAM lessons are taking place at all of the Diocese of Scranton’s Catholic Schools. In Williamsport, Saint John Neumann Regional Academy Principal, Alisia McNamee, said elementary school students are working on a special project at this time. Families have been asked to submit videos of their students singing God Bless America to be accompanied by patriotic artwork.

“Rich Cummings is then going to string all of it together to create a video (virtual chorus) of all of the students singing together. This project was born out of the plans that were already in place for our spring concert,” McNamee said. They hope to have the virtual chorus project finished by early June. Ann D’Arienzo, principal of Our Lady of Peace School in Clarks Green, said STREAM learning has also continued for her students because it was a commitment the school made to families at the beginning of the year.

“Our teachers have gotten very creative by researching and using digital apps as well as having the kids think critically about ways that they can meet a challenge,” D’Arienzo said. At Our Lady of Peace School, educators are very deliberate in the assignments they prepare for students while they are out of the classroom. “What we want to avoid during this remote learning is students just doing written assignments and submitting them for a grade. We want them to be able to do hands-on, project-based learning. We want them to continue that,” D’Arienzo said. For example, Pre-K students, who are just four and five years old, recently completed a STREAM project that helped explain how bean plants grow. With the help of their families, the kids used beans, wet paper towels and plastic bags to help them observe the growing process. No matter the grade level, students at Our Lady of Peace School are still taking part in STREAM learning. First grade students were tasked to create something useful out of recycled plastic grocery bags, second and third grade students took part in an ecosystem scavenger hunt and sixth grade reading students created their own movie trailers as a digital STREAM project in conjunction with a reading lesson.

“I think our kids, especially as they’re getting older, are becoming more resourceful and are brainstorming with each other,” D’Arienzo said. D’Arienzo even believes this pandemic has a silver lining. “I firmly believe this is making us better teachers and better educators,” D’Arienzo said.

“We’re doing things that we would not be doing otherwise. Teachers are experimenting, researching, figuring out different platforms and ways to deliver instruction that they wouldn’t have had to think about in their normal routine.” Because embracing technology is an essential aspect of STREAM, educators expect to keep using many of the things they have learned during this pandemic well after it is over.

“When we go back to physical school, we’re going to continue moving forward with these technological platforms even though we’ll be in school. This is something that we’re going to move forward with and continue to grow,” D’Arienzo added. Amina Hazzouri, a Pre-K student at Our Lady of Peace School in Clarks Green, watches her beans after completing a class STREAM project. Arabella Robbins, a second grade student at Epiphany School in Sayre, shows off her creation for the school’s ‘Build a Car’ STREAM challenge. Christopher Jordan, a first grade student at Our Lady of Peace School in Clarks Green, used action figures to complete a ‘Jumping Into Measurement’ STREAM activity regarding non-standard units of measurement.

 

Daniel Grogan, AmeriCorps peer support specialist at Saint Francis Commons, left, and Ryan Pollock, program supervisor, Saint Francis Commons, right, have taken extra sanitary precautions to protect veterans during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo/Alan K. Stout)

Throughout this spring, the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way Americans live.

Shelter in place, stay-athome and social distancing are all phrases that have served as a way of life for people during this time. People now wear masks and gloves to the supermarket, they disinfect, they sanitize, and they do their best to help stop the spread of the coronavirus.

At Saint Francis Commons in Scranton, where 28 United States veterans currently reside, several precautionary steps have been taken to help ensure the safety of its residents.

“We’re deep-cleaning the facility twice a day,” Ryan Pollock, program supervisor at Saint Francis Commons, said. “We’re cleaning all hard surfaces with industrial antibacterial cleaners, which have been provided to us by our property management company. We do it morning and night on all hard surfaces, on all of the staff desks, and on any common traffic areas. That includes the kitchens, the door handles, elevators, handrails, tables, chairs, everything.”

Saint Francis Commons is a transitional housing facility for veterans which is operated by Catholic Social Services of the Diocese of Scranton. The facility opened in 2015 and has 30 beds.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, all residents have also been provided with face masks, which they are asked to wear whenever they are in commonly shared areas of the facility. Each resident also has their temperature taken, using a forehead thermometer, by a staff member on every first and second shift. The results are then properly logged to help ensure that the health of all residents is properly monitored.

“Knock on wood, but we haven’t had anyone running a temperature in the last month,” Pollock said. “We had a veteran running a temperature about five weeks ago, and we did quarantine him, but it ended up being the result of another aliment. He got an antibiotic and it cleared up. Thankfully, it wasn’t COVID-19.”

Pollock said that Saint Francis Commons has also modified the way it accepts new residents. Though it will still allow new residents to come to the facility, they must first be tested for COVID-19 or be coming from another facility at which medical professionals have determined that they are non-symptomatic of COVID-19. “It’s a case-by-case basis,” Pollock added.

“We’re not taking people off the street right now unless they agree to be quarantined for 14 days. We do have residents that have compromised immune systems and respiratory systems and are on oxygen. We’re doing everything we can to protect them.” Pollock said that once it became clear that the COVID-19 pandemic was something that Daniel Grogan, AmeriCorps peer support specialist at Saint Francis Commons, left, and Ryan Pollock, program supervisor, Saint Francis Commons, right, have taken extra sanitary precautions to protect veterans during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo/Alan K. Stout) would require heightened precautions, Saint Francis Commons acted quickly.

“It was March 13,” he explained. “We immediately said there were no more visitors. We stopped everyone from coming into the facility. Even the mailman and FedEx driver have not been inside. We meet them at the door. Normally, our residents can have visitors in the common areas, anytime from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., but those privileges were suspended on March 13. Generally, all of our residents are also eligible for up to three overnight passes per month, where they can go and stay with their children or family. Those services were also suspended on March 13, so nobody has been staying outside of the facility.”

Pollock said he is proud of how the Saint Francis Commons community has come together during the crisis. In addition to staff and cleaning professionals, residents have also assisted with keeping the facility safe.

“A lot of people have gone the extra mile,” he added. “The staff and the residents are really trying to keep the place sanitized.”

 

Staff members from Birchwood Nursing Home were the first to be honored by the Saint Faustina Kowalska Parish Mini/Youth Ministry program’s “Honoring Our Heroes” initiative.

NANTICOKE – “Thanks so much for the pizza! We greatly appreciated it and it was so good!” “It’s so wonderful that Sandy and the youth ministry are doing so much good in these scary times. Love you!”

“Thank you Saint Faustina Youth Ministry. This was so appreciated. God bless you all!”

These are just a small sampling of the expressions of gratitude the Mini/Youth Ministry at Saint Faustina Kowalska Parish has received from first responders and essential workers in its hometown during the coronavirus crisis.

Since the global pandemic crept into our lives two months ago, the Catholic parish youth group well  known for its many activities in the community has embarked on a project called “Honoring Our Heroes.” The endeavor has trays of pizza or breakfast treats – depending on the time of day – surprisingly show up at the workplaces of those who valiantly continue to serve the  public in the face of the COVID-19 emergency.

“We are so blessed and we wanted to give back to our community,” Saint Faustina Mini/ Youth  Ministry Director Sandy Repak said. She explained how the youth group came up with the idea of selecting two groups of essential workers each week and treating them with the free meals.

Staff members at Birchwood Nursing Home and Guardian Elder Care were the first to be honored by the youth ministry’s surprise gesture, followed by the Nanticoke Public Works Department and Nanticoke Medic 5 Ambulance crews.

Repak makes all the deliveries personally, strictly adhering to the safety measures and guidelines put in place to combat the pandemic. The large group of young parishioners who comprise the Saint Faustina Youth Ministry design and create the personalized thank you certificates that accompany each delivery of food, which has been provided at a reduced cost by local eateries including Joe’s Pizza, Marty’s, and Baker Boys.

Included among those who have felt the love and gratitude the effort graciously offers are the Nanticoke police and fire departments and the city’s Code Enforcement Office. Most recently,  refuse-removal workers have been recognized and organizers of the project are now setting their eyes on local supermarkets and pharmacies.

According to Repak, youth group members are also preparing posters/cards offering gratitude and inspiration for frontline health care employees at three area hospitals. “ We will continue each week surprising groups of our essential workers,” she said.

“As we continue to pray for all of them to stay safe and healthy.”

 

“God is calling, even in the midst of a global pandemic.”

SCRANTON – On the Fourth Sunday of Easter, May 3, 2020, the Diocese of Scranton celebrated World Day of Prayer for Vocations. Following the call of our Holy Father, Pope Francis, Catholics were encouraged to intercede for vocations to the priesthood and religious life. Father Don Williams, Diocesan Director of Vocations & Seminarians, celebrated the weekend Mass with Bishop Joseph C. Bambera at the Cathedral of Saint Peter. The annual celebration usually brings together hundreds of faithful, including many young people. This year, due to the coronavirus, the Mass was celebrated virtually and broadcast on CTV: Catholic Television. During his homily, Father Williams first spoke about the hope that he sees, even during all the pain and difficulty associated with social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“If we reflect on a deeper level, I’m sure we could also acknowledge that something very wonderful is happening in the midst of this hardship and difficulty. Many of the young people that I have been connecting with over the past several weeks have come to say our families are spending more time together now than ever. We enjoy family meals, we’re playing board games, we’re watching movies, older siblings are helping their younger brothers and sisters with homework and they’re just hanging out,” Father Williams said. At this time, Father Williams said he has also seen many young people taking more time to reflect and be quiet.

“How many of you have had a deep hunger for the Eucharist, coming to appreciate this gift that perhaps at times we may have taken for granted? I’ve noticed many young adults thinking critically these days. They’re asking the bigger questions.

They’re making time to truly discern. We have many wonderful young people who connect each week through video conferencing groups, asking questions, praying, understanding the tools for spiritual discernment,” he added. Explaining that the Diocese of Scranton is blessed with many good men and women in formation with various religious communities, Father Williams said more are always needed to join in mission and ministry.

“God is calling, even in the midst of a global pandemic,” he said. Father Williams asked the people of the Diocese of Scranton to do four things: pray, affirm, encourage and invite. “If you have come across a young person, who you believe has the gifts to serve, affirm what you have seen. Call them by name,” Father Williams said, pointing to a recent study that shows 89-percent of individuals being ordained this year were personally invited by someone.

“Give God permission. Keep God at the center of your life. Give God permission to speak to your heart and enlighten your mind.” Other tenants of the World Day of Prayer for Vocations include praying for the priests who minister and praying a rosary for more young men and women to respond to God’s call.

“If this pandemic has taught us anything, it is simply this: how fragile life is, how important we are to each other, and how important it is to think beyond ourselves and to live generously, faithfully, selflessly so that we might make a difference for good in our Church and in our w

 

Bishop Joseph C. Bambera leads a special liturgy in renewing the consecration of the U.S. to the care of our Blessed Mother on May 1, 2020. (Photo/Eric Deabill)

SCRANTON – Bishop Joseph C. Bambera joined bishops throughout the United States in reconsecrating the United States to Mary as the nation continues to struggle in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

Bishops in Canada also used May 1 to rededicate their country to the Blessed Mother.

Bishop Bambera led a local prayer service at the Cathedral of Saint Peter. It was broadcast live on CTV: Catholic Television and livestreamed on Facebook, YouTube and the Diocese of Scranton website.

“During these days that continue to be painful for many of us, may we find hope in Mary’s example of loving, trustful discipleship and may we embrace Jesus’ invitation to rely upon her watchful and loving care for our Church and for our lives, especially during these days,” Bishop Bambera said.

The bishop noted Mary’s loving heart and her long journey of faith.

“From the moment that she was asked to accept the unbelievable, that she was to give birth to the Savior, through the power of the most high God, her entire life became a journey of trust in the midst of pain, suffering and struggle,” Bishop Bambera added.

Those tribulations make her example all the more important to us.

“Mary has stood before us, not as a pristine, porcelain figure who was shielded from this world. Quite the contrary, she is that simple soul who has known life as we experience it. A lonely figure at times who walked every path of life, of joy, but also of pain and suffering, to the point of letting go of her son on a Cross, allowing Him to be crucified, something that was so unfair and so undeserving,” the bishop said.

Bishop Bambera prayed for Mary’s intercession for the needs of our country, that every desire for good may be blessed and strengthened.

“Mary understands the brokenness of our world, because she experienced it, like you and I do. She understands the pain, the fear, the confusion, the doubt, the struggle, the grief, every one of those dimensions of life were woven into hers. Yet, throughout her entire journey in this world, she stands before us as a model of discipleship and faith, trusting that regardless of how her life unfolded, she believed fundamentally in the midst of everything that came her way, God’s promise to save his people would always come to pass. It is because of her role as such a trusting disciple and a mother that we turn to her today, at the very invitation of Jesus, as he prepared to lose his own life,” he added.

At exactly the same time as the service in Scranton was taking place, Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, led a similar event at Our Lady of the Angels Cathedral which was livestreamed to the faithful.

Alternating between English and Spanish, Archbishop Gomez said: “In this difficult time we turn to the Blessed Virgin Mary, mother of the church. She intercedes with her Son for all are affected in this way by the pandemic…We implore her maternal care for her children.”

Archbishop Gomez noted Mary’s history in the United States.

“The first missionaries came to this country under the mantle of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Later, the bishops consecrated her as patroness of the United States of America,” he said. “The Virgin Mary has accompanied this great nation since our beginnings,” he added. “Now in this difficult hour, we renew our consecration to her.”

The United States has been hit harder than any other nation in deaths connected to COVID-19.

“Mary was the first person to consecrate herself to Jesus, the first to offer her whole heart to do his will, to set his beautiful plan of redemption,” Archbishop Gomez said. “We ask God to give us that same faith, that same courage … the strength to follow Jesus, to seek his holiness and his kingdom.”

At its conclusion, Archbishop Gomez said, “Our Holy Father, Pope Francis, is encouraging us to rediscover the beauty of praying the rosary at home in the month of May.” He noted “maybe we can dedicate ourselves to find time to come together as a family to pray the rosary in our homes.”

This reconsecration reaffirms the bishops’ previous consecrations of the United States to Mary. In 1792, the first bishop of the United States, Bishop John Carroll, consecrated the nation to Mary under the title Immaculate Conception, and in 1846, the bishops unanimously chose Mary under that title as the patroness of the nation. In 1959, Cardinal Patrick O’Boyle of Washington again consecrated the United States to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

The consecration on May 1 follows a similar action of the bishops’ conference of Latin America and the Caribbean, who consecrated their nations to Our Lady of Guadalupe on Easter Sunday. Catholic News Service contributed to this report.

 

 

CRESCO, PA (May 6, 2020) – As a result of declining enrollment and other serious challenges, the Diocese of Scranton announced today that Monsignor McHugh School will close, effective at the end of the current academic year on June 30, 2020.

Students, families, administrators, educators and pastors from the Monroe County school community have all been notified of the closure.

“This is a very difficult decision to make at an especially difficult time,” Bishop Joseph C. Bambera said to families in a video message due to the fact that an in-person gathering with the school community could not be held because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. “The Diocese of Scranton remains committed to the mission of Catholic education, creating tomorrow’s faith-filled leaders, but the declining enrollment at Monsignor McHugh School has left us with no other option.”

Over the last five years, Monsignor McHugh School, which currently serves grades Pre-K through eight, has seen its enrollment decrease by 56% despite school administrators’ efforts to implement new enrollment and academic initiatives. Currently, there are only 70 students registered for the 2020-2021 school year. In addition, the number of school-age children within a 15-mile radius of the school is predicted to decline by almost five-percent by 2024 according to MissionInsite, a demographic analytic firm.

2014-15 Enrollment        2019-20 Enrollment        Percent Change

Monsignor McHugh School                                          218                                         97                                           -56%

 

While the current coronavirus health crisis will certainly have a financial impact on the Diocese of Scranton Catholic School System, Monsignor McHugh School was already facing severe financial challenges before the pandemic began. The school’s projected budget deficit for 2019-20 was a loss of almost $450,000.

“I truly wish we did not have to make this decision because we recognize how unique and important Monsignor McHugh is to its community,” Jason Morrison, Diocesan Secretary of Catholic Education/Chief Executive Officer, said. “Our most important responsibility remains providing for the educational and spiritual care of our students. We are committed to helping our students and families transition to another Catholic school that best suits their needs.”

The Diocese will offer the families of students currently enrolled at Monsignor McHugh School the opportunity to receive a continuation grant toward their tuition at another Catholic school next year. Any one of the Diocesan Schools is prepared to welcome the Monsignor McHugh families. The closest being Notre Dame Elementary School (Pre-K through Grade 6) and Notre Dame Junior/Senior High School (Grades 7-12), located approximately 15 miles away.

“Making the decision to close a school is the most difficult, heart-breaking decision, because we know how it impacts the lives of so many people,” Kristen Donohue, Superintendent of Catholic Schools, said. “This announcement is even more gut-wrenching and complicated during the COVID-19 pandemic, while our students and families, who are so committed to Catholic education, have been working so hard to continue distance learning.”

The Diocese of Scranton Catholic Schools Office will allow educators and administrators from Monsignor McHugh to apply for any open positions throughout the educational system for the 2020-21 academic year.

 

About the Diocese of Scranton Catholic School System

Each year, the Diocese of Scranton Catholic School System provides a well-rounded education to approximately 4,500 students throughout 20 Catholic schools. Educators offer an enriching STREAM curriculum that includes the arts, foreign languages, physical education and the latest computer technology to complement the core subjects of religion, math, language arts, social studies and science.

All of our Catholic schools are accredited by the Middle States Association, and all of our teachers are state-certified educators, who inspire their students and bring amazing experiences into their classrooms. The mission of the Diocese of Scranton Catholic School System is to educate students and their families in the Catholic faith. We provide a Catholic education that is spiritually sound and academically excellent. We strive to prepare our students to be faith-filled leaders and life-long leaders dedicated to serving the church and society.