The Saint Francis of Assisi Kitchen in Scranton will mark the conclusion of its 2021 Host‑for‑a‑Day campaign with a Virtual Celebration highlighting the mission of the Kitchen and those who make it possible.
The Kitchen serves a free, hot, nutritious meal to approximately 250 men, women and children each day at lunchtime and three evenings a week. This has continued throughout the pandemic in a safe way via takeout containers.
The Host‑for‑a‑Day campaign is the primary source of financial support for these meals. For a donation of $100 or more, an individual, family, business, community organization or faith-based group can help to sponsor the day’s meal. In effect, each contributor becomes a “host” for a day.
Out of concern for the health and safety of benefactors and board members, the typical Appreciation Reception that concludes the campaign will not be held in a gathered way. Instead, the culmination of the campaign will be marked with a Virtual Celebration consisting of a brief pre-recorded program.
According to Michele Bannon, a member of the Kitchen’s Advisory Board who is chairing the campaign, this video will thank the donors to the campaign, and in particular it will recognize those dedicated volunteers who have continued to serve during the pandemic as well as the members of AFSCME Local Union 87 (American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees) for their annual support organized by Eric Schubert in memory of his late father, Frank Schubert, who volunteered at the Kitchen.
Contributions to the Host‑for‑a‑Day campaign can be made by calling the Kitchen at 570-342‑5556, or sending a check to Saint Francis of Assisi Kitchen, 500 Penn Avenue, Scranton PA 18509. Donations can also be made online at: www.stfranciskitchen.org.
Those who would like to sponsor the Virtual Reception are asked to call the Kitchen at 570-342‑5556.
The Diocese of Scranton will take up the Catholic Home Missions Appeal on the weekend of April 24-25, 2021.
Today, more than 40% of dioceses in the United States and its territories are unable to fund the essential pastoral work their communities need.
This appeal helps our brothers and sisters here in the United States who do not have access to basic pastoral services like Mass, the sacraments, and religious education.
Your support of this appeal helps them meet these faith formation and sacramental needs. Your generous gifts fund religious education, seminary formation, lay ministry training, and other programs that build vibrant faith communities right here in the United States.
When you participate in the Catholic Home Missions Appeal, you join in the Church’s healing mission of mercy to all.
Please prayerfully consider how you can support this appeal on the weekend of April 24-25, 2021. More information can be found at www.usccb.org/home-missions.
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – To express the closeness of God and of the church to every older person, Pope Francis has chosen “I am with you always” from the Gospel of Matthew as the theme for the first World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly.
The theme for the celebration July 25 is especially appropriate “in these challenging pandemic times,” said the announcement from the Dicastery for Laity, the Family and Life.
“‘I am with you always’ is also a promise of closeness and hope that young and old can mutually share. Not only are grandchildren and young people called upon to be present in the lives of older people, but older people and grandparents also have a mission of evangelization, proclamation and prayer, and of encouraging young people in their faith,” the statement said.
Pope Francis announced in late January that he was establishing the World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly, which is to be celebrated each year on the fourth Sunday of July to coincide with the feast of Sts. Joachim and Anne, Jesus’ grandparents.
Cardinal Kevin J. Farrell, prefect of the dicastery, had said the annual event would be “a gift to the whole church” and one that emphasizes the pastoral care of the elderly as “a priority that can no longer be postponed by any Christian community.”
“In the encyclical, ‘Fratelli Tutti,’ the Holy Father reminds us that no one is saved alone. With this in mind, we must treasure the spiritual and human wealth that has been handed down from generation to generation,” he said.
Pope Francis is expected to mark the day with an evening Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica.
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Pope Francis has called for a global prayer marathon for the entire month of May, praying for the end to the pandemic.
“The initiative will involve in a special way all shrines in the world” in promoting the initiative so that individuals, families and communities all take part in reciting the rosary, “to pray for the end of the pandemic,” said the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization in a press release April 21.
“It is the heartfelt desire of the Holy Father that the month of May be dedicated to a prayer marathon dedicated to the theme, ‘from the entire church an unceasing prayer rises to God,'” it said.
The theme refers to the miraculous event recounted in the Acts of the Apostles (12:1-12) when all the church prayed for Peter, who was imprisoned until God sent an angel to free him, illustrating how the Christian community comes together to pray in the face of danger and how the Lord listens and performs an unexpected miracle.
Each day in May, there will be a livestream from one of 30 chosen Marian shrines or sanctuaries to guide the prayer at 6 p.m. Rome time (noon EDT) on all Vatican media platforms.
The pope will open the monthlong prayer May 1 and conclude it May 31, the council said.
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Because prayer is a dialogue with God, people should not dismiss or be embarrassed by saying their prayers out loud or in a whisper, Pope Francis said.
“Vocal prayer is an essential element of the Christian life,” and when Jesus taught the disciples how to pray, it was with a vocal prayer, the “Our Father,” the pope said April 21 during his weekly general audience.
Continuing his series of talks on prayer, the pope reflected on the importance of speaking the words of prayers out loud rather than seeing prayer just as a mental exercise or form of meditation.
Too often, people think reciting a prayer is something only children or the uneducated do, but it is the way Jesus taught his followers to pray, he said.
“The words we speak take us by the hand. At times they restore flavor, they awaken even the sleepiest of hearts,” they reawaken forgotten feelings and they “lead us by the hand toward experiencing God,” he said.
People should be humble when seeing the elderly who unfailingly show their fidelity to the duty of prayer and who are “often the great intercessors of parishes,” he said.
“They are the oaks that from year to year spread their branches to offer shade to the greatest number of people,” he said. And even though they, too, must have faced moments of darkness and emptiness, they remain faithful to vocal prayer.
“It is like an anchor, one can hold onto the rope and remain faithful, come what may,” he said.
“The words of a prayer get us safely through a dark valley, direct us toward green meadows rich in water and enable us to feast in front of the eyes of an enemy,” as Psalm 23 teaches, he said.
The words can both reflect and shape feelings, helping feelings come to light, excluding and censoring nothing, the pope said.
“Pain is dangerous if it stays covered, closed up within us” as it can poison the soul, Pope Francis said.
Sacred Scripture shows the human heart can be home to harmful or hateful feelings, he said, “and when these evil feelings come knocking at the door of our heart, we must be able to defuse them with prayer and God’s words.”
Vocal prayers “are the only ones, in a sure way, that direct to God the questions he wants to hear. Jesus did not leave us in a fog. He told us, ‘Pray then like this,’ and he taught the Lord’s Prayer,” he said.
EMMITSBURG, Md. (CNS) – When the world shut down last year because of the pandemic, the National Shrine of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton decided it was time to reach outward.
The question was how — when, for a time, people couldn’t even visit the shrine in Emmitsburg? The answer was simple, profound and one that Mother Seton, America’s first native-born saint, would have appreciated: Pray.
So, buoyed by dedicated staff members and seminarians from nearby Mount St. Mary’s Seminary, the shrine in the Baltimore Archdiocese created a prayer hotline last April that has proven so successful, it plans to continue well after COVID-19 has receded.
To date, over 2,000 calls have been logged, and many of them have turned into relationships that have changed the lives of people on both ends of the line.
“We are sometimes the only ones they talk to; the only ones who say their name,” said Rebecca Corbell, evangelization programs manager at the shrine. “Having that connection; having a person who knows your name builds a relationship that is so powerful.”
And this effort isn’t limited to just calls. One of the staff members on this project writes to 12 death-row inmates a week. The hotline team also proactively calls people in the shrine’s vast database to see if they need prayers.
“It’s a way to do pastoral work and to be with people amid the pandemic,” said Christopher Feist, a seminarian from Leonardtown, Maryland.
The prayer hotline is part of the extensive evangelization efforts of the shrine, as it marks the 200th anniversary of the death of Mother Seton. In January, the shrine released “Seeker to Saint,” a film on her life. Other short films on various aspects of her life and spirituality will be released later this year.
The shrine also instituted virtual tours of its historical buildings, attracting thousands of people and groups from as far away as Alaska. They are so popular that the shrine plans to continue them into the future.
In addition, the shrine plans an exhibit in July of artifacts from Mother Seton’s life that were recently donated by the Sisters of Charity of New York, one of the orders that traces its lineage back to Mother Seton.
There also are also plans to expand the shrine’s Seeds of Hope retreat program for underserved populations later this year.
“The shrine is a basilica, a museum and the real home of a saint, and we have a mission as a place of prayer and pilgrimage to draw people closer to our Lord,” said Rob Judge, executive director of the shine.
“Through programs like the prayer hotline, we connect people to Mother Seton and a life and legacy that is relatable and inspiring,” he said. “She is a true saint for our times, and we increasingly find that her message resonates with people today.”
Mother Seton valued friendship as evidenced by her voluminous correspondents with friends over her lifetime, Judge said.
“The prayer line is enabling her shrine to form friendships with people who need God’s healing love and to know that in Mother Seton, they have a friend in heaven,” he said.
The seminarians, who are from the Archdiocese of Washington, said they jumped at the chance to participate in the program. “We wanted the experience of being with people and to bring their concerns to God and to show we care and to bring God’s love to them,” Feist said.
The idea of cold-calling people — not to sell them anything but to offer to pray with them — can be intimidating, they say. But in the end, “you’re going to connect with people who Jesus wants you to and nobody else,” said Benedict Radich, from Rockville, Maryland.
Sometimes the reaction is “are you sure you’re not asking me for money?” said Caleb Gaeng, who is from Bowie, Maryland. “But it’s beautiful to be with someone who God has put me with; someone who needs prayers at just that moment.”
Prayer requests deal with everything from loneliness and illnesses to issues with jobs, families and addiction, said Karen McGrath of Taneytown, Maryland, and the first person hired on the prayer team.
“People need to tell their stories,” she said. “Part of this is just standing with them before God, asking for the things they need.”
She recalls how one man called in January and was distraught. She tried to express how he needed to see how God is with us and in each other.
Recently, he called back to say that her advice helped and “that he was able to look at Jesus and say, ‘Thank you.'”
A prayer ministry comes easy to her, she said. She’s the mother of five sons and a daughter — “so I pray a lot.”
As for the future, the shrine now sees the hotline — borne in the depths of the pandemic — as an essential part of its mission, Corbell said.
“These are our people,” she said. “We need to be doing this.”
WASHINGTON (CNS) – Although Catholic leaders across the country called the April 20 jury verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial a moment of justice, they also stressed there is still a lot of work to do to move toward healing.
Archbishop Bernard A. Hebda of Minneapolis and St. Paul called the verdict — which found the former Minneapolis police officer guilty on all counts for his role in the death of George Floyd last spring — “a sobering moment for our community.”
“The decision by a jury of peers punctuates the grief that has gripped the Twin Cities in these last months and underscores the soul-searching that has taken place in homes, parishes and workplaces across the country as we together confront the chasm that exists between the brokenness of our world and the harmony and fraternity that our creator intends,” he said.
The archbishop said he was praying for healing in the nation’s communities in this challenging time and for comfort for the Floyd family and for all who mourn and seek justice.
In an April 21 statement, Washington Cardinal Wilton D. Gregory said he echoed Archbishop Hebda’s call for “peace and nonviolence in all of our communities.” He also urged people to renew their commitment to respect each other and remember their shared humanity.
Other bishops around the country echoed this response soon after verdict was issued as many were gathered outside in Minneapolis and around TV sets and phones across the country awaiting the jury’s decision in the late afternoon that came after more than 10 hours of deliberation over two days.
Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori said the “just verdict” should bring “more than a sigh of relief,” stressing that it should “spur us on in the peaceful but persistent struggle for racial justice, for genuine police reform and toward the creation of peaceful cities and neighborhoods.”
He also said the continued work is up to everyone in “overcoming racism, prejudice and other injustices.”
Similarly, Bishop Michael W. Fisher of Buffalo, New York, said the jury’s “verdict of accountability” was an “important step in healing the deep wounds of racial tension.”
He said the image of Floyd’s confrontation with police and the final moments of life, “will forever challenge us and must always compel us to create a more compassionate and just society, where all enjoy equal rights and protections under the law.”
Chauvin’s high-profile trial was three weeks long and included testimony from dozens of witnesses and hours of video footage. But just because the trial is over does not mean underlying issues are resolved, another bishop said.
“We must still face the reality that we are not done with racism,” said Bishop W. Shawn McKnight of Jefferson City, Missouri. “In our own communities, including in the Diocese of Jefferson City, individuals are being humiliated and denigrated because of their race. Their human dignity is being crushed and defiled because they are seen as ‘other’ or ‘less than.'”
In a statement, he said, “Violence motivated by racism must stop,” and he asked people to pray for this to happen, urging an “awakening of consciences in every American, but especially in our faithful.”
Bishop John E. Stowe of Lexington, Kentucky, president of Pax Christi USA, added his voice to those who said the verdict in the case of Floyd’s death could be the start of something new, saying it “marks the beginning of an era of accountability for the violation of human dignity and the taking of human life by those in power.”
He also said the jury’s decision affirms the message “shouted on our streets for nearly a year: George Floyd’s life matters, Black lives matter. Let us pray that a precedent has been set that will allow people of color to know that their lives are to be protected by law enforcement and that there will be consequences when they are not.”
The bishop pointed out that what happened to Floyd was not an isolated event, saying: “There are many other families who are longing for this kind of justice and recognition of the worth of the lives of their loved ones; we must work to make this verdict the norm rather than the exception.”
The nation’s bishops were not the only Catholic leaders to publicly react to the long-anticipated verdict. Leaders of Catholic organizations also were quick to issue statements or respond on social media to the jury’s decision and its implications.
Dominican Sister Donna Markham, president and CEO of Catholic Charities USA, offered prayers for Floyd’s family and similarly echoed the call for the nation to do more.
“While there may be a brief sense of relief that justice has been served, ” she said, “we must acknowledge that, as a country, we still have a lot of work to do to eradicate the pervasive racism and continued disregard for human life that continues to play out in communities across the country.”
She said Catholic Charities “remains committed to addressing issues of inequality and discrimination, by leading conversations on race, speaking up for the under-served and providing resources to remain educated on this systemic issue.”
Similarly, Mercy Sister Mary Haddad, president and CEO of the Catholic Health Association of the United States, said the verdict in the Chauvin case should bring people together in a renewed commitment to racial and social justice.
She also said the nation’s Catholic health care ministry sees racism as a public health crisis and is “committed to addressing health disparities and achieving health equity. ”
Other sisters responding to the verdict included the general council of the Dominican Sisters of Adrian, Michigan, who said: “the nation takes the collective breath that Mr. Floyd was denied.”
The sisters said they grieve the loss of Floyd’s life and pray that Chauvin “may come to understand the monumental consequences of his lethal actions.”
And like many others, they urged Americans to take action against racism that “for too long has imperiled the lives of our Black brothers and sisters, sickened our souls and debased our democracy.” They said they would similarly step up, saying they would “commit to doing all we can to that end.”
Sister Helen Prejean, a Sister of St. Joseph of Medaille, who is a longtime activist against the death penalty, similarly viewed the verdict as a sobering call to do more.
In an April 20 tweet she said: “The conviction of one individual is a small measure of justice when we have a system that remains plagued with centuries-worth of racism in the law and in practice. I pray that this will be a catalyst for real change.”
Lay leaders also responded to the trial’s outcome which captured so many people not just in the past three weeks but in the last 11 months since Floyd’s death.
John Gehring, Catholic program director at Faith in Public Life, a Washington-based advocacy group, echoed the sense of a “deep breath of relief for this decision,” but he similarly coupled with an acknowledgment of the ongoing challenge ahead.
“We can never forget that George Floyd and many others killed by police violence begged for breath they were denied. In that remembering, the struggle for justice continues,” he said.
Patricia McGuire, president of Trinity Washington University, likewise noted the somberness of this case, saying that while people cheered the verdict, “the bitter reality of the Chauvin case is that George Floyd remains deceased” as do other Black men and women who were killed by police officers in the past year.
“No single verdict can restore justice for the Black and Brown communities so devastated by official violence and real oppression,” she said.
But she also recognized steps that can be taken, like ones happening now on Trinity’s campus.
“We believe that the most effective way to create social change is to make sure that our Black and Latina graduates have opportunities to become leaders in a wide range of professions, forging pathways in places where persons of color have been excluded or under-represented for far too long,” she wrote.
McGuire acknowledged that the campus effort “may seem like a long way from that Minnesota street where George Floyd lost his life,” but she sees it as a step in the right direction.
Statement of the Most Reverend Joseph C. Bambera, Bishop of Scranton, on Verdict in Trial of Derek Chauvin
“Today, jurors in a Minnesota courtroom rendered a verdict in the trial of Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd in May 2020. This evening, I offer prayers to the Floyd family and for all who have suffered because of the sin of racism and oppression.
“This moment reminds us that the scourge of racism must continue to be addressed. The Catholic Church boldly proclaims that all human life is sacred and every human person is created in God’s image and likeness. In order to confront racism in our land and change hearts and minds, each one of us must take a deep look at ourselves. Racism comes in many forms. Sometimes it is deliberate – often it is subconscious – and at times it occurs when one fails to act when injustices occur.
“The words of Pope Francis from June 2020 challenge us to reflect upon core values of our Catholic faith, “We cannot tolerate or turn a blind eye to racism and exclusion in any form and yet claim to defend the sacredness of every human life.”
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Greeting visitors in St. Peter’s Square after nearly a month of tight restrictions due to the pandemic, Pope Francis said he was happy to see people allowed to gather and be present for Sunday noonday prayer.
“I offer a warm greeting to all of you, people of Rome and pilgrims,” he said, pointing out the many flags he could see being held high.
A few hundred people, all wearing masks and socially distanced, attended the recitation of the “Regina Coeli” prayer April 18 after nearly a month of tighter controls on gatherings in an ongoing attempt to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
“Thanks be to God, we can find ourselves again in this square for the Sunday and holiday appointment,” he said, adding how much he misses greeting people in the square when he must recite the midday prayer inside the apostolic library.
“I am happy, thanks be to God! And thank you for your presence,” he said to applause.
In his main talk, Pope Francis said Jesus is a real living person whose presence always leaves the person encountering him astonished, which “goes beyond enthusiasm, beyond joy; it is another experience” that is profoundly beautiful.
He said the day’s Gospel reading of the risen Christ’s appearance to the disciples in Jerusalem, “tells us that Jesus is not a ‘ghost,’ but a living person,” who fills people with joy.
“Being Christian is not first of all a doctrine or a moral ideal; it is a living relationship with him, with the risen Lord: we look at him, we touch him, we are nourished by him and, transformed by his love, we look at, touch and nourish others as brothers and sisters,” he said.
Jesus invites his disciples to truly look at him, which involves “intention, will” and an attitude of loving care and concern, he said.
More than seeing, it is the way parents look at their child, “lovers gaze at each other, a good doctor looks at the patient carefully. … looking is a first step against indifference, against the temptation to look the other way before the difficulties and sufferings of others,” the pope said.
By inviting the disciples to touch him, he said, Jesus shows that a relationship with him and with one’s brothers and sisters “cannot remain at a distance” but requires a love that looks and comes close, making contact, sharing and “entering into a communion of life, a communion with him.”
And the verb, to eat, clearly expresses “our humanity,” he said, and “our need to nourish ourselves in order to live.”
When people come together to eat, it becomes “an expression of love, an expression of communion, of celebration,” which is why “the eucharistic banquet has become the emblematic sign of the Christian community. Eating together the body of Christ: this is the core of Christian life,” the pope said.
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Without prayer, everything crumbles and any initiatives for church reform will just be proposals by some group and not the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Pope Francis said.
“Everything in the church originates in prayer and everything grows thanks to prayer,” the pope said April 14 during his weekly general audience.
If there is no prayer, the church becomes “like an empty shell” that has lost its bearings and “no longer possesses its source of warmth and love,” he said, and it ends up being made up of groups of “entrepreneurs of faith” that are well organized and busy with charitable activities but lack faith.
Continuing his series of talks on prayer, the pope reflected on the role of the church as a school of faith and prayer.
“The breath of faith is prayer,” the pope said. “We grow in faith inasmuch as we learn to pray,” and over time, especially after crises or difficult periods in life, “we become aware that without faith, we could not have made it through and that our strength was prayer.”
That is why groups or communities that are dedicated to prayer “flourish in the church” and can become “centers of spiritual light, small oases in which intense prayer is shared and fraternal communion is constructed day by day,” breathing life into the church and society itself, he said.
“Praying and working in community keeps the world going,” Pope Francis said.
When the devil wants to attack the church, he starts with sapping its strength by hindering prayer, he said.
For example, he said, “we see this in certain groups who agree to promote church reforms, changes in the life of the church” and they may be very well organized and have wide media outreach, “but you don’t see any prayer.”
The groups may have interesting ideas and proposals, but these only emerged from talking and through the media, not prayer, the pope said.
“Prayer is what opens the door to the Holy Spirit,” who inspires the path forward, he said. “Changes in the church without prayer are not changes made by the church, they are changes made by groups.”
Prayer gives people strength, he said, leading one’s life “securely forward” no matter how lowly, imperfect or weak one’s life may be.
“Holy women and men do not have easier lives than other people” since they have problems, too, and face opposition, he said. But with prayer, the saints “nourish the flame of their faith” and even though they often “count for little in the eyes of the world, they are in reality the ones who sustain it, not with the weapons of money and power, of the communications media and so on, but with the weapon of prayer.”
Christians, he said, should ask themselves whether they pray and reflect on how they pray, for example, “like parrots or do I pray with my heart?”
Do people pray with the church or “do I pray a bit according to my ideas and then make my ideas become prayer? This is a pagan prayer, not Christian,” he added.
The essential task of the church, the pope said, is to pray and to teach people how to pray and to hand down the “lamp of faith and the oil of prayer from generation to generation.”
“Without faith everything collapses; and without prayer faith is extinguished,” he said. But as long as “there is the oil of prayer,” the lamp of faith will always be lit on earth.