INDIANAPOLIS – While things may have looked different at this year’s National Catholic Youth Conference, the spirit of the event was unchanged.

Eighty-five young adults and chaperones from the Diocese of Scranton participated in this year’s event, traveling together by bus to the Indiana Convention Center and Lucas Oil Stadium for the Nov. 18-20 conference.

“It was fun that we all got to be together and get to meet new friends and hear all the speakers and go to Mass,” Lucas Bower, 15, Saint Joseph the Worker Parish in Williamsport, said. “Adoration was really neat. Everyone was quiet. Inside the whole stadium you could hear a pin drop.”

“Originally, I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into,” Olivia DeScipio, 15, Saint Eulalia Parish in Roaring Brook Township, said. “My older brother went and he said he had such an amazing experience. I was always on board with going once I got into high school but after this weekend, I really realize how big of an event this is and how amazing it was to be in such an accepting community of Catholics.”

This year, nearly 11,000 young adults from across the country participated in NCYC. Organizers decided to limit registrations to only half of the normal 20,000 because of COVID-19 concerns.

“The number this year was almost more impressive because of all the restrictions that are in place right now. It was crazy to see how many people were still willing to go through that,” Luke Magnotta, 16, Saint Eulalia Parish in Roaring Brook Township, said. This year was Magnotta’s second trip to NCYC.

In order to maintain a safe environment, all participants from the Diocese of Scranton were required to show a negative COVID-19 test result within 72 hours of the event. Face masks were also required during indoor events.

Adoration leads teens to experience ‘true love of God’

Father Leo Patalinghug speaks to the nearly 11,000 participants at the National Catholic Youth Conference while kneeling before the Blessed Sacrament during adoration at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis Nov. 19, 2021. (CNS photo/Natalie Hoefer, The Criterion)

For many youths, group adoration on the second night of the conference is the part of the event they find most memorable.

As soon as the Eucharist was brought into Lucas Oil Stadium, all of the teens started kneeling, watching in silence as the monstrance was placed on the altar.

“There were 10,000 kids in that stadium, an echoing stadium, and there was no noise. Everyone was silent, praying to the same God,” Jacob Chechel, 14, Our Lady Queen of Peace Parish in Brodheadsville, said.

“I feel like the 10,000 of us, all getting together for quiet Adoration was just very special. It’s rare that you’ll see something that big,” Shaylee Kimmick, Our Lady Queen of Peace Parish in Brodheadsville, added.

Father Leo Patalinghug, a priest-member of a community of consecrated life called Voluntas Dei (“The Will of God”) led the adoration service.

Father Leo urged the teens to see the beauty of the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist.

“With Christ, all things are possible. You can be a saint – you are supposed to be a saint,” he said.

“I have always heard that Adoration at big conferences is really powerful … and it was very true for me,” Deirdre Drinkall said. Drinkall is currently working at Saint Ignatius Loyola Parish in Kingston as one of three ECHO apprentices currently serving in the Diocese of Scranton. “It was a sense of deep peace … there was just a palpable peace laying over us when Adoration came and it was really beautiful.”

Teens participate in projects that help others

When not attending breakout sessions or Masses, NCYC participants have the opportunity to meet other young adults from other dioceses across the country. The students trade hats, pins and other items, giving them an opportunity to meet one another.

“I met so many people,” DeScipio said. “It was just so cool to be in a place where everybody has the same beliefs as you and you just felt more open, like you could discuss anything with them.”

There is also a large expo room inside the Indiana Convention Center where the students can shop, learn about vocations and meet keynote speakers.

The NCYC participants from Our Lady Queen of Peace Parish spent time together packing bags of rice and beans as part of a service project for Cross Catholic Outreach.

“Seeing how people in third world countries live really opened my eyes to how blessed I am to have some of the things I have,” Kimmick said.

In all, with just a small amount of work, the Pocono parish was able to pack enough bags to feed 5,832 people.

“It was so effortless. We were just talking and having a good time and I didn’t realize how many people we were serving food to, that don’t get the same things that we do. I take for granted everything I have and when I see that, it just puts me in the right mindset,” Chechel added.

Closing Mass encouraged youths to ‘keep the fire alive’

Indianapolis Archbishop Charles C. Thompson celebrates the closing Mass of the National Catholic Youth Conference in Lucas Oil Stadium Nov. 20, 2021. (CNS photoNatalie Hoefer, The Criterion)

At the closing Mass of NCYC, Indianapolis Archbishop Charles C. Thompson encouraged all attendees to return home with the fire of the Holy Spirit.

“Let us go forth with that fire to more fully embrace the Lord’s mission in bringing about the kingdom of God, striving always to be Christ-centered in all that we are about,” Archbishop Thompson said.

The closing Mass was one of the most memorable experiences of the trip for Olivia DeScipio.

“I really enjoyed the Mass on the last night. It was just so amazing to see so many kids my age, from all over the United States all here for one reason. It was just really amazing to see how big of a community we are really a part of,” she said.

When asked how he planned to keep the ‘fire’ of his NCYC experience alive, Luke Magnotta was quickly able to respond.

“I have to go to Confession more. I went to Confession and the last time that I had gone to Confession was last NCYC so I definitely have to go in between more,” he admitted. “The priest who was giving Confession to me explained that it’s a beautiful thing that God gives us the opportunity to go to Confession so we need to take it. That is something that I need to do.”

“If an experience like this did nothing more than to increase your desire to have a personal relationship with Christ, that will rub off on other people,” Drinkall said. “If you are on fire, then the people around you will slowly start to feel that and be on fire as well.”


SCRANTON – The Diocese of Scranton will hold the Retirement Fund for Religious collection Dec. 11-12. The parish-based appeal is coordinated by the National Religious Retirement Office (NRRO) in Washington, D.C. Proceeds help religious communities across the country to care for aging members.

Last year, the Diocese of Scranton donated $50,029.74 to the collection. In 2021, the Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary received financial support made possible by the Retirement Fund for Religious.

“I am continually heartened by the generosity of U.S. Catholics,” said NRRO Executive Director Sister Stephanie Still, a member of the Sisters of the Presentation of San Francisco. “Even in difficult times, they find a way to give back to those who have tirelessly served our Church and our world.”

Hundreds of U.S. religious communities face a large gap between the needs of their older members and the funds available to support them. Historically, Catholic sisters, brothers and religious order priests — known collectively as women and men religious — served for little to no pay. As a result, many communities now lack adequate retirement savings.

At the same time, health-care expenses continue to rise, and an increasing number of older religious require specialized services. NRRO data shows that 26,330 women and men religious in the United States are older than age 70. The total cost for their care exceeds $1 billion annually.

To help address the deficit in retirement funding among U.S. religious orders, Catholic bishops of the United States initiated the Retirement Fund for Religious collection in 1988.

Distributions are sent to each eligible order’s central house and provide supplemental funding for necessities, such as medications and nursing care. Donations also underwrite resources that help religious communities improve eldercare and plan for long-term retirement needs.

The 2020 appeal raised $20.7 million, and funding was distributed to 321 U.S. religious communities.

“We are blessed by countless supporters who share our mission to ensure all religious can enjoy a safe and modest retirement,” said Sister Still.

According to a communique released by the Vincentians, the meeting was the “culmination and the continuation” of a yearlong Italian pilgrimage with a statue of Mary the pope blessed last year to mark the 190th anniversary of the Marian apparitions to St. Catherine Labouré.

It was during the second apparition, in November 1830, that St. Catherine said Mary told her to make medals of the image she was seeing — Mary, standing on a globe, with the words “O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to you” written as an oval frame around her.

The pope also welcomed pilgrims from the St. John Paul II Association and the Italian Association for Victims of Violence before making his way to the audience hall.

At the audience, Pope Francis continued his new series of talks on St. Joseph, reflecting on his role in the history of salvation.

Recalling St. Matthew’s compilation of Jesus’ genealogy, the pope said that although St. Joseph is not Jesus’ biological father, he is still “the father of Jesus” and “is in fact a central element in the history of salvation.”

“Everyone can find in St. Joseph – the man who goes unnoticed, the man of daily, discreet and hidden presence – an intercessor, a support and a guide in times of difficulty,” the pope said. “He reminds us that all those who are seemingly hidden or in the ‘second row’ have unparalleled agency in the history of salvation.”

While St. Luke described St. Joseph as the “guardian of Jesus and Mary,” the pope said his protection extends to the whole church and is a reminder for Christians “that our lives are made up of bonds that precede and accompany us.”

Before concluding his talk, Pope Francis led those present in praying that those who “lack the strength and courage to go on” in their lives may find in St. Joseph “an ally, a friend and a support.”

“St. Joseph, you who guarded the bond with Mary and Jesus, help us to care for the relationships in our lives,” the pope prayed. “May no one experience the sense of abandonment that comes from loneliness.”

A lit candle is seen on a wreath for the first Sunday of Advent in this illustration photo. The wreath, which holds four candles, is a main symbol of the Advent season, with a new candle lit each Sunday before Christmas. Advent, a season of joyful expectation, begins Nov. 28, 2021. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – With Advent coming during an ongoing pandemic, Christians are called to hold on to hope and foster a season of compassion and tenderness, Pope Francis said.

During Advent this year, too, “its lights will be dimmed by the consequences of the pandemic, which still weighs heavily on our time,” he said Nov. 22. “All the more reason why we are called to question ourselves and not to lose hope.”

“The feast of the birth of Christ is not out of tune with the trial we are going through because it is the quintessential feast of compassion, the feast of tenderness. Its beauty is humble and full of human warmth,” the pope said during an audience with organizers and participants in a Christmas music contest. The contest was proposed and promoted by the Pontifical Foundation Gravissimum Educationis and Don Bosco Valdocco Missions association, based in Turin.

The contest invited people between the ages of 16 and 35 to produce new songs inspired by Christmas and its values: life, love, peace and light, according to the initiative’s website, Contestants were competing in three categories: lyrics, music and interpretation, and the best three pieces will be performed during the 2021 edition of the annual Christmas concert at the Vatican.

The pope thanked the groups who came up with the idea for the contest, “which gives voice to the young, inviting them to create new songs inspired by Christmas and its values.”

“The beauty of Christmas shines through in the sharing of small gestures of genuine love. It is not alienating, it is not superficial, it is not evasive,” he said.

The beauty of Christmas “expands the heart, opening it up to gratuitousness — gratuitousness, a word artists understand well! — to the giving of self,” and it can also foster cultural, social and educational life and activities, he added.

Pope Francis quoted what St. Paul VI told artists during Advent in 1965: “This world in which we live needs beauty in order not to sink into despair.”

It must not be the false beauty “made of appearances and earthly riches, which are hollow and a generator of emptiness,” Pope Francis said. It must be the real beauty “of a God made flesh, the one of faces — the beauty of faces, the beauty of stories” and the beauty of “creatures that make up our common home.”

He thanked the young people, artists and other participants “for not forgetting to be custodians of this beauty that the nativity of the Lord makes shine in every daily gesture of love, sharing and service.”

Jose Francisco from Honduras leads his 8-year-old daughter, Zuabelin, by the hand Nov. 22, 2021, as they take part in a caravan near Villa Mapastepec, Mexico, and head to the U.S. border. (CNS photo/Jose Luis Gonzalez, Reuters)

WASHINGTON (CNS) – Immigration advocates have seen promises for reform come and go, but many are hoping one of the best chances to provide some form of respite rests with President Joe Biden’s ambitious Build Back Better legislation that the Senate will consider.

The measure, passed in the House of Representatives Nov. 19 and exclusively backed by Democrats, seeks almost $2 trillion to address climate change, health care and a variety of social safety net programs.

At the moment, it includes provisions that would allow temporary work permits for almost 7 million people who are in the country without legal permission, preventing them from being deported and allowing them to travel, but these provisions stop short of granting them permanent residency, which could eventually lead to citizenship.

Immigration advocates are looking for measures that would grant the type of path to citizenship provided by a program President Ronald Reagan spearheaded in 1986. That program provided what some called amnesty for 3 million who had entered the country without permission before 1982 and it later led to citizenship for many.

Reagan was the last U.S. president to successfully rally bipartisan support in Congress to pass legislation that legalized, on such a grand scale, groups that had entered the country without permission to do so.

The House version would help those who have lived and worked in the U.S. without legal permission since January 2011, but analysts believe getting it approved by the Senate, even solely backed by the Democrats, will be a hard sell.

Some groups, such as the American Business Immigration Coalition, hailed the House’s version.

“Updates to the immigration work permits program is a major step forward for millions of immigrant workers and the employers who depend on their labor. With more than 10 million job openings across the country, this proposal will help bring people out of the shadows, expand our workforce and keep families together,” said Rebecca Shi, the group’s executive director in a Nov. 19 news release, shortly after the measure passed in the House.

“This vote comes at an important moment in our economic history, as additional workers will help address dire labor shortages that are a contributing factor to unmet consumer demand and rising inflation,” she continued.

Researchers for J.P. Morgan, in a Nov. 12 note, said immigration restrictions have slowed down the flow of workers into the labor market and hurt economic growth, according to a Nov. 23 story from Yahoo Finance.

Stuart Anderson, executive director of the National Foundation for American Policy, told Yahoo Finance that “immigration is crucial to growing the labor force and for economic growth.”

That’s why business groups such as the American Business Immigration Coalition, which has support from Republicans as well as Democrats, are urging the Senate to keep some of the provisions, which would help ease the labor shortage the country is experiencing.

However, immigrant advocates want what many Democrats long have promised but have been unable to deliver: a path to citizenship for 11 million who are in the country without permission.

Voters on both sides of the political aisle consistently show support for a path to citizenship but only for certain groups: young adults brought into the country illegally as children, often called Dreamers, essential workers, Temporary Protected Status beneficiaries and farmworkers. But neither party has been able to bring this about.

House Democrats called on their colleagues in the Senate Nov. 23 to beef up the immigration provisions, which fall short of the path-to-citizenship promises made.

But without Republican support, they would need every vote from members of their party. However, West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democrat, has said he would not vote to overrule the Senate parliamentarian, who decides what can and cannot be done under the chamber’s reconciliation process.

Previously, the parliamentarian has rejected inclusion of immigration proposals, including a path to citizenship, saying they were not appropriate for a budget reconciliation bill.


Members of the Irish American Association of Lackawanna County presented $1,000 in support of work and mission of Saint Francis Kitchen. These funds were raised in connection with their recent golf tournament. Shown here from left to right are: John Monaghan, Tournament Director, Rob Williams, St. Francis Executive Director, Atty. Tim Kelly, Irish American Association of Lackawanna County President, Bill Egan, Jerry Gerrity, and Dennis Gavin, Past President.


Father John C. Maria prays over the Eucharist at the altar of the Cathedral of St. Catharine of Siena in Allentown, Pa., March 9, 2020. According to Catholic teaching, the bread and wine, upon consecration, become the body and blood of Christ. (CNS photo/Chaz Muth)

BALTIMORE (CNS) – The U.S. bishops approved their statement on the Eucharist with 222 “yes” votes Nov. 17, the second of two days of public sessions during their Nov. 15-18 fall general assembly.

Their OK came a day after their discussion of the document – a discussion that took a drastically different tone than their previous debate about what the document could potentially contain during their virtual assembly five months ago.

At that June gathering, a major focus highlighted whether it would address denying Communion to Catholic politicians who support abortion.

Some bishops said a strong rebuke of President Joe Biden, the nation’s second Catholic president, should be included in it because of Biden’s recent actions protecting and expanding abortion access, while others warned that this would portray the bishops as a partisan force during a time of bitter political divisions across the country.

The document the bishops discussed and approved does not specifically call out Catholic political leaders, but it does more generally point out the seriousness of the sacrament.

The discussion, just prior to the vote, focused on some of the statement’s wording. Specific amendments were approved and additional comments about wording changes, that were raised on the floor, did not.

One of the bishops, for example, wanted to add the word “etcetera” after a list of vulnerable people the church was responsible for in order to show its broad inclusion, but the bishops, who had already added to the list to include the unborn, chose not to add the additional descriptor.

As points of discussion, Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City, Kansas, outgoing chairman of the U.S. bishops’ pro-life committee, stressed the prelates must not forget the responsibility they have to “take care of the souls” of Catholic politicians who do not publicly support church teaching on abortion.

And Bishop Donald E. DeGrood of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, noted that there is a healthy tension for the bishops, to call out what isn’t right but to do so in love and to be united as they find ways to apply this new document in their dioceses.

The document on the Eucharist states: “One should not celebrate Mass or receive holy Communion in the state of mortal sin without having sought the sacrament of reconciliation and received absolution.”

It also says that if a Catholic in his or her personal life has “knowingly and obstinately” rejected the doctrines of the church or its teaching on moral issues, that person should refrain from receiving Communion because it is “likely to cause scandal for others.”

Back in June, at the end of the bishops’ discussion of the document, Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Indiana, chairman of the bishops’ doctrine committee, said the draft would not focus on denying Communion to people but would emphasize the importance of the sacrament.

And in his Nov. 16 presentation of the 26-page statement titled “The Mystery of the Eucharist in the Life of the Church,” Bishop Rhoades said it “addresses the fundamental doctrine about the Eucharist that the church needs to retrieve and revive.”

In his short presentation to U.S. bishops, followed by just a handful of comments from the floor, the bishop said the document is addressed to all Catholics in the United States and “endeavors to explain the centrality of the Eucharist in the life of the church.”

He also said it is intended to be a theological contribution to the bishops’ strategic plan and to the bishops’ planned eucharistic revival “by providing a doctrinal resource for parishes, catechists and the faithful.”

Discussion from the floor included a request from Bishop Peter Baldacchino of Las Cruces, New Mexico, that the document include more about the paschal mystery, or the death and resurrection of Jesus.

Bishop Richard F. Stika of Knoxville, Tennessee, wondered how the document would be understood by college students, high schoolers or children, noting that “a lot of it’s over their heads” and they would have to have some kind of theological foundation to grasp it.

“We have these beautiful, beautiful documents that sometimes are just ignored,” he said, suggesting that it should be made “more readable and understandable.”

In response, Bishop Rhoades said the document “as it stands is really meant for adults,” but he could see it being used in high schools with a teacher who would explain it better. He also said it could be developed by publishers as a resource for catechesis for grade school students.

Bishop Timothy L. Doherty of Lafayette, Indiana, said the work put in “laboring over texts should not discourage us,” pointing out that often language falls short but that the church has many other means at its disposal to express the faith such as music, dance, poetry and visuals.

The draft of the document explains the importance of Communion, often calling it a gift, and uses references from Scripture, prayers of the church and Second Vatican Council documents to back this up. It also explains, citing words of the saints, how Communion is not just a symbol but the real presence of Christ.

This transformation of bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ, the document says, is “one of the central mysteries of the Catholic faith” which is a “doorway through which we, like the saints and mystics before us, may enter into a deeper perception” of God’s presence.

It notes, almost halfway through, that the Vatican II document “Lumen Gentium” (The Dogmatic Constitution on the Church) describes the Eucharist as “the source and summit of the Christian life.” It also says that as Catholics understand what the Eucharist means, they should more fully participate in Mass and also reach out to serve those in need, citing the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which says: “The Eucharist commits us to the poor.”

It concludes with examples of saints who were transformed by their reception of the Eucharist and their deep understanding of what it means.

This heavily footnoted statement also has a pastoral message urging those who have left the church to come back. It ties this return back to the Eucharist quoting St. Teresa of Kolkata, who said: “Once you understand the Eucharist, you can never leave the church. Not because the church won’t let you but because your heart won’t let you.”

What this document might say and how it could specifically call out Biden and other Catholic politicians has been disputed for months and has not just been a topic for the U.S. bishops and Catholics across the country, but also involved the Vatican.

Prior to the bishops’ initial discussion of this document, Cardinal Luis Ladaria, prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, urged the bishops in a letter to proceed with caution in developing a national policy “to address the situation of Catholics in public office who support legislation allowing abortion, euthanasia or other moral evils.”

And Pope Francis said on a Sept. 15 flight back from Bratislava, Slovakia, that he preferred not to comment directly on the issue of denying Communion, but he urged U.S. bishops to take a pastoral approach rather than wade into the political sphere.

More recently, after the pope and Biden met at the Vatican Oct. 29, Biden was asked by reporters in Rome if abortion was one of the topics of their meeting and the president said: “We just talked about the fact he was happy that I was a good Catholic, and I should keep receiving Communion.”


Participating in the announcement of the John P. and Ann Marie Martin Endowed Scholarship on Oct. 28, 2021, are, from left to right: Jason Morrison, Diocesan Secretary of Catholic Education/Chief Executive Officer; Thomas J. Posatko, Executive Secretary, John and Ann Marie Martin Charitable Trust; Most Reverend Joseph C. Bambera, Bishop of Scranton; Monsignor John Bendik; and Jim Bebla, Diocesan Secretary for Development. (Photo/Dan Gallagher)

SCRANTON – A generous gift from the estate of a Lackawanna County native with a lifetime of service in education will continue to help shape the minds of the next generation of faith-filled leaders in the Diocese of Scranton.

On Oct. 28, 2021, the John P. and Ann Marie Martin Charitable Trust announced a $150,000 gift to create the John P. and Ann Marie Martin Endowed Scholarship. Funding will be used each year to provide a need-based scholarship to an eligible student or students at one of the Diocese of Scranton’s Catholic Schools.

“He never forgot his roots. He had anthracite coal dust in his blood. He never forgot where he came from and always felt dedicated and committed to the area,” Thomas J. Posatko, Executive Secretary, John P. and Ann Marie Martin Charitable Trust, said of his friend.

Dr. Martin was born and raised in Scranton. He started his education work as the director of athletics at West Central Catholic High School and as assistant superintendent of schools for the Diocese of Scranton from 1965-1967. He was a founding trustee at Luzerne County Community College and an associate professor and campus chaplain at Misericordia University.

As recognition for his decades of service to the education field, the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey designated him founding dean emeritus for the School of Health Related Professions. He was also the associate and acting dean of the College of Allied Health Professions at Hahnemann Medical College in Philadelphia.

Dr. Martin died in 2019. His wife, the former Ann Marie Gerrity, died in 2006.

“John knew that the elementary and secondary grade levels are the places where you have to start to make sure children have a unique experience,” his friend, Monsignor John Bendik, said.

The Diocese of Scranton scholarship recipient(s) will be selected on an annual basis under the direction of the Diocesan Superintendent of Schools in accordance with Diocesan Schools tuition assistance policies.

The announcement of this endowed scholarship comes at a time when the Diocese of Scranton has seen a nine-percent increase in enrollment for the 2021-2022 academic year. This gift will help to retain and recruit additional students.

Friends of Dr. Martin say this gift will keep his outstanding commitment to educational values alive.

“He was born and raised in a strong Catholic environment. He was very dedicated and committed to both the school we went to, Central Catholic, and to sports in particular,” Posatko added. “He was involved in all aspects of the school and there all the time.”


After being postponed in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, hundreds of Catholic men participated in the sixth annual “Be a Man Catholic Men’s Conference” on Oct. 30, 2021, at the Woodlands Inn & Resort.

PLAINS TOWNSHIP – Hundreds of Catholic men got a lesson in being a leader, protector and provider at the sixth annual “Be a Man Catholic Men’s Conference” on Oct. 30, 2021, at the Woodlands Inn & Resort.

The daylong event featured several speakers, Adoration, Reconciliation as well as the opportunity to celebrate Mass with the Most Reverend Joseph C. Bambera, Bishop of Scranton.

Organizers of the event say the conference aimed to challenge all men, regardless of whether they are single, married or clergy, to explore how they could be good fathers in an increasingly fatherless society.


Father Glenn Sudano

Father Glenn Sudano, CFR, one of the eight founding members of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, kicked off the conference by challenging attendees about their mission in life.

“We have the Holy Spirit within us. The question is, is this flame which burns within us, a pilot light or is it burning brightly?” he asked. “Christ wants us to feed and fan the flame of faith.”

Father Sudano focused on the changing times we live in, citing examples that more people shop on Sundays than attend Mass and have destination beach weddings than traditional church weddings.

“It’s getting colder, spiritually things are getting colder, hearts are getting hardened. People are no longer feeling a sense of God’s presence,” he explained.

Stressing that each man in the audience can change themselves by cutting out what is negative, Father Sudano ended on an upbeat note.

“Dig down deep, go deeper, go deeper into the Word. Read the Scriptures every day, go to Mass, Adoration and forgive people that injure you. Pray in every which way!” he added.


Karl Keating

Karl Keating, founder of Catholic Answers, a lay apostolate of Catholic apologetics and evangelization, was the second speaker to take the stage.

The author explained that it was much easier to be Catholic when he was growing up decades ago, since it had tremendous influence in the movie industry and media.

“The Church was respected even when it was opposed,” Keating said.

Despite the changing times, Keating stressed that every man in the crowd can do something.

“We are all given talents, our talents are of various sorts. Some people have more than others but none of us is talentless,” he explained.

Unfortunately, Keating said many people are unaware what is happening around them because they are focused largely on themselves.

“People go about their daily lives worrying about this week’s paycheck, next month’s mortgage. They don’t, in general, have the larger picture,” he said.

Keating’s main message to the crowd was that it is never too late to do something beautiful for God.

“We’re all incompetent and yet, we’re all loved beyond measure by a God beyond measure. How this can be, we cannot understand fully here below, but someday, once we see Him face to face, we will understand fully. In the meantime, there’s gratitude,” Keating ended his presentation saying.

Jim O’Day

Jim O’Day, director of Integrity Restored, the third and final conference speaker, took the stage following lunch.

“Everybody in this room is responsible to the man next to you,” the husband, father and grandfather said.

O’Day explained several stories in which his Catholic faith became relevant in his life. When his girlfriend became pregnant at 21, two male family members tried encouraging them to get an abortion.

“I knew in my heart that was wrong,” he said. “I can promise you that I was scared to death. The abortion sounded a lot easier but we didn’t do it because of that little tiny voice inside.”

Ten years later, O’Day explained his boss helped him have an epiphany that he was not a good husband, father or Catholic. That helped bring him back to the Catholic Church in a much more intentional way.

“On the outside, I looked like I had it all together. I looked like I was a good husband. I looked like I was a good father but it was all a front. Inside, where it matters, I was still that boy from Queens who was broken, who was angry, who was lust-filled, who liked drinking,” O’Day explained.

As the director of Integrity Restored, O’Day now helps other men with an addiction to pornography through a Catholic perspective.

“It is the biggest impediment to evangelization and a faith-filled life in the Church today and it doesn’t matter if you go to Mass every Sunday. It affects everybody,” he said. “If you’re struggling, reach out to a brother.”

The title of O’Day’s presentation was “Fatherless Sheepdog.” He said as Catholic men, everyone in the audience is called to be a protector – but they can only do that if they themselves are healthy first.

“Build strong relationships with the men in this room. Use the Catholic faith to inform your decisions on how you support each other,” he said. “It is our time now to immediately stand up, be there for each other and be willing to take a stand.”


Bishop Joseph C. Bambera

The conference concluded with Mass celebrated by the Most Reverend Joseph C. Bambera, Bishop of Scranton, who spoke of Saint Joseph during his homily. The bishop explained that just as Saint Joseph met the challenges of fatherhood in his day, Catholic men today must also meet them now.

The bishop said we have a lot to learn from Saint Joseph, who served as a protector of the Holy Family and teacher who showed Jesus the dignity of work and the value of human life.

“Joseph understood that God was worshipped most authentically when people of faith fulfilled the law expressly noted in the book of Leviticus, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself,’” Bishop Bambera explained. “Don’t be deceived, brothers, into believing that somehow this commandment is easily fulfilled.

It is a reminder of the cost of discipleship as we discover within it both the blessing and also the challenge that has been confronted by believers since the days when God first established a relationship with his people.”

In a world filled with division, polarization and hatred, the bishop said we all need to treat our neighbors with love and respect regardless of the color of their skin, language, lifestyle, wealth or political affiliation.

“May we always seek to fulfill God’s will like our patron, Saint Joseph, who understood well the great commandment to love God and to love and respect every life that God places into our own,” Bishop Bambera said.


After participating in several online classes, retreats and other events, two women received a certificate in Lay Ministry Formation during a special Mass at the Cathedral of Saint Peter on Oct. 26, 2021. Posing with Bishop Joseph C. Bambera following the Mass are Kathy Grinaway from Saints Peter & Paul Parish in Plains, left, and Michele Cohen from Our Lady Queen of Peace Parish in Brodheadsville. (Photo/Ann Marie Cawley)

SCRANTON – After taking numerous classes to learn more about their faith, two women were commissioned as lay ministers for the Diocese of Scranton during a special Mass at the Cathedral of Saint Peter on Oct. 26, 2021.

The Most Reverend Joseph C. Bambera, Bishop of Scranton, served as principal celebrant and homilist.

The newly commissioned lay ministers are Michele Cohen from Our Lady Queen of Peace Parish in Brodheadsville and Kathy Grinaway from Saints Peter & Paul Parish in Plains.

“I wanted to learn more about my faith,” Cohen said when asked what prompted her to begin lay ministry formation classes. “I am always seeking more knowledge and want to be involved in my parish.”

“I’ve been involved with my church for a long time. I taught faith formation, I’m a Eucharistic minister, lector and I’ve been on parish council for a while,” Grinaway said. “I thought this sounded really amazing because it was a way for me to get to understand my faith better.”

Grinaway said the flexibility of the program’s online classes was particularly important for her since she works full time. She says she learned the most from a class on Vatican II.

“I was young, eight or nine, when Vatican II came about but I don’t think I understood the importance of the mission of the laity in Vatican II. That really stuck in me,” she explained.

“I loved all of the classes but especially the class on the Sacraments, the Old and New Testaments, Ecclesiology and my classes on Catholic Social Teaching,” Cohen added. “I loved exploring the encyclicals, which many popes wrote in regards to this, and learning more about many Catholic saints I admire who embody these teachings.”

Prior to their commissioning Mass, both women completed projects to put the skills that they learned into action. Cohen put together a “virtual walk” to Bethlehem to meet Christ for Christmas during the pandemic. Grinaway focused on getting more lay people involved in parish ministries by holding a ministry fair.

During the Lay Ministry Commissioning Mass, Bishop Bambera thanked both women for diving deeper into their faith to help their parish communities.

“We give thanks for your commitment and for your resolve to use the gifts that God has planted in your hearts to build up the Kingdom of God,” Bishop Bambera said.

Both women encourage others interested in learning more about their faith to get involved in the lay ministry formation program.

“The program consisted of great classes, great teachers and mentors, workshops, nights of reflection, retreats and spiritual direction which forced me to grow and reflect on my prayer life, my relationships, my presence in the world and in how I live the gospel,” Cohen said. “Sometimes, I didn’t like what I saw in myself and it was a struggle to persevere, to change things I knew needed changing, which I’m still working on.”

“It is so important for people, no matter their age, to keep learning about their faith. Even if it’s just a couple classes, they’ll get hooked because you will want to learn more,” Grinaway said. “I’m not going to quit being involved. I will never know everything but I’m going to try my best to do it. I just don’t think you can ever learn too much.”

For more information on the Diocesan Certificate in Lay Ministry, visit or contact Kitty Scanlan, Coordinator for Lay Ministry Formation at (570) 207-2213.