In honor of the “Year of Saint Joseph” proclaimed by Pope Francis, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops asked several bishops, including Bishop Bambera, to offer video reflections on the Patron of the Universal Church. The videos were posted today to the USCCB website.
Bishop Bambera reflects on one of the paintings at the Cathedral of Saint Peter and our own Year of Saint Joseph that was just celebrated as well. We encourage you to watch the video reflections as we continue to increase our love for Saint Joseph and implore his intercession.
Saint Joseph, Pray for Us!
On Friday, March 19, 2021, students from the Triboro Christian Academy came to Saint Francis of Assisi Free Clothing Store to drop off Blessing Bags.
During the month of February, students collected an array of items like hats, gloves, scarves, face masks, toothbrushes, toothpaste along with food (granola bars and instant oatmeal for example).
The donated items will be distributed to our brothers and sisters in need through our Free Clothing Store located at Saint Francis Commons, 504 Penn Avenue, Scranton.
Friday, March 19, 2021 is the Solemnity of Saint Joseph, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Solemnities are the highest rank of liturgical observance. Likened to a Sunday, the prescribed penance of Lent is not obligatory.
The Universal Law of the Church (Canon 1251) instructs that abstinence from meat, which is observed on the Fridays of Lent, is not binding when a solemnity should fall on a Friday.
Therefore, it is permissible to eat meat on March 19, 2021, the Solemnity of Saint Joseph, without violating the Lenten discipline.
This year, the Solemnity of Saint Joseph takes on special significance in the Diocese of Scranton as the Diocese concludes its own “Year of Saint Joseph.” The Most Reverend Joseph C. Bambera will celebrate Mass on Friday at 12:10 p.m. at the Cathedral of Saint Peter in Scranton to honor the patron and protector of the Universal Church. The faithful are encouraged to attend, watch online or honor Saint Joseph in some way.
Scranton, PA– Mrs. Carol Mueller and Christina Mueller of the Mueller Family McDonald’s presented a check for $10,000 to Diocese of Scranton Scholarship Foundation.
The donation was a result of the fourth-annual Fry Fundraiser that kicked off National Catholic Schools Week January 31, 2021 and ended February 21, 2021. All sixteen Mueller Family McDonald’s participated by donating a portion of every large order of french fries sold during that period. Due to COVID-19 protocols, the Mueller Family McDonald’s were unable to host the traditional “School Activity Nights,” so instead embarked upon a Facebook campaign. The campaign featured short videos highlighting how the Diocese is working to maintain the superior educational standard in spite of a global pandemic.
“Since we couldn’t host events inside our restaurants, we tried to think outside the box. We were blessed to work with the great people at the Diocese to bring the Catholic School experience to our Facebook fans! As a result, donations actually increased,” states Carol Mueller, Mueller Family McDonald’s.
“We are so grateful to the Mueller family for their generosity and commitment to supporting families in need. This support is needed more than ever and ensures an excellent faith-based education is affordable and available to those desiring to attend one of our schools,” states Jason Morrison, Diocesan Secretary of Catholic Education/CEO.
With restaurants located in Scranton, Wilkes-Barre, Shavertown, Mt. Top, Old Forge, Clarks Summit, Dickson City, Eynon, Carbondale, Tunkhannock, Honesdale, Allentown and Bethlehem, the Mueller Family McDonald’s are deeply invested in their communities.
SCRANTON – A Saint Patrick’s Day tradition continued in Lackawanna County this year despite the ongoing challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
On March 16 and 17, volunteers from the Shamrock Heart Foundation gathered at the Diocesan Pastoral Center in Scranton to prepare 4,500 green carnations to be delivered to nearly 50 nursing homes, assisted living centers and hospitals in Lackawanna County.
“I like helping people,” Matisse MacLeod, 12, said as she prepared carnations on her birthday with her mother and siblings by her side.
The MacLeod family of Madison Township realizes that because of lockdowns, many of the seniors receiving the carnations have struggled with isolation over the past year.
“People can’t visit them as easily so at least they’ll have something,” MacLeod explained.
Volunteers wore masks and gloves while they prepared all the green carnations on March 16. On Saint Patrick’s Day morning, two dozen drivers then departed the Pastoral Center to spread some Irish cheer.
“I think it’ll make a big impact this year. Even though it’s been well received in other years, I think this year it will really brighten somebody’s day even more,” volunteer Cindy Cramer of Scranton said.
Cramer, who is Irish, has been volunteering with the Shamrock Heart Foundation for the least five years.
“I’m glad they were able to find a way to continue to do it this year,” she said.
This was the 28th annual carnation distribution for the Shamrock Heart Foundation.
EMMITSBURG, Md. (CNS) – The faded black bonnet with its gently ruffled frill once framed the face of the nation’s first American-born saint.
The black cap, a familiar sight in portraits of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, rested in a gray archival box back in Emmitsburg March 11 for the first time since 1822.
It is one of several rarely seen artifacts from Mother Seton’s life displayed as the National Shrine of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton prepares for an exhibit this summer to mark the 200th anniversary of her death.
The items – including St. Elizabeth Ann’s rosary, her wedding brooch and her daughter’s christening gown – arrived earlier in the week, donated by the Sisters of Charity of New York to the Maryland shrine for their display and preservation.
“They’re here to help us tell her story and make Mother Elizabeth Ann Seton more relatable,” said Rob Judge, the shrine’s executive director. He said the exhibit will open in July. No firm date is set.
The items, mostly objects of daily life, will be used to talk about her diverse life experiences, Judge said. She knew the joys and trials of family life, was faced with financial struggle, confronted death and found solace in the Catholic Church.
“She was fully human like all of us,” Judge said. “It gives people great hope and great faith.”
Among the donated artifacts are:
— St. Elizabeth Ann’s black cap, sent to New York in 1822, a year after Mother Seton’s death, and conserved about six years ago, according to Mindy Gordon, archivist for the sisters in New York.
— The crucifix and black glass bead rosary which she used in prayer.
— A delicate brooch in the shape of a bow with a chrysanthemum-like flower at its center, which she wore on her wedding day; her portable writing desk.
— Wedding miniatures of Elizabeth and William Seton; the
tea chest belonging to St. Elizabeth Ann’s father, Dr. Richard Bayley; and family photo albums.
— The Civil War-era commissioning certificate and epaulettes of her grandson, William Seton Jr.; and the christening dress St. Elizabeth Ann sewed for her daughter Catherine.
Only a few items were displayed March 11. The christening dress needs special care to be shown due to its fragility, while other artifacts, including the wedding portraits and family photo albums, need further restoration before the exhibition, according to Scott Keefer, archivist for the Daughters of Charity.
“We’re so very pleased that these artifacts have found not only a safe but a loving home,” said Sister Donna Dodge, president of the Sisters of Charity of New York. She was joined by other members of the order’s executive council via Zoom.
Several artifacts, including the tea chest and commissioning certificate, were donated to the sisters in New York upon the death of the saint’s great-grandson and last living descendant, Ferdinand Jevons, of New York.
The commissioning certificate recalls a moment of special significance to the sisters. Capt. William Seton III, the saint’s grandson, was wounded at the Battle of Antietam 30 miles from Emmitsburg. Sisters of Charity nursed him back to health at St. Joseph’s Military Hospital in New York. Only when he awoke did the sisters realize he was the grandson of their foundress.
“How powerful a moment that must have been,” Judge said.
Elizabeth Ann Bayley was born in New York City Aug. 28, 1774, to a prominent Episcopal family. In 1794, at age 19, Elizabeth married William Magee Seton, a wealthy businessman with whom she had five children. William died of tuberculosis in 1803, leaving Elizabeth a young widow.
After discovering Catholicism in Italy, where her husband had died, Elizabeth returned to the United States and entered the Catholic Church in 1805 in New York.
To support her family, she started an academy for young ladies in New York but later relocated to Baltimore, where she established the first Catholic school. She was the founder of what would become the Catholic school system in the United States.
In 1809, she moved her school to nearby Emmitsburg, establishing it on land purchased by a donor. A year later she founded what became known as the Daughters of Charity. She died Jan. 4, 1821. She was canonized by St. Paul VI Sept. 14, 1975.
Preparing for the transfer of the saint’s items from New York, Gordon discovered something she’d never seen before on the backs of 1794 wedding miniatures. “I had never touched them,” she said.
She found a braid of Mother Seton’s hair on the back of her miniature and a velvet cloth embroidered with her husband’s initials on the back of his. One of the canisters inside the tea chest still contains tea, enough for a cup or two.
Before the artifacts were introduced, Father Ted Trinko blessed them. A priest of the Institute of the Incarnate Word, he is the shrine’s chaplain.
“In many ways, these relics are going to bless us,” he said.
Despite the coronavirus pandemic, the national shrine has continued virtual programs and tours and is open for visitors with face masks and social distancing, said Tony DiIulio, programs director. Some 60,000 people visit the shrine every year, though numbers were down about 10% last year.
Commemorations also include a new film, “Seeker to Saint,” as well as virtual and in-person exhibitions and tours.
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – While the Catholic Church cannot bless unions that are not sacramental marriages, the church will always welcome and accompany everyone, no matter their situation in life, said the prefect of the Dicastery for Laity, the Family and Life.
“Nobody must ever be excluded from the pastoral care and love and concern of the church,” said the prefect, Cardinal Kevin J. Farrell, March 18 during an online Vatican news conference, presenting details of the “Amoris Laetitia Family Year,” which starts March 19.
The cardinal’s comments were in response to a question about the “disappointment” expressed in parts of the world regarding a recent statement by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which said any form of blessing a same-sex union is “illicit.”
That statement, released March 15 and approved by Pope Francis, reiterated that homosexual men and women must be respected, but that it was not licit to impart a blessing on relationships or partnerships “that involve sexual activity outside of marriage — i.e., outside the indissoluble union of a man and a woman open in itself to the transmission of life — as is the case of the unions between persons of the same sex.”
While such unions may not be blessed, people may still receive a blessing as individuals, the statement said.
When asked if the unfavorable reaction by some to the doctrinal congregation’s statement could have any consequences on the dicastery’s work and plans for promoting a year dedicated to the family and conjugal love, Cardinal Farrell said, “I think that it is very important that we all understand that the pastoral life of the church is open to all people.”
“It is essential and very important that we always open our arms to receive and to accompany all people in their different stages of life and in their different life situations,” he said.
What is not clear to most people and must be understood, he said, is that when the church talks about marriage, it is referring specifically to sacramental marriage. A blessing, he said, “is a sacramental that is related to the sacrament of marriage.”
But, he said, while the church can bless only a sacramental marriage, that does not mean only those who are married in the church “receive the benefits of the pastoral care of the church.”
People live and experience so many different situations, and no matter where they are in life, even when they cannot participate fully in the life of the church, “that does not mean that they are not to be accompanied by us and by the people of parishes,” the cardinal said.
“We accompany all people,” the cardinal said.
While special emphasis will be made on the beauty and importance of Christian marriage during the “Amoris Laetitia Family Year,” he said the many dioceses, associations, programs and movements that work with same-sex couples “will always work with them and accompany them.”
“There are situations where there are people who are divorced and remarried. The church will accompany them with the hope that one day they will live totally in accordance with the church’s teaching.”
“But I do want to insist that nobody, nobody must ever be excluded from the pastoral care and love and concern of the church,” he said.
CLEVELAND (CNS) – Faith leaders have an important role to play as the world continues to respond to the coronavirus pandemic and the ups and downs of vaccine distribution, participants in a webinar heard.
That role is based on trust and accurately sharing information, said Kathryn Kraft, senior research adviser for faith and development at World Vision International.
Kraft told the March 16 webinar, which was coordinated by Georgetown University’s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs, that faith leaders are essential players in the campaign to end the pandemic.
She described the findings of a World Vision report that identified faith leaders as being as important as health care workers in providing information and modeling appropriate behavior in the pandemic response.
“As trusted community members with vital social, access and spiritual capital, faith leaders can exercise considerable positive influence in many communities during the current crisis,” said the report, titled “Faith in Action: Power of faith leaders to fight a pandemic.”
Like earlier efforts in response to HIV and AIDS, Ebola and Zika, faith leaders are on the front line of responding to COVID-19, Kraft said. In addition, she explained, because of their importance to local communities, faith leaders can help their congregations navigate through the massive amount of information — and disinformation — surrounding the pandemic.
In February 2020, prior to declaring a pandemic March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization warned that a “massive infodemic” stemming from the spread of false statements posed a danger to an effective coronavirus response.
In contrast, Kraft added, the overwhelming amount of fact-based information on the coronavirus has led people to become so “paralyzed” that they think that no action in response to COVID-19 is the best course, leading to reduced adherence to safety protocols and to greater doubts about the effectiveness of the vaccines.
Faith leaders can be “very meaningful” in modeling appropriate behavior themselves, including receiving one of the vaccines, Kraft explained. Such action “helps people think through decisions for themselves,” she said.
The webinar was the most recent in a series developed by the center to bring professionals together to discuss how to improve the national and international response to the pandemic.
Katherine Marshall, executive director of the center’s World Faiths Development Dialogue and the event’s moderator, said the pandemic has exposed the inequalities between rich nations and those with high levels of poverty.
She acknowledged how care for people who have become seriously ill from COVID-19 varies greatly around the world and even in the United States, where poor communities and people of color have experienced higher death rates from the illness.
Marshall urged the rollout of the vaccine be based on equity so all people who are eligible to receive a vaccine can do so, that the logistics of distribution be leveled and that messaging be developed for people of all backgrounds so they understand the importance of being vaccinated.
Olivia Wilkinson, director of research at the Washington-based Joint Leaning Initiative on Faith and Local Communities, posed a series of questions for health care professionals and religious leaders alike to consider as they address questions surrounding vaccine distribution.
The questions are included in a document the initiative developed to guide health care workers, nongovernmental agency workers and religious in forming their response to the pandemic.
Topics addressed include religious concerns about receiving the vaccine, identifying key faith leaders, building networks, establishing common ground and coordination of the pandemic response across the broader community.
Wilkinson, who studies secular and religious influences in humanitarian action in response to global concerns, also said women can play an important role in the pandemic fight because they are the caregivers in the home and often are the most active participants in religious congregations.
As for women religious leaders, Kraft said the World Vision report indicated that they often are more acutely tuned in to people’s psychosocial needs, allowing them to more readily listen, talk and pray with people — all key elements to building trust in accepting the vaccine.
Any efforts to address misinformation circulating in local communities that the vaccines are unsafe because of their rapid development are key to realizing the eventual end of the pandemic, explained Andrea Kaufmann, senior adviser for faith and external engagement at World Vision International and the report’s co-author.
Government health officials and nongovernment organizations can overcome such obstacles by working with faith leaders, Kaufmann said.
“We know that faith leaders need to be involved at all levels,” she said.
Presenter Deepa Risal Pokharel, communication for development specialist at UNICEF, agreed. She said the organization is working with faith leaders and local stakeholders and influencers to understand what is driving hesitancy in accepting the vaccine in some communities globally.
“Is it fear (of the vaccine) or are services too far away?” Pokharel asked.
Pokharel also commended religious leaders for recognizing the shortcomings in health care and the vaccine rollout and their response. She urged professionals in other sectors responding to the pandemic to follow their lead.
WASHINGTON – For people worldwide who suffer from hunger, war, natural disasters, racial injustice, religious persecution, and the impact of the global COVID-19 pandemic, gifts to The Catholic Relief Services Collection bring hope, help, and opportunity.
The Catholic Relief Services Collection aids six groups that protect human life and promote human dignity: Catholic Relief Services (CRS) for international relief and development; the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Office of Migration and Refugee Services (MRS) for refugee resettlement; USCCB Office of International Justice and Peace for advocacy on government policy; the USCCB Secretariat on Cultural Diversity in the Church for Pastoral Care for Migrants, Refugees, and Travelers and ministry to Asian and Pacific Islanders; Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC) for legal assistance to immigrants; and the Holy Father’s Relief Fund to assist Pope Francis’ outreach to suffering people worldwide.
Through this national collection, which most parishes will take up on March 13-14, Catholics help the most vulnerable people in the United States and around the globe. Gifts may be made through the local Catholic parish and also by visiting www.usccb.org/catholic-relief.
“The Catholic Relief Services Collection pools small gifts to make a multi-million-dollar impact. Even a $10 donation can transform the life of someone who was already in dire need when the pandemic started,” said Archbishop Paul D. Etienne of Seattle and chairman of the USCCB Committee on National Collections.
“The need is urgent. Due to the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the ability of parishioners to gather together for Mass, gifts to this collection fell drastically in 2020 – just when they were needed most.”
All material aid is given to those in need, regardless of the recipient’s faith, and Catholic pastoral care is offered to those who desire it.
Gifts to this collection make a lasting impact. For instance, when CRS assists families after a natural disaster, it does so in ways that promote future prosperity. Whenever possible, relief supplies are purchased locally so that local economies are not ruined by an influx of outside rice or lumber. CRS teaches business skills and connects small farmers and merchants to larger markets for trade. It provides counseling to strengthen marriages stressed by trauma.
At the U.S.-Mexican border, USCCB Migrant and Refugee Services is providing safe, supportive shelter for unaccompanied minors through funding from this important collection. MRS works to reunite these children with relatives in the United States and advocates for reform of immigration and refugee policies.
“This collection gives the poor and vulnerable immediate assistance and equips them with tools to thrive,” Archbishop Etienne said. “We are so grateful to those who gave last year in a time of hardship. I ask you now to pray over what you can give and how you can be the face of Jesus to so many who suffer.”
WASHINGTON (CNS) – The $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act heading to President Joe Biden’s desk for his signature will provide relief to Americans in need amid the pandemic, but it lacks “protections for the unborn,” the U.S. bishops said.
Their March 10 statement quickly followed U.S. House passage of the measure in a 220-211 vote. After the Senate passed its version of the bill March 6, it was sent back to the House where members reconciled its changes with the version they approved Feb. 27. Biden was expected to sign it into law the afternoon of March 12.
In a joint statement, Los Angeles Archbishop José H. Gomez, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and the chairmen of six USCCB committees praised “positive provisions” that “will save people from extremely desperate situations and will likely save lives.”
But they called it “unconscionable” that Congress passed the bill “without critical protections needed to ensure that billions of taxpayer dollars are used for life-affirming health care and not for abortion.”
Unlike all of the previous pandemic relief bills, Hyde Amendment language was not included in this measure. Hyde outlaws federal tax dollars from directly funding abortion except in cases of rape, incest or when the life of the woman would be endangered.
In addition to Archbishop Gomez, the committee chairmen who signed the statement are: Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City, Kansas, Committee on Pro-Life Activities; Archbishop Paul S. Coakley of Oklahoma City, Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development; Bishop David J. Malloy of Rockford, Committee on International Justice and Peace; Bishop Michael C. Barber of Oakland, California, Committee on Catholic Education; Bishop Shelton J. Fabre of Houma-Thibodaux, Louisiana, Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism; and Auxiliary Bishop Mario E. Dorsonville of Washington, Committee on Migration.
“As the American Rescue Plan Act was being written, Catholic bishops reached out to every House and Senate office to express our support for providing additional relief to help poor and vulnerable people who are most at risk of harm from this pandemic, and our strong conviction that this relief should also protect the unborn and their right to life,” the bishops said.
“We are grateful this legislation addresses many positive provisions, including unemployment assistance, child and earned income tax credit enhancements, nutrition funding, vaccine distribution funding, health care funding, housing assistance, international assistance to regions stricken by COVID, conflict and hunger,” they said.
But “unlike previous COVID relief bills,” the bishops said, “sponsors of the American Rescue Plan Act refused to include the long-standing, bipartisan consensus policy to prohibit taxpayer dollars from funding abortions domestically and internationally.”
Hyde Amendment language “was needed because this bill includes many general references to health care that, absent the express exclusion of abortion, have consistently been interpreted by federal courts not only to allow, but to compel, the provision of abortion without meaningful limit,” the bishops said.
“The many important, life-saving provisions in the American Rescue Plan Act have been undermined because it facilitates and funds the destruction of life, which is antithetical to its aim of protecting the most vulnerable Americans in a time of crisis,” they added.
In remarks after its passage, Biden said the American Rescue Plan Act “represents a historic, historic victory for the American people. I look forward to signing it later this week.”
“Everything in the American Rescue Plan addresses a real need — including investments to fund our entire vaccination effort. More vaccines, more vaccinators and more vaccination sites,” he said.
No Republican in the House or Senate voted for the bill. Two House Democrats joined their Republican counterparts to vote against it Feb. 27; in the final House vote, one Democrat rejected it.
The measure includes $17 billion for vaccine-related activities and programs and $110 billion for other efforts to contain the pandemic; $130 billion for public schools; and $143 billion to expand child tax credit, child care tax credit and earned income tax credit mostly for one year.
Other provisions include $45 billion to temporarily expand Affordable Care Act subsidies for two years and subsidize 2020 and 2021 coverage; $25 billion for grants to restaurants and bars; $7 billion to allow more loans under the Paycheck Protection Program; $6 billion to increase nutrition assistance; and $350 billion for states and localities.
The bill also provides for checks of $1,400 to go to individuals who earn up to $75,000 a year and heads of households earning $112,500; married couples earning $150,000 will get $2,800. Eligible dependents, including adult dependents, also would each get $1,400.
It expressly provides $50 million for family planning, but as the bishops noted in their statement, and other national pro-life leaders have said, funding allocated in other provisions can be used for abortion.
It directs billions to state and local governments, $219 billion and $130 billion, respectively, “to mitigate the fiscal effects stemming from” COVID-19.
Because the Hyde Amendment is not applied to these funds, state and local governments could use the money to pay for abortion and abortion providers in the name of “responding to or mitigating the public health emergency,” said Carol Tobias, president of National Right to Life.
Jeanne Mancini, president of March for Life, said the “sheer size” of the measure gives it “the potential to be the largest expansion of abortion funding since Obamacare.”
She urged Biden “to honor the wishes of the majority of Americans who don’t want to pay for abortions and to return to his pro-life roots by vetoing this bill until the bipartisan Hyde Amendment and other pro-life protections are included.”