WASHINGTON (CNS) – As Christian missionaries and family members, some as young as 8 months old, were still being held for ransom in Haiti by a gang notorious for group kidnappings, other charities and religious groups examined how they can remain safe while delivering humanitarian aid.

Seventeen members of Christian Aid Ministries, based in Millersburg, Ohio, were kidnapped Oct. 16. The 400 Mawozo, which is considered in control of Croix-des-Bouquets and the surrounding area where the abductions occurred, claimed credit for the kidnapping and is demanding a $17 million ransom — $1 million per person.

The Ohio group was grabbed after their visit to an orphanage in Croix-des-Bouquets, a northeast suburb of Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince.

In April, five priests and two nuns were abducted in that same area, and released after 20 days when ransoms were paid. Christian Aid Ministries is connected to Amish and Mennonite groups in the United States.

“This is the worst Haiti has been for a long time,” Miami Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski told The Tablet, the newspaper of the Diocese of Brooklyn, New York. “It’s hard to see when it turns around. You think once it hits bottom it would start going on the uptick, but every time we think we hit bottom we find out that bottom is even deeper.”

AVSI, a nonprofit humanitarian relief and development organization based in Milan, Italy, which bills its mission as being based on Catholic social teaching, has had about 300 people in Haiti to address basic needs for food and shelter following the Aug. 14 earthquake there, and also to assist victims of urban violence.

Fiammetta Cappellini, the organization’s Haiti representative, told Catholic News Service that precautions they take for their people range “from reducing travel to stopping any travel during sensitive time slots.”

“We have a curfew at 8 p.m. because most kidnappings took place a few months ago after dark. We can also limit the movements in some regions of the city that are particularly exposed,” she said.

But Cappellini acknowledged, “It is impossible to reduce the risk of kidnappings to zero. The phenomenon is so vast and affects such diversified segments of the population. For example, there have been kidnappings of women in the market with minimal sources of income so that it can affect anyone.”

“What is certain is that statistically, the kidnappings are mainly aimed at the wealthiest population and are concentrated in certain areas at crucial time slots,” she said. “It does not happen exclusively then and there, but it is more frequent.”

The work itself, she said, “explicitly provides the best protection for this phenomenon because we build excellent relations with the community. If we build the best possible relationships, our presence will be considered an added value. It becomes a relationship in which the community understands our work, respects us and in some ways protects us.”

Of the Oct. 16 kidnappings, Cappellini called them “so upsetting because I’m sure these missionaries certainly have an excellent relationship with the community, so when the gangs kidnap those helping their communities, it destabilizes all of us and worries us a lot.”

Should kidnappings become more frequent, she said she expected her organization would be forced to suspend its Haiti operations.

In an Oct. 19 statement released to the media, Christian Aid Ministries said those who were abducted included five men and seven women ranging in age range from 18 to 48 and five children, ages 8 months, 3, 6, 13 and 15.

A White House spokeswoman said Oct. 18 the FBI was working with the U.S. diplomatic team in Haiti in to locate the missionary group and get them freed.


Pope Francis sits next to 10-year-old Paolo after the boy spontaneously walked on to the stage during the weekly general audience at the Vatican Oct. 20, 2021. (CNS photo/Remo Casilli, Reuters)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Pope Francis had a special guest help him illustrate the meaning of Christian freedom: a young boy wandered onto the stage during the pope’s general audience and made himself at home.

At his audience Oct. 20, the pope was continuing his series of talks on St. Paul’s Letter to the Galatians and planned to reflect on the freedom that comes from serving and loving others.

As the Bible passage was being read, 10-year-old Paolo walked onto the stage and right up to Pope Francis, who shook his hand.

A papal aide offered Paolo a seat next to the pope, which elicited applause from the crowd, and from the little boy. But he did not stay seated long; after clasping the pope’s hands again, Paolo pointed with amazement at the pope’s zucchetto. Moments later, the young boy could be seen happily bounding down the steps, returning to his mother wearing a brand new zucchetto on his head.

Departing from his prepared remarks, Pope Francis said the boy’s courage reminded him of “what Christ says about the spontaneity and the freedom of children.”

“Jesus tells us, ‘If you do not become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of God.’ It is the courage to be close to the Lord, to be open to the Lord, to not be afraid of the Lord. I thank this child for giving this lesson to all of us,” the pope said.

“There is no freedom without love,” Pope Francis said. “The selfish freedom of doing what I want is not freedom because it comes back to yourself, it isn’t fruitful.”

“It is Christ’s love that has freed us, and again it is love that frees us from the worst slavery, that of the self; therefore, freedom grows with love,” he said.

The freedom St. Paul writes about does not imply “a libertine way of living, according to the flesh or following instinct, individual desires or one’s own selfish impulses,” the pope said. Rather, the apostle speaks of a freedom that is “fully expressed in love.”

“It is the love that shines out in gratuitous service, modeled on that of Jesus, who washes the feet of his disciples and says, ‘I have given you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you;’ to serve one another,” the pope said.

St. Paul, the pope continued, also warns about viewing freedom as “doing what you want and what you like” which only leads to the realization “that we are left with a great emptiness inside and that we have used badly the treasure of our freedom.”

Pope Francis said Christians need to “rediscover the communitarian, not individualistic, dimension of freedom,” especially in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

“The pandemic has taught us that we need each other, but it is not enough to know this,” he said. “We need to choose it in a tangible way every day. Let us say and believe that others are not an obstacle to my freedom, but rather the possibility to fully realize it because our freedom is born from God’s love and grows in charity.”


His Excellency, Bishop Joseph C. Bambera, announces the following appointment, effective as follows:

Reverend Michael J. Kloton, to Administrator, Pro Tem, Saint Patrick Parish, White Haven, effective October 14, 2021.  Father Kloton will continue to serve as Pastor of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception Parish, Freeland, and Good Shepherd Parish, Drums.  In addition, Mrs. Mary Ann Malone will continue to serve as Parish Life Coordinator at Saint Patrick Parish, White Haven.



SCRANTON – Pope Francis wants to hear your thoughts and dreams about the Catholic Church.

The Holy Father is inviting Catholics who are already involved in church life – as well as those who may be on the margins or who have left the church – to voice their ideas and concerns about issues that are important to the Catholic Church today.

The pope is calling for the church to practice “synodality,” that is listening to – and hearing – one another in all facets of church life.

The process launches Oct. 17 in dioceses worldwide. On Oct. 10, Pope Francis celebrated Mass in Saint Peter’s Basilica to officially open the 2023 Synod of Bishops preparatory phase.

The Most Reverend Joseph C. Bambera, Bishop of Scranton, is inviting the faithful of the Diocese of Scranton to join him in an Opening Mass for the Synod of Bishops on Oct. 17 at 10:00 a.m. at the Cathedral of Saint Peter in Scranton.

The Diocesan Mass on Oct. 17 will begin a local listening process in the Diocese of Scranton that will take place over the next six months.

“Through a process of careful listening, our participation in the synod process will enable us to better understand how the Christian community participates in the life of our Church in the Diocese of Scranton today and how that shared participation among our members might grow in the future,” Bishop

Bambera wrote in a letter to the faithful earlier this month.

The Diocese of Scranton is still in the process of developing a broad consultation process that will utilize parishes, schools and other diocesan structures. While some of the listening opportunities will be conducted in-person, there will also be an online opportunity to reach all members of the community in the Diocese of Scranton.

Through this process, Pope Francis is calling all Catholics to look more deeply into how we are all “journeying together” as a church and where the Holy Spirit is calling us.

“The calling of this synod is well-aligned with the challenge Pope Francis offered his brother bishops to ‘dialogue fearlessly,’” according to a document provided to local dioceses by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. “The Holy Father has made a request of the people of God to participate as fully and authentically as possible in the synodal process.”

More details on how individuals in the Diocese of Scranton can participate and make their voice heard will be released in the coming weeks.

The Catholic Light will continue to provide coverage of the opportunities that are available to the faithful.


SCRANTON – Parishioners across the Diocese of Scranton are being asked to make a gift to the 2021 Diocesan Annual Appeal this weekend.

The weekend of Oct. 16 & 17 is designated as In-Pew Commitment Weekend. Pledge envelopes have been mailed to the homes of all parishioners and everyone is asked to return the envelopes to their parish offertory this weekend.

If anyone has not received a pledge envelope, they can use the form included in this week’s The Catholic Light or can visit annualappeal.org to make a safe, secure online donation.

Gifts to the 2021 Diocesan Annual Appeal have a significant impact to help diocesan ministries serve an increasing number of people in need and provide opportunities to offer programs and services in different ways in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The main ministries supported by gifts to the Diocesan Annual Appeal are:

  • Parish Social Justice Grants
  • Faith Formation Grants
  • Catholic Social Services
  • Catholic Schools
  • Care of Ill & Retired Priests
  • Support of Seminarians
  • Parish Life and Ministry Formation
  • Catholic Media and Communications

Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, Diocesan ministries have responded to the ongoing challenges in many unique ways.

Catholic Social Services of the Diocese of Scranton – along with parish food pantries – have served an increased number of individuals, families and seniors since the pandemic began in March 2020. All of our community partners continue to identify hunger as one of the most pressing needs throughout the pandemic and the recovery period.

During the pandemic, more than 75 percent of parishes began livestreaming Masses to keep parishioners connected. The Diocesan Office for Communications continued to broadcast the Daily Mass from the Cathedral of Saint Peter in Scranton and has offered new weekend Masses and prayer opportunities both on television and through livestreaming. Tens of thousands of parishioners have utilized the Mass broadcasts.

Significant adjustments were made in our Catholic schools in March 2020 to quickly move to distance learning. The faculty and staff of Diocesan schools worked tirelessly to provide in-person education during the 2020-2021 school year in a safe environment.

Donors to the Diocesan Annual Appeal can designate their gift to any of the ministries that is funded.

For more information on the ministries supported by the Appeal or to view one of the regional videos highlighting the importance of the Appeal visit annualappeal.org.

Gifts may also be made by calling the Diocesan Development Office at (570) 207-2250.

Donations may also be sent to: Diocesan Annual Appeal, 300 Wyoming Avenue, Scranton, PA, 18503.


Ann Marie Crecco, volunteer with the Saint Ann Basilica Parish food pantry, packs food bags to be distributed to people in the community.

SCRANTON – For nearly 18 years, the food pantry at Saint Ann Basilica Parish has been meeting the needs of its community.

“It started out slow in 2004 and ever since it has been growing and growing,” co-founder Dennis Yanchik said.

The West Scranton parish recently received a Social Justice Grant from the Diocesan Annual Appeal to make sure all clients are able to receive assistance. Every parish in the Diocese of Scranton can apply for a Social Justice Grant to address important needs in their community like parish food pantries.

“The Diocesan Annual Appeal is a fantastic endeavor,” Yanchik added. “It’ll help us purchase items that we’re low on. We can do a lot of things with it and we do a lot of things with it to help other people.”

Saint Ann Food Pantry holds two distributions monthly – on the second and fourth Wednesday of the month from 2:00 until 4:00 p.m.

People who rely on the food pantry say it is an important community asset.

“It is a big helping hand,” Joseph ‘Greg’ Saylock said while selecting food to take home on a recent Wednesday. “Some weeks you have nothing and then you come here and eat for a couple days.”

The Old Forge man says he appreciates the “fabulous work” of the volunteers.

“They’ve been nothing but terrific to me,” he explained.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, organizers of the food pantry say they have seen additional clients who have fallen on hard times – whether because of job losses, health problems or loss of insurance.

“We’re here for anybody, anybody and everybody,” Yanchik said. “They don’t have to be parishioners.”

Ann Marie Crecco began volunteering at the Saint Ann Food Pantry in 2006 after seeing an advertisement in the parish bulletin.

“When you reach out to people, they reach back to you,” she said.

In addition to helping on pantry distribution days, Crecco also brings food to the homebound.

“When I deliver the food, it is where it is Christmas all over again for people,” she explained. “They just can’t believe that I actually want to help them.”

Each one of the volunteers who help operate the Saint Ann Food Pantry is humble and kind. While they often downplay the importance of their work – it is truly making a difference.

“We’re not saving the world or anything but it gives us a good feeling,” Yanchik said.


Laurie Coffee, left, and Kathy Draxler, parishioners of Holy Child Parish, organize baby items inside the baby boutique at the Heart of Tioga Pregnancy & Parenting Support center in Mansfield.

MANSFIELD – Since opening its doors in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, Heart of Tioga has already served more than 100 women seeking help with ultrasounds.

“We wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the community,” Sharon Quimby, Executive Director, Heart of Tioga, said. “All of our donations, everything, all of our support is from the community so we couldn’t exist.”

Parishioners of Holy Child Parish in Mansfield quickly embraced the mission of Heart of Tioga. The Pregnancy and Parenting support center specializes in helping women deal with pregnancy-related issues by providing alternatives to abortion.

Several people involved in the parish’s Health Ministry Committee volunteer at Heart of Tioga. They organize the facility’s “baby boutique” which provides clothing, diapers and other essentials to mothers in need.

“It’s just a beautiful way for women to be supported,” Laurie Coffee, a Holy Child parishioner, explained.

Holy Child Parish uses funding from the Diocesan Annual Appeal to support its parish Health Ministry Committee – which includes many of its pro-life activities.

“To help a mom get through this piece is a gift to us, and a gift to them and a gift to these children because we want these children. We want them to have the babies,” Coffee added. “We want them to have the support they need to not feel like they’re alone once they have the babies.”

Heart of Tioga offers free pregnancy tests and ultrasounds to expectant mothers along with a variety of classes on pregnancy, labor and delivery and parenting skills.

Quimby says the impact of the funding from the Diocesan Annual Appeal and the assistance of volunteers from Holy Child Parish has been invaluable.

“It’s a huge blessing. There is so much that needs to be kept up,” Quimby explained.

Holy Child Parish recently held a baby bottle drive to support Heart of Tioga that raised more than $750. The parish also held a virtual baby shower for the facility in which parishioners were able to donate baby clothes.

“It’s nice to contribute something of yourself. I like to do things behind the scenes so I don’t mind taking baby items, sorting and washing,” parishioner Kathy Draxler of Sullivan Township said.

In addition to supporting Heart of Tioga, Holy Child Parish uses its funding from the Diocesan Annual Appeal to support several other programs that support its parish community, including the local food pantry and a medical equipment loan program.

“The monies that we received from the Social Justice Grant have allowed us to purchase, in this past year, two oversized wheelchairs. In the past, we’ve made purchases of a knee-scooter, attachments of feet for wheelchairs and a lot more,” Dotty Welsh, Holy Child parishioner and medical equipment coordinator said.

In a small shed located in the back of the parish parking lot, the parish’s health ministry committee stores numerous wheelchairs, walkers, canes and crutches that can be loaned out to people in the community when the need arises.

“This ministry would not be functioning as it does if it weren’t for the Social Justice Grant. We don’t have any fundraisers,” Welsh explained.

People in the community have benefited greatly from the medical equipment loan program.

“It is a wonderful program,” Linda Brown of Mansfield said. “In 2006, I had a hip replaced so I borrowed a cane, walker and raised toilet seat. In 2011, I had a knee replaced so I borrowed the same thing. In 2019, I had another knee done so I have used this many times!”

Anyone needing the medical equipment simply needs to sign the items out and can keep whatever they borrow as long as they need it.

“We had a call from a young woman in Wellsboro whose husband had terminal cancer and she wanted him to be able to come home but she needed a hospital bed, so we took and transported one and set it up in their house for them,” Welsh said.


PITTSTON –– Our Lady of the Eucharist Parish will host its 64th Annual Novena to Saint Jude, patron saint of hopeless cases and things despaired of, at Saint Mary, Help of Christians Church, 535 N. Main St., Pittston, beginning Tuesday, Oct. 19, and concluding on the Feast of Saint Jude, Thursday, Oct. 28.

Mass, homily, Novena prayers and veneration of the relic of Saint Jude will be held Monday through Friday at noon and 7 p.m. Saturday devotions are offered at noon and 4 p.m.; Sundays at 11 a.m. and 5 p.m.

Recitation of the Rosary and Confessions precede all Novena devotions, except on Sunday.

Scheduled Novena homilists are as follows:

Tuesday, Oct. 19, noon and 7 p.m., Father Mark DeCelles; Wednesday, Oct. 20, noon and 7 p.m., Father Seth Wasnock.

Thursday, Oct. 21, noon and 7 p.m., Father Brian Van Fossen; Friday, Oct. 22, noon, Father James Alco, and 7 p.m., Saint Joseph Oblate Father Paul McDonnell, Sacramental Minister for Our Lady of the Eucharist Parish.

Saturday, Oct. 23, noon, Father Thomas Maloney, pastor emeritus; and 4 p.m., Father McDonnell; Sunday, Oct. 24, 11 a.m., Father McDonnell, and 5 p.m., Father Maloney.

Monday, Oct. 25, noon and 7 p.m., Father Alex Roche; Tuesday, Oct. 26, noon and 7 p.m., Father Michael Bryant.

Wednesday, Oct. 27, noon and 7 p.m., Father Jeffrey Walsh.

On the Feast of Saint Jude, Thursday, Oct. 28, Father Gerald Shantillo, Vicar General of the Scranton Diocese, will celebrate the Novena’s closing liturgies at noon and 7 p.m.

For more information, contact the parish office at (570) 654-0263.


SCRANTON – The organizers of several community-based Thanksgiving programs are asking the people of northeastern Pennsylvania to open their hearts and ensure no one goes without this holiday season.

Linda Robeson, whose family spearheads the Family-to-Family Thanksgiving Food Basket Program, expects to distribute food to more than 3,500 families this year and has already ordered more than $150,000 in supplies. That is $25,000 more in food than was needed last year.

The food will be distributed on Wednesday, Nov. 24, in the parking lot of the Armed Forces Reserve Center, 3401 Olyphant Avenue, Scranton. The event will begin at 10 a.m. and run through 5:30 p.m.

“We’re so grateful for every penny because we need every penny,” Robeson explained. “Five dollars and twenty dollars add up very quickly.”

The Family to Family Food Basket Program started in 1986 and has traditionally taken place inside the Scranton Cultural Center. Because of the need for social distancing, the location of the distribution will take place at the Armed Forces Reserve Center for the first time.

The annual Thanksgiving Dinner for Adults and Elderly, organized by the Friends of the Poor, will also see changes for the second year in a row because of the pandemic.

Dinners will once again be packed as take-outs and handed out to those in need outside the Scranton Cultural Center in a drive-by event on Tuesday, Nov. 23, from 2:30 to 5:30 p.m. Volunteers will distribute the meals on the corner of North Washington Avenue and Vine Street in Scranton.

“It’ll be chaotic but it’ll be fun and there’s nothing more fitting for a Friends of the Poor event,” Friends of the Poor Operations Manager Brady Funkhouser said.

Initiated by the late Sister Adrian Barrett, I.H.M., in 1976 with 24 guests in need of a meal and family to share it with, the event has grown steadily over the decades. This year, an estimated 3,500 dinners will be prepared and distributed.

This year will mark 45 years of the Friends of the Poor hosting the Thanksgiving Dinner for Adults and Elderly.

The Thanksgiving Community Program will kick off with an Interfaith Prayer Service held the Friday night before the two big food distributions take place. All are welcome to join.

“On Nov. 19, at 7:00 p.m., we will gather at Temple Hesed for the first time since 2019 to celebrate the blessings we as a community have seen over the past year and a half. We’ll pray for those who still struggle and we’ll come together as a community in hope, love and gratitude,” Funkhouser noted. 



A donation of $30 sponsors a family of four. Donations can be sent to:

Family to Family Program
PO Box 13, Scranton, PA 18501

Online donations can be made at friendsofthepoorscranton.com/family-to-family-food-basket-program

Text your donation by texting “Thanks” to (570) 525-5956


Friends of the Poor is looking for donors to cover the cost of the 76 30-pound turkeys that are ordered along with other food and takeout items. Send donations to:

Friends of the Poor
Thanksgiving Community Dinner
2300 Adams Avenue
Scranton, PA 18509

Online donations can be made at friendsofthepoorscranton.com

For more information, call (570) 340-6086





Saint Mary, Our Lady Help of Christians Church in Dorrance hosted the Saint Jude Youth Group for a combined Diocesan Day of Service on Oct. 2, 2021. The jobs that volunteers participated in included cleaning bazaar stands and the parish hall along with painting classrooms. (Photo/Ed Koons)

HAZLETON – From cleaning up a cemetery to making birthday bags for children who visit a soup kitchen, more than 165 people throughout the Diocese of Scranton participated in various service projects on the weekend of Oct. 2 and 3.

Parish and school groups arranged service opportunities in their communities as part of the “Scranton Serves” initiative. Organized by the Diocesan Offices for Parish Life and Vocations, the weekend of service challenged people to put their faith into action in tangible ways.

More than 30 people participated in a clean-up project on Oct. 2 at Transfiguration Cemetery in the Hazleton area. Volunteers from both Holy Rosary Parish in Hazleton and Holy Name of Jesus Parish in West Hazleton rolled up their sleeves to help.

“It was a good project for both parishes to get together,” volunteer Brian Schott said. “It’s really great because some people we haven’t seen before. We’re getting to make new friends.”

Shannon Marsyada, a parishioner at Holy Name of Jesus Parish, admits she did not know many of her fellow volunteers at first but quickly became acquainted with everyone.

Volunteers from Holy Rosary Parish in Hazleton and Holy Name of Jesus Parish in West Hazleton work to clean up Transfiguration Cemetery on Oct. 2, 2021. (Photo/Ed Koons) 

“I love volunteering. I feel like I’m doing God’s work. He is using my hands today,” she said. “This is what God intended for us to do. We’re not here for ourselves. We’re here for each other.”

Father Wilfredo Cusicanqui, Assistant Pastor of both parishes, also participated in the service project saying he was very happy to see all the people who assisted.

“It’s fantastic to see the turnout and everyone is just working and looking to see what else they could do in order to make the cemetery a beautiful place for others to rest,” volunteer Barbara Bayzik said.

While the cemetery clean up was underway in lower Luzerne County, dozens of young adults from Saint Matthew Parish in East Stroudsburg and Our Lady Queen of Peace Parish in Brodheadsville were participating in the Pocono Pregnancy Center’s Walk for Life in Stroudsburg as part of “Scranton Serves.”

Volunteers from Saint Ignatius Parish work to clean up the pasture for the sheep at the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker Farm in Harveys Lake on Oct. 3, 2021. (Photo/Shannon Kowalski)

Following the walk, the volunteers from Saint Matthew Parish took part in clean-up projects around their church while some people from Our Lady Queen of Peace did landscaping outside Shepherd’s Maternity House, a pregnancy resource center operated by Catholic Social Services.

Meanwhile, 7th and 8th grade Confirmation students at Gate of Heaven Parish in Dallas and Our Lady of Victory Parish in Harveys Lake made 56 birthday bags for children who visit the Saint Vincent de Paul Kitchen or reside at the McAuley House. The bags were filled with cake mixes, icing, birthday candles, balloons, streamers, toys and more.

At Saint Mary, Help of Christians Parish in Dorrance, nearly 50 people worked to clean church pavilions, paint classrooms and clean the social hall kitchen.

“It is good to help out the church,” volunteer Conor Buckley said. “We’re just cleaning up the church. We’re getting ready for a festival that we’re about to have.”

Parishioners of Saint Mary’s got assistance from their linked parish, Saint Jude’s in Mountain Top.

“It’s good for people to get out in their community,” volunteer Jack Scanlan added. “I think it’s nice when you get a lot of people here. It makes the work go by faster and you get more work done in total.”

“I think it’s really good to see that all these people who didn’t have to be here came to help out,” volunteer Steven Rowlands added.

On Sunday, Oct. 3, the service projects continued as more than 20 volunteers from Saint Therese Parish in Shavertown made blankets for children in need of a proper place to sleep.

Seven volunteers from Saint Ignatius Parish in Kington also volunteered to clear the fall and winter pasture for sheep at the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker Farm in Harveys Lake.