June 26, 2020

WASHINGTON – Bishop Michael C. Barber, S.J of Oakland, chairman of the Committee on Catholic Education for the U. S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), has joined a coalition of more than 150 interfaith and civil society organizations calling on the U.S. Congress to provide immediate federal aid to benefit low-income students in non-public schools. In recent weeks, more than 100 Catholic schools have announced that they plan to close, with hundreds more facing an uncertain future, because of the economic losses associated with the coronavirus pandemic.

Bishop Barber noted that the emergency aid is vital because the mission of Catholic schools is at stake: “Catholic education has been an integral part of the American experience and a means to lift many from poverty. That mission is imperiled because of the economic devastation facing many families across the country; as families lose income, they are unable to make the tuition payments that sustain our schools.”

Contributing to the crisis is the fact that Catholic parishes have not had Sunday Mass collections. The parishes normally provide financial support to the schools, which are part of the educational ministry of the parishes, in order to keep the tuition rate within financial reach for all  families. This financial assistance from the parish makes it possible for many lower-middle income families to choose Catholic school for their children.

The letter asks for Congress to designate emergency funding for direct scholarship aid to low-middle income private school families, and to enact a new federal tax credit for donations to state scholarship granting organizations.

Total enrollment in Catholic schools nationally for the current academic year is 1,737,297, across 6,183 schools. Racial minorities comprise 21.8% of total enrollment, and 19.1% of all students are non-Catholic.

The full letter to Congress is available at: http://www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/how-we-teach/catholic-education/public-policy/upload/Federal-COVID-Response-Coalition-Letter-6-25.pdf


Safety measures to be emphasized during 96th annual spiritual pilgrimage

SCRANTON – Even the Solemn Novena to Saint Ann cannot escape the unprecedented impact the coronavirus pandemic has had on the rest of the world.

This summer’s annual Saint Ann Novena – the 96th consecutive in its storied history – will still be offered, but it promises to be a significantly scaled-back version of its original self.

Every mid-July for nearly a century, faithful followers of the venerated Saint are drawn by the thousands to the Catholic Church’s only national shrine and basilica church dedicated to the mother of the Blessed Virgin Mary and grandmother of Jesus – located high atop the hill on Saint Ann Street in Scranton’s West Side.

Devotees of “Good Saint Ann” will once pilgrimage to their favorite destination next month; however, the annual ten-day religious experience will be like no other during the Solemn Novena, beginning on Friday, July 17, and continuing each day until the devotion’s faith-filled conclusion on the Feast of Saint Ann on Sunday, July 26.

According to Very Rev. Passionist Father Richard Burke, rector of the Saint Ann Passionist Monastery and director of the Basilica of the National Shrine of Saint Ann, planning for the Solemn Novena has also required a great many conversations, discussions and decisions.

“This year, those consultations were multiplied by a factor of ten,” he said, referring to the worldwide COVID-19 health crisis.

Ultimately, the priest commented, the wearisome ride set in motion back in March led to this month’s upgrade in reopening allowances and a new set of precautionary guidelines from both the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the Diocese of Scranton.

“After all, we decided that we could have an in-person Novena for a good number of people,” said Father Burke, who also serves as pastor of Saint Ann Basilica Parish.

The Passionist superior is encouraged by how well the first gatherings of prayer in three months have unfolded at the Basilica parish, indicating the popular weekly Monday Novena to Saint Ann resumed at the shrine on June 22.

“We have spent a great deal of time creating the changed atmosphere and schedule of services that will enable us all to pray fervently and pray safely during the Solemn Novena,” Father Burke said.

The changes that will be put in place to adhere to current restrictions and protocols for public gatherings include the required designation for seating to comply with social distancing guidelines. That translates into the Basilica now allowing a maximum of just 135 faithful at a time, where it normally can accommodate a congregation of nearly 1,000.

Hand-sanitizing stations have been installed throughout, and congregants are requested to enter the Basilica through one front door and leave by way of an “exit only” door.

Other noticeable changes for the 2020 Solemn Novena are as follows:

All Masses and services will be held indoors, as opposed to the traditional practice of holding three of the five daily services outdoors.

Due to the need to sanitize the Basilica after each service, the 7:30 p.m. Mass and Novena service have been eliminated, except for the Solemn Closing of the Novena on the Feast of Saint Ann, when Bishop Joseph C. Bambera will celebrate the concluding liturgy on July 26 at 7:30 p.m.

Daily afternoon Eucharistic Adoration is cancelled, in order to properly sanitize after the 11:45 a.m. Mass and Novena, and all-night Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament is suspended.

The Novena’s annual Healing Mass with the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick and the Mass for children and grandparents will not be held.

Only a general blessing of the faithful with the relic of Saint Ann will be imparted. No individual blessings with the relic will be offered.

Traditional tents and chairs in the Basilica’s front parking lot will not be set up. Stay-in-your-vehicle parking will be available throughout the front and immediate back parking lots, with all services broadcast over a sound system that can be accessed through FM radio. Communion will be brought to those in their cars.

Holy Communion will be distributed at the very end of all Masses, and upon receiving, all communicants are required to leave by the exit door immediately.

Confessions will be available on a limited basis, with the sacrament being offered only every other day of the Novena. All confessions will be held for 45 minutes only in the Lower Basilica before the celebration of Masses and the 3:30 p.m. services. Social-distancing guidelines will be in place.

Unlike years past, the traditional Saint Ann Novena food stand will not be open on the Basilica grounds.

Protective facial masks/coverings are required of all those in attendance at all times, including inside the Basilica, in the confessionals, and within the Shrine Center.

Father Burke added that those attending the Novena will be allowed to sit on the many benches around the Basilica property, since they are spaced sufficiently to provide for safe social distancing.

“Our Saint Ann devotees will definitely notice the changes required for safety from the coronavirus,” Father said, emphasizing that although the faithful are gradually returning to church, the pandemic is still very present and must be respected. “We consider it a blessing that we are able to provide a safe environment for us to come together to pray to Saint Ann here at the Basilica. So long as we all maintain our vigilance, we will be able to pray fervently and safely together.”

He also referred to the recommendation of Bishop Bambera that the elderly and those with underlying medical conditions should consider remaining in the safety of their homes and participate in the Novena devotions through broadcasts by Catholic Television (CTV).

“The Solemn Novena in honor of Saint Ann evokes memories of parents, grandparents and cherished family traditions for so many people who participate each year,” Bishop Bambera remarked. “Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have all faced many difficult and challenging days, but it our faith that gives us a reason to move forward in the midst of struggle.”

SCRANTON – While the school year ended in a very unusual way, eighth grade students, their families and educators, were able to enjoy a little bit of normalcy as they were invited to gather together in prayer.

Before graduating and moving onto high school, eighth grade students were given a link for a virtual closing Mass celebrated by Bishop Joseph C. Bambera.

The Diocese of Scranton Catholic Schools Office and Diocesan Office of Communications collaborated to produce the Mass, incorporating the bishop celebrating Mass with students from various Diocesan schools conducting individual readings, offering prayers and singing various hymns.

During his homily, Bishop Bambera congratulated the students, parents and teachers for adapting to the challenging circumstances of the coronavirus. He also acknowledged many milestone moments, including concerts, field trips and sporting events had to be cancelled because of the coronavirus.

“What should we do when we find ourselves faced with all of these difficult and confusing things? Should we worry? Should we give up? Should we be afraid? No. Absolutely not,” Bishop Bambera said.

The bishop encouraged students to look for answers to those questions in the Gospel of Saint Mark.

During the closing Mass, the Gospel message of Jesus and his disciples crossing the Sea of Galilee was proclaimed. During a huge storm, the disciples, who were fishermen, realized they needed someone far more capable to calm the wind and waves and bring everyone to safety.

“They turned to the only one who could help, Jesus,” the bishop told the students.

During his virtual homily, Bishop Bambera explained to the students the same message applies now during COVID-19.

“Boys and girls, we’re like those disciples in the midst of that storm right now. We wonder if we’ll make it through these difficult times. We wonder if things will ever get back to normal, if school will ever be like it was before, if we’ll be safe,” he said.

The bishop asked the kids to remember what the disciples did during the storm.

“They turned to Jesus, who was right with them, in the midst of the storm. When they were humble enough to say ‘Lord, we can’t do this anymore by ourselves,’ that is when Jesus calmed the waters and brought them to safety,” Bishop Bambera said.

As he sent them off to enjoy the summer months, the bishop reminded the students to never forget that Jesus is with each one of us at all times.

“Ask him, every day, to help you. He will. That’s his promise,” the bishop said. “He’ll be with you in good times and difficult moments. He will watch over us with His great love and concern. He did that for His disciples and he promises to do it for me and for you!”


SCRANTON – After years of spiritual, academic and pastoral formation, three native sons of the Diocese of Scranton will be ordained to the priesthood this weekend.

Reverend Mr. Jonathan P. Kuhar, Reverend Mr. Kevin M. Miller and Reverend Mr. Shawn M. Simchock will be ordained priests by Bishop Joseph C. Bambera on Saturday, June 27, 2020, at 10 a.m. in the Cathedral of Saint Peter.

“I’m tremendously excited to begin. We had a little delay in the ordination date due to COVID-19 but I’m ready,” Simchock said. “Six years of hard work comes down to this point when we get ordained and I am ready to go to work for the people of the Diocese of Scranton.”

While the ordination Mass will be a time of tremendous celebration, due to the coronavirus, seating inside the Cathedral will be limited to invited guests. Due to the ongoing health emergency, social distancing measures will still be in effect. Dozens of family members and clergy are still expected to be present.

“I’m actually very grateful that we’ve been able to open it up for as many people as we’ve been able to, that some family members and close friends and people I’ve known over the years and have been part of this journey are going to be able to be there personally and be there in attendance,” Miller said.

For those not able to attend in person, the ordination Mass will be broadcast live on CTV: Catholic Television and a livestream will also be provided on the Diocese of Scranton website and social media pages, including Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Instagram.

Deacons Miller and Simchock completed their theological training and priestly formation at Pope Saint John XXIII National Seminary in Weston, Mass.

Deacon Kuhar completed his preparatory studies for the priesthood at Saint Mary’s Seminary and University in Baltimore, Md.

While all three men had their final weeks of seminary impacted in varying ways by COVID-19, each said they were able to gain something from this unprecedented time.

“I’ve been able to spend more time in prayer, being able to reflect on life, the Church and God’s role in our lives,” Kuhar said.

In an effort to get to know what led each man to the priesthood, The Catholic Light conducted interviews with each of the future priests.

Rev. Mr. Jonathan P. Kuhar

Deacon Kuhar, 36, of Mountain Top, is the son of Joan Kuhar and the late Gerald Kuhar. He is a member of Saint Jude Parish in Mountain Top.

Growing up, Mr. Kuhar says faith was very important to his family.

“My father died when I was six years old. He and my grandfather were taking a small recreational fishing boat from Block Island to Long Island for the winter and the boat sank around Thanksgiving in 1989. That was certainly a difficult time for our family,” Kuhar said. “Our relationship with God, our relationship with the parish, our relationship with Saint Jude Elementary where we were going to school was hugely important in helping us get through a very traumatic period in our lives.”

Kuhar says his mother was the most influential person on his faith journey. She would often elbow him while at Mass and tell him that the church needed good priests.

“Early in life, I always thought about it as a possibility,” Kuhar said in reference to becoming a priest. He eventually went to college, law school and opened his own law firm in Luzerne County. Along the way, Kuhar said he made a deal with God that if he passed the bar exam and worked for a while, he’d eventually consider the question about becoming a priest again.

It took some time for Kuhar to have an important realization.

“I realized the question that I was asking was the wrong question. I was asking the question, what do I want from my life? What do I want? What do I think will make me happy? I realized the question that really mattered is: What is God calling me to do? Once I started asking that question, that’s when I started to really think about the priesthood again,” Kuhar explained.

Fast forward to this moment in his life, as he prepares to be ordained a priest, Kuhar says he is looking forward to being a pastoral presence for the faithful in the Diocese of Scranton.

“Being a part of their lives, in both the joys and sufferings, to be present to parishioners and help them walk this path in life,” Kuhar said. 

Rev. Mr. Kevin Miller

Deacon Kevin M. Miller has also had an untraditional route to priesthood.

The Wilkes-Barre native, son of Maureen Miller and the late Ronald Miller, first felt the call to the priesthood when he was 12 years old.

Now at the age of 55, Miller is humbled to take on this new role.

“I want to thank Bishop Bambera and all the folks who are involved in formation…They took a chance on me. They saw something in me and prayed over it and encouraged it,” Miller admitted.

Miller says growing up in the mid-1970s, he fell in love with the life of the Church.

“I loved the solemnities of the Triduum for Holy Week, the incense, the procession of the kids,” Miller said. “I get chills just thinking about it. That experience really deepened within me a sense that this could be a life that God is calling for me and I knew it was something I wanted to look at.”

At the age of 18, Miller applied to the University of Scranton with a dream of becoming an Army chaplain. Unfortunately, financial obstacles with the Army got in the way, so Miller ended up getting a degree in chemistry.

Miller was later commissioned as an Army Reserve Second Lieutenant, becoming a field artillery officer and retired 32 years later.

“That whole time, the idea of being a priest never really left me,” Miller admitted. “I always said to myself, ‘when the time comes, and God you know when that is, I’m open for you to lead me where you want me to go.’”

As he now looks forward to the priesthood, Miller said celebrating the Eucharist and sacraments will be especially important to him.

Miller said he is especially looking forward to “being with people at those ‘thin moments’ when the layer between God and us is not all that thick. Those are the experiences of the sacraments, the birth of a child, the baptism, commending a soul into the hands and mercy of God, celebrating a funeral.”

Rev. Mr. Shawn Simchock

Deacon Shawn M. Simchock echoed the thoughts of Mr. Miller when it comes to the importance of celebrating the sacraments with the faithful.

The 44 year old Hazleton man, son of the late William and Janet Simchock, points to the experience of his mother’s illness as a formative moment in his path to the priesthood.

“I remember sitting there, watching my mother’s anointing when she was ill. To see what it does for a person, there are no words that I can use to describe it. It’s just a peacefulness that comes over someone and to know that you have a little role in helping a person along in their final journey is truly amazing,” Simchock said.

Simchock added that from an early age, his family stressed the importance of faith.

“It was very important for me to go to church every week. It was important for me to attend CCD every week. In my household, it was treated as school was treated. If you didn’t go, you didn’t get to go outside and play that day,” Simchock said.

When people would ask Simchock what he wanted to do when he grew up, the future-priest always indicated that he was going to be ordained one day. Simchock said it just took him a little while to answer the call.

“It’s like a cell phone. Somebody can call you and you can hit the ignore button and they can call you back and you can keep hitting the ignore button but there is only so many times you can keep hitting the ignore button with God because He is always going to come back and in the end, He is always going to get you to do what he wants you to do,” Simchock stressed.

In 2013, Simchock entered the permanent diaconate program. After taking several classes and speaking with the wives of the men in the diaconate program, Simchock realized his actual calling was taking him to the priesthood.

During this weekend’s ordination Mass, Simchock says several questions will be going through his mind when he is laying in front of the altar, invoking the intercession of the saints. Among them will be, “I can’t believe this is happening, God picked me, why did God pick me?”

As he prepares for this next step in his life, Simchock summed up his emotions and feelings in just a few simple words.

“I want to be the best priest that I can possibly be for the people,” Simchock said.


Rite of Ordination of Priests June 27, 2020


Worship Guide for Ordination Priests


CTV: Catholic Television recently interviewed the three men who will be ordained to the priesthood this weekend in the Diocese of Scranton. We invite you to view the 30-minute program.

Bishop Joseph C. Bambera will serve as ordaining prelate when three men are ordained to the sacred priesthood for service
in the Diocese of Scranton on Saturday, June 27, at 10 a.m. in the Cathedral of Saint Peter.

CTV: Catholic Television of the Diocese of Scranton will broadcast the ordination ceremony live.

The Sacrament of Holy Orders will be conferred on the three native sons of the Diocese, who were ordained transitional deacons a year ago to take their final step toward priestly ordination.


The ordinandi include: Rev. Mr. Jonathan P. Kuhar, 36, of Mountain Top, son of Joan Kuhar and the late Gerald Kuhar. He is a member of Saint Jude Parish in Mountain Top.



Rev. Mr. Kevin M. Miller, 55, of Wilkes-Barre, son of Maureen Miller, Laurel Lakes, and the late Ronald Miller. He is a member of Saint Nicholas Parish in Wilkes-Barre.



Rev. Mr. Shawn M . Simchock, 44, of Hazleton, son of the late William and Janet Simchock. He is a member of Queen of Heaven Parish in Hazleton.


Deacons Miller and Simchock completed their theological training and priestly formation at Pope Saint John XXIII National Seminary i n Weston, Mass.

Deacon Kuhar completed his preparatory studies for the priesthood at Saint Mary’s Seminary and  University in Baltimore, Md.


LONG POND – Members of the Notre Dame High School Class of 2020 had their promising futures put on the “fast track” and were given the opportunity for one final “victory lap” – literally – as the Pocono Raceway  welcomed the Catholic school community from East Stroudsburg for its commencement on May 30, 2020.

The Notre Dame graduation was the first of several commencement celebrations at the tricky triangle. The racetrack graciously offered to open its doors to any school so that graduation ceremonies could take place with recommended guidelines for social distancing.

Consisting of four parts – Baccalaureate, Senior Awards, Conferring of Diplomas and a Congratulatory (Victory) Lap – the Saturday morning graduation ceremony had the Notre Dame Class of 2020 along with family members and friends take part while remaining in their personal vehicles.

“It was awesome. It was so much fun. I had a total blast. It was really great and even better than I could have ever imagined,” graduate Nicole Siciliano of East Stroudsburg said after taking her victory lap.

As the name of each of the 51 graduates was announced, the senior’s photo was displayed on the Raceway’s video board. The graduate’s vehicle then proceeded to the track to line up behind the Pocono Pace Car, which led all the vehicles for a “victory lap” around the raceway’s signature triangle loop, and ultimately to the “finish line” to dramatically conclude the ceremony – and the Notre Dame graduates’ high school experience.

Graduate Bailey Reilly’s vehicle stood out in the crowd. The top of her car was decorated with a mortarboard and a large makeshift mask was placed on the front hood.

“I wanted to be as creative as I could be. I wanted to make a lasting impression on my classmates and their family and friends,” the Saylorsburg graduate said.

Reilly added that she thinks she enjoyed the Pocono Raceway graduation more than she would have if it was a regular commencement.

“I loved that we were on the Jumbo-Tron. I loved that we could have all of our friends and family park behind us and they’d be able to see us on the Jumbo-Tron. My favorite part was taking the lap around the Pocono Raceway. I loved that,” she added.

The unique commencement ceremony was witnessed by Bishop Joseph C. Bambera, who was on hand to offer remarks and benediction, all while Blue Ridge Cable Television provided video coverage of the event.

“ 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,” Jeffrey Lyons, principal of Notre Dame High School, said. “We found a great partner with Pocono Raceway in order to make this a reality and are grateful that they allowed us to use their facility. We are also thankful to

Blue Ridge Cable for their generous offer to provide technical support to carry out this special graduation ceremony.”

The longtime Catholic school principal recalled the truncated academic year and the final days of normalcy in March, which at least saw the district-champion Notre Dame  Mock Trial Team compete in the regional finals.

“But everything stopped two days after that,” he said. “Fortunately the Diocesan Office of Catholic Schools reacted very quickly and distance  learning began immediately, with Google Classroom and all its possibilities.”

This year’s Notre Dame graduating class proved exceptional in its academic accomplis hments  and  boas ted  five valedictorians for scholarly excellence. They include: Kevin Castner Jr. of Easton;Alexander Fouad of Stroudsburg; Colin Kissell of Cresco; Justin Peeney of Stroudsburg; and Bianca Pigon of East Stroudsburg.

Each provided a brief speech for the commencement ceremony.

“I know all of you are capable of success beyond your wildest dreams. The only variable in that equation for success is you. I hope all of you can find your favorite part of this treat we call life,” Kevin Castner said during his speech.

“A piece of advice to my class: cherish what you have and remember what you had. Remember high school for what it was – a building block for our lives, a place to discover ourselves, and a place to learn from others,” Alexander Fouad said.

“Our time together at Notre Dame ended abruptly, and I know that not one of us feels that was fair. The best thing to do now is to look back at fond memories and impressive accomplishments with a smile and pride,” Colin Kissell added.

“Class of 2020, I encourage you to break out of your comfort zone as you move on from Notre Dame High School. Surround yourself with people who support you, and don’t forget to be that support for everyone else. Try something new, seize opportunities, and create adventures,” Justin Peeney said during his remarks.

“I would like to point out that Notre Dame’s Class of 2020 is the best at adapting to new and uncharted situations. I remember our teachers calling us ‘the guinea pigs’ of Notre  Dame because if there was a new schedule set in place, a new teacher or a new class, our class was seemingly the group to experience it first. We never expected to get hit with a curveball during our last months of senior year, and we never thought we would be graduating on Pocono Raceway either,” Bianca Pigon said.

Forty-eight members of the Class of 2020 will attend institutions of higher learning, 11 of whom will do so at Catholic colleges/universities. Two graduates will enter the work force and one plans to pursue military service.

Notre Dame seniors merited a total of 136 scholarship awards worth nearly $6.8 million.



WILLIAMSPORT  –  As pictures  of  each  Saint  J ohn Neumann Regional Academy graduate flashed across a projection screen, the theme of the Class of 2020 commencement instantly became clear.

“Our  class  is  literally  a family,” valedictorian Josiah Reid of Linden said, speaking on behalf of the 13 graduates. “We eat lunch together. We have conversations about life. We share laughs. We learn how to cooperate with each other and utilize our abilities. But most importantly, we create memories that will forever be encrypted in our minds.”

The Thursday, May 28, 2020, ceremony, which was held at Saint Boniface Church, was unlike any in the school’s history. In addition to mortarboards and tassels,  many of the graduates wore a face mask with the school’s logo and maintained six foot social distancing due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Because of the coronavirus, the last time the students were physically together in a classroom setting was Friday, March 13, 2020. The school quickly transitioned to distance learning to finish out the academic year virtually.

“We lost nearly half of our last year together, but I think it only brought us closer together,” Reid said emphasizing the importance of graduation night. “We wanted to be together because we realized how much we missed each other, how weird it was to not see our closest friends every day, and how important it is to show one another how much we appreciate them.”

Eight of the  graduating seniors will attend Penn State University next year. Some of the other schools that students will attend are Lycoming College, East  Stroudsburg University and Central Penn College. At least one graduate plans to immediately enter the workforce.

In welcoming her classmates to the commencement ceremony, salutatorian Maria Helminiak of  Williamsport  noted  this year’s graduation is unique not just because  of the COVID-19 circumstances.

“This is a very important year for Saint John Neumann High School. We are the 50th class to graduate from this school. The unusual circumstances of the past few months have made our journey as seniors quite memorable in ways we are sure no other Neumann senior class experienced.”

Instead of finishing their senior year with get-togethers and sporting events, Helminiak explained how the Class of 2020 has been forced to spend its final weeks away from each other.

“We took seeing our friends and going to school for granted, but this situation has shown us how much we should appreciate those moments,” she added.

Bishop Joseph C. Bambera, Catholic Schools Superintendent Kristen Donohue, Principal Alisia McNamee and Father Bert Kozen also addressed the graduating class.

“Tonight’s ceremony might look  different but  it  doesn’t diminish your accomplishments,” McNamee told graduates. “You are family, today, tomorrow and always.”

Acknowledging the unique  circumstances of the commencement, Father Kozen told the graduates, “It will certainly be memorable.”

Highlighting the benefits of their Catholic education, Donohue said each graduate from Saint John Neumann Regional Academy is uniquely prepared for the future. She encouraged the Class of 2020 to be creative, think critically and set goals that are meaningful.

“You are all very impressive… We are so immensely proud of you,” Donohue noted.

Bishop Bambera echoed that praise for the graduates. In the midst of upheaval, concern and fear with the coronavirus, he challenged the graduates to leave their mark on society.

“We need you and your gifts in our world and in our lives. We need your hope. We need your enthusiasm. We need your determination and your generous spirits and we need your faith,” Bishop Bambera said.

The  bishop  encouraged members of the graduating class to be men and women who are concerned about others, who serve generously and are accepting of outsiders.

“You have been entrusted at Saint John Neumann with the values of the Gospel of Jesus, values that set you apart and values that make you who you are as Christians,” Bishop Bambera added.

Members of the Class of 2020 from Saint John Neumann have been awarded a total of 24 scholarships, with a total value of $842,893.



WILLIAMSPORT – More than two months after in-person Masses were suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic, most churches in the Diocese of Scranton have started the gradual reopening process. “It  was  like  Chris tmas .  It  w as wonderful,” Tammy Youmans, parishioner at  Saint Joseph the Worker Parish in Williamsport, said as she returned to Mass for the first time on Sunday, May 24, 2020. “I missed being here. I missed my parish. I  couldn’t wait to get up this morning and be able to actually come and be with everybody.”

The Trout Run mother says during her time away from church her longing for the Eucharist only grew deeper.

“Being without Christ within you has been really hard. Spiritual communion is fine but to receive Him in person, fully, you can’t beat it,” Youmans added.

As of this past Monday, parishes in Luzerne, Monroe, Pike, Susquehanna, Wayne and Wyoming counties could resume Masses. Parishes in Bradford, Lycoming, Sullivan and Tioga counties were able to resume in-person worship on May 18, 2020.

On Monday, June 8, parishes in Lackawanna County will be able to reopen.

“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 Joseph C. Bambera said. “The  Diocese has been working hard to resume in-person worship in a safe, comfortable and reverent manner.” 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 coverings and remain a proper social distance of at least six feet away from other individuals and families.

The obligation to attend Sunday Mass remains suspended at this time. During a video message to lay faithful, Bishop Bambera encouraged anyone feeling ill to stay home and stay safe. He also asked anyone who is part of a vulnerable population, whether by age or because of an underlying medical condition, to continue participating in Mass by livestreaming or CTV: Catholic Television. “While our reopening process will be gradual, please know we are trying to balance two things: your deep faith and longing for the Eucharist and the dangers of this highly contagious coronavirus,” Bishop Bambera said.

At Saint Joseph the Worker Parish in Williamsport, one of the first to resume daily and weekend Masses, the faithful were both thrilled and thankful to  resume in-person worship.

“It is wonderful to be back,” Virginia Borek of Williamsport said. “It was emotional just being at Mass. It would have been okay if the church was full or I was the only one there.”

Borek described her return to Mass as peaceful. While acknowledging this has been a challenging time, her faith has not waivered at all.

“It makes me appreciate being able to go to Mass every week. I thought that during Mass.”

The Bubb family of Montoursville served Saint Joseph the Worker Parish in several ways as in-person Masses resumed. John Bubb served as lector at the parish’s first 10:30 a.m. Sunday Mass.

“It’s  nice  to  get  the  community together,” Bubb said. “Just to sit in there and find peace and to be in front of the tabernacle, knowing Jesus is  right there, present, body, blood, soul and divinity.”

Bubb’s two eldest daughters, Elizabeth and Victoria, served as greeters and ushers

for parishioners returning to the church for

the first time.

“I just wanted them to feel welcome and to feel we were going to be there and help them through the process so they weren’t nervous about anything. I just wanted to be a friendly face,” Elizabeth Bubb said.

While Elizabeth Bubb appreciated livestream Masses during the pandemic, she said things were not the same during that time.

“We sit on the couch at our house and watch the livestream but it’s not the same because you’re sitting in your house and you’re not dressed as nicely so it’s nice for us to be all together, dressed up, ready to receive the Lord into our hearts,” she added.

Father Brian Van Fossen, pastor, Saint Joseph the Worker, said livestream Masses also pose challenges for clergy.

“When you’re saying the Mass online

or livestreaming it, you don’t hear the

responses so you have to pause a little bit. Also, when you’re giving the homily, you try to give a joke and you hope that it’s funny and they’re laughing but you don’t get that response back.”

Now that in-person Masses have resumed, Father Van Fossen says it is the small things, like a baby crying or cell phone going off that brings  the reality of community back to the celebration.

While his parish livestreaming will continue at this time, he says people as far away as the Philippines have been tuning in. “People have been streaming that and

have been showing off the church. This itty-bitty parish from Williamsport, PA, has really rocked the world in many ways, in just simple ways, that many parishes across our country are doing,” Father Van Fossen




SCRANTON – Bishop Joseph C. Bambera will serve as ordaining prelate when three men are ordained to the sacred priesthood for service
in the Diocese of Scranton on Saturday, June 27, at 10 a.m. in the Cathedral of Saint Peter.

CTV: Catholic Television of the Diocese of Scranton will broadcast the ordination ceremony live.

The Sacrament of Holy Orders will be conferred on the three native sons of the Diocese, who were ordained transitional deacons a year ago
to take their final step toward priestly ordination.


The ordinandi include: Rev. Mr. Jonathan P. Kuhar, 36, of Mountain Top, son of Joan Kuhar and the late Gerald Kuhar. He is a member of Saint Jude Parish in Mountain Top.



Rev. Mr. Kevin M. Miller, 55, of Wilkes-Barre, son of Maureen Miller, Laurel Lakes, and the late Ronald Miller. He is a member of Saint Nicholas Parish in Wilkes-Barre.



Rev. Mr. Shawn M . Simchock, 44, of Hazleton, son of the late William and Janet Simchock. He is a member of Queen of Heaven Parish in Hazleton.


Deacons Miller and Simchock completed their theological training and priestly formation at Pope Saint John XXIII National Seminary i n Weston, Mass.

Deacon Kuhar completed his preparatory studies for the priesthood at Saint Mary’s Seminary and  University in Baltimore, Md.


WILLIAMSPORT  –  A  massive structure which will hopefully educate people around the world in the importance of ecology  can trace  its roots back to Lycoming County.

Pennsylvania College of Technology, based in Williamsport, recently embarked on a substantial  undertaking  that may get the attention of Pope Francis since it celebrates a pressing worldwide issue near and dear to his heart.

The Holy Father’s 2015 encyclical on the care for our common home, Laudato Si’, provided much of the inspiration for the project, which employed the welding expertise and facilities offered at the Penn College.

Referred to as an impressive structure to encourage the “ecological awakening of humanity,” the so-called “Living Chapel” is  a  fabricated  structural  framework engineered and created by nine of  the college’s instructors and 15 students over a ten-week period.

Coinciding with the fifth anniversary of the eco-friendly papal document, the Living Chapel was  previewed recently at the Botanical Garden of Rome during Global  Catholic  Climate  Movement activities. Its formal unveiling – via a livestreaming video – is scheduled for the United Nations’ World Environment Day on June 5.

When  social  distancing  rules permit, the open-air sanctuary – made of aluminum and recyclable/repurposed materials  –  will  visit  the Vatican  in Rome before moving to its permanent home  in Assisi,  Italy.  The  ultimate destination proves quite fitting since it is the birthplace of Saint Francis, patron saint of the environment,  whose small church provided  the footprint  for the Living Chapel.

“I don’t think it has sunk in yet, what it’s going to mean to everybody,” James N. Colton II, assistant professor of welding who led the Penn College fabrication team, said. “It’s definitely a big deal.”

The Penn College crew worked 3,500- plus hours and used nearly 5,000 feet of aluminum to build the four walls for the chapel, designed to integrate nature, art, music and architecture. Two sections separate to create a space in the shape of a cross. The other walls connect to form a geometric symphony  of angles. The structure measures approximately 45 feet long by 30 feet wide, with heights ranging between 10 and 15 feet.

“When you enter into the space, you’re enveloped by this holistic experience that is intended to be this instance of serene harmony between humanity and nature,” Julian Revie, creative director of the Living Chapel and associate director of music at the Center for Music and Liturgy of Saint Thomas More Chapel at Yale University, said.

Revie’s discussions with the Vatican ecology division led to the concept for the Living Chapel in order to create a unique combination of music with architecture influenced by Porziuncola, the chapel in Assisi rebuilt by Saint Francis in the early 13th century.

“The initial (plans) that we saw didn’t show  the complexity  of the project,” Colton said. “We were definitely a little bit more overwhelmed once we got into it.”

Sara  Stafford,  a  welding  and fabrication engineering student from West Chester, commented, “It’s just amazing to say, ‘I have a couple  welds on that.’ Penn College creating a huge structure and piece of art for Italy. Who would have thought?”