BUDAPEST, Hungary (CNS) – Paying homage to Hungary’s history, culture and location in the heart of Europe, Pope Francis pushed against the notion that the country needed to insulate itself to protect its identity.

Hungarian children in traditional dress present Pope Francis with salt and bread, a customary welcome for honored guests, as he arrives at the international airport in Budapest, Hungary, April 28, 2023. The pope was beginning a three-day trip to Hungary’s capital. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

As expected, in his first speech in Hungary — to government and civic leaders and diplomats serving in Budapest — the pope acknowledged efforts to protect traditional values, but insisted those values include supporting European unity, welcoming migrants and working to end the war in neighboring Ukraine.

The “passionate quest of a politics of community and the strengthening of multilateral relations seems a wistful memory from a distant past,” he said April 28 in his speech at the former Carmelite monastery that now houses the office of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.

“More and more,” the pope said, “enthusiasm for building a peaceful and stable community of nations seems to be cooling, as zones of influence are marked out, differences accentuated, nationalism is on the rise and ever harsher judgments and language are used in confronting others.”

The 86-year-old pope, who was released from the hospital April 1 after what the Vatican said was a bout of bronchitis and who frequently has been using a wheelchair or walker because of knee problems, simply used a cane when he walked the length of the ITA Airways plane to greet journalists during the two-hour flight from Rome.

He joked about his health – “weeds never die” – and, in response to a Polish journalist who thanked him for defending St. John Paul II, the pope described as “foolishness” rumors that the Polish pope was somehow involved in the disappearance in 1983 of Emanuela Orlandi, a 15-year-old Vatican resident.

Pope Francis continued using the cane instead of a wheelchair as he walked down the red carpet at the Budapest airport and around the presidential Sándor Palace where he met privately for 25 minutes with Hungarian President Katalin Novák and then for 20 minutes with Orbán.

Novák, welcoming Pope Francis to the meeting with government and civic representatives, told him Hungarians expected to receive encouragement from him in their quest to help make Europe “more peaceful, more democratic and stronger.”

“Over the past 30 years,” she told him, Hungarian Catholics, Orthodox and Protestants have joined forces in “the ecumenism of the preservation of Christian values,” specifically regarding marriage, family life and abortion.

In his speech, Pope Francis told those gathered that around the globe politics is showing signs of an “adolescent belligerence” that seems more about stirring up emotions than resolving problems.

“Peace will never come as the result of the pursuit of individual strategic interests, but only from policies capable of looking to the bigger picture, to the development of everyone: policies that are attentive to individuals, to the poor and to the future, and not merely to power, profit and present prospects,” Pope Francis said.

That attention, he said, must allow room for the different countries of the European Union and the different communities within each nation to assert their own identities but not at the cost of denigrating or denying the rights of others.

Mentioning some areas of common ground with Orbán’s government, Pope Francis described as “ideological colonization” efforts to promote acceptance across Europe of “so-called gender theory,” which sees gender as a social construct rather than a biological fact, and “reductive concepts of freedom, for example by vaunting as progress a senseless ‘right to abortion,’ which is always a tragic defeat.”

“How much better it would be to build a Europe centered on the human person and on its peoples,” he said, pointing positively to Hungary’s pro-family policies that encourage married couples to have children.

But Pope Francis also used the words of St. Stephen, the 11th-century king of Hungary, to draw attention to the theme of migration, a major area of difference with Orbán who, since 2015, has promoted a “no migrants” policy.

The sainted king, the pope said, told his people: “I urge you to show favor not only to relations and kin, or to the powerful and wealthy, or to your neighbors and fellow countrymen, but also to foreigners and all who come to you.”

Migration, Pope Francis said, is a “heated” topic in today’s world, but “for those who are Christians, our basic attitude cannot differ from that which St. Stephen recommended,” a lesson learned from Jesus, “who identified himself with the stranger needing to be welcomed” in Matthew 25.

Pope Francis said it was “urgent” that Europe as a whole devise “safe and legal ways” for those fleeing violence, poverty and climate change to enter its borders.

Migration cannot be stemmed by a general attitude of rejecting the possibility, he said, “but must be embraced in order to prepare for a future that, unless it is shared, will not exist.”


A relic of Blessed Carlo Acutis — author of the Eucharistic Miracle website as well as the first millennial to be beatified — will be available for veneration at several locations in the Diocese of Erie beginning May 23.

In addition, a relic of St. Manuel González García, known as the Bishop of the Abandoned Tabernacle, will be included in this event offered as part of the national Eucharistic Revival.

All are invited to take advantage of this inspirational opportunity before the relics leave the United States to continue their global tour in the coming weeks. Find dates, locations and times for public veneration at

For information on group visits, please contact



Shown are Men’s Conference Committee members: Left to Right, 1st row: John Witkosky, Raphael Micca, Dr. Chris Carr, Dr. Lou Guarnieri, Tony DePaola, Bill Leandri, Kevin Burleigh, Rev. Brian Van Fossen Chaplain for the Men’s Conference, 2nd row: Dennis Shovlin, Mike Kilmer Chairman for the Men’s Conference, Henry Pospieszalski, Jim Gerichten, Ralph Marino, Joe Adcroft, Joe Alinosky, and Gerard Schmidt. Also present were Chris Calore and Ed Niewinski.

The Eighth Annual Be A Man Catholic Men’s Conference Will Be Held Saturday, October 7th, 2023, at Holy Redeemer High School, 159 S. Pennsylvania Ave., Wilkes-Barre, Pa. 18701. This Year’s Theme Is “Stand Fast In The Faith.” Registration begins at 7:00 am (coffee available). A 7:15 am Rosary will be prayed. The Conference will be between 8:00 am and 3:00 pm. Three outstanding Catholic Speakers have been scheduled. There will be Eucharistic Adoration, Confessions, and Mass Offered by Bishop Joseph Bambera.

The fee is $40 (Early Bird $30), Students $15, Priest/Deacons FREE.

Register on line at Or mail your check (payable to “Be a Catholic Man”) to: Be a Catholic Man c/o William Leandri, Treasurer 239 Hayfield Rd. Shavertown, PA 18708 Attn: Men’s Conference, Also put Men’s Conference on the memo line of the check.

For further information contact Mike Kilmer 570-746-0100 or

SCRANTON – For many young people, their birthday is cause for celebration. Due to high inflation and financial challenges, however, not every family is able to afford the ‘extras’ associated with a big bash.

Catholic school students from five elementary schools in Lackawanna County recently came together to make sure no local child will be without a proper celebration for their big day.

During different retreat days held in Lent, students at each school brought in items to create 188 “birthday bags” filled with boxed cake mix, icing, sprinkles, candles, balloons and a disposable cake pan.

“Each grade brought in something small to contribute and created the completed bags that we then donated to local food pantries,” Liz Devine, elementary school guidance counselor, explained. “The students also created personalized birthday cards to go in the bags.”

Second through eighth grade students, 811 in all, participated in the Lenten retreats and help to create the birthday bags. The schools involved in the project are Saint Mary of Mount Carmel School in Dunmore, La Salle Academy in Jessup, Our Lady of Peace School in Clarks Green, All Saints Academy in Scranton and St. Clare/St. Paul School in Scranton.

“Our retreat was based on the passage from the Bible of Jesus feeding the 5,000,” Devine said. “We read the Bible passage and reflected on it. It was pointed out to the students how the boy in the story only gave a meager little meal to Jesus and Jesus created His miracle and even had extra left over.”

The day also included small group team building activities, prayerful introspection and guided imagery reflection.

Devine says many of the students recognize there are people in their own community who do not have enough money for regular meals, never mind a special birthday celebration.

“Catholic schools in the Diocese of Scranton distinguish themselves not only by their academic excellence but by how they incorporate a faith-filled duty to serve others,” she added.

Each school selected the local food pantry in which to donate the birthday bags created.

The recipients include Catherine McAuley Center in Scranton, Saint Ann Parish food pantry in Scranton, Saint Patrick Parish food pantry in Scranton, NEPA Youth Center in Scranton, Queen of Angels Parish in Jessup, and the Montdale food pantry.

In reflecting on the project, Devine considers it a big success because it “challenged the students to give of themselves to others, even in the smallest way!”

SCRANTON – For Sean Rodgers, scouting is much more than just spending time outdoors.

“Scouting is the best part of my life. I started way back in first grade and now I’m a junior in high school,” he explained. “I’ve learned so much more than tying knots and building fires. I’ve learned leadership skills. I’ve learned public speaking skills. I’ve learned what it means to have good character, to be a good person.”

His friend, Simon Basham, agrees.

“Scouting is an amazing program,” Basham added. “You get team building skills. You just learn so many things that you can use in life.”

Rodgers and Basham, both members of Boy Scout Troop 106 in Mountain Top, were among 33 young people from parishes around the Diocese of Scranton recognized during the Diocese of Scranton’s annual Scout Mass on April 23, 2023. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this is the first time since 2019 the Scout Mass has been celebrated in person.

The Most Reverend Joseph C. Bambera, Bishop of Scranton, served as principal celebrant and homilist for the Scout Mass. Reverend Jonathan Kuhar, Diocesan Scout Chaplain, concelebrated the 10 a.m. liturgy, which coincided with the Third Sunday of Easter.

“My brothers and sisters in scouting, never underestimate the power that you are given as baptized Christians, as you serve and as you build up the communities in which you live,” Bishop Bambera said during his homily. “You have the ability to impart the very love and mercy of God to people who are in need. What a treasure that is – thank you for embracing it!”

The goals of Catholic youth ministry align very well with the goals of scouting: character development, citizenship training, personal fitness and leadership development.

Allison Van Pelt, who has served as an altar server and sacristan at Saint Jude Parish, believes the morals and values taught in scouting help to empower young people to live as disciples of Jesus Christ in our world today.

“In scouting, I have the Scout oath and the Scout law and in the church we have all of the teachings from the bible and the scriptures and all of these give me a very good point of view to follow and they really help guide me throughout my life,” Van Pelt said.

At the end of the Mass, the Ad Altare Dei Emblem and Pope Pius XII Emblem were presented to the young adults who had fulfilled the requirements for the award. The Ad Altare Dei program centers on the Sacraments and the program for the Pope Pius XII emblem helps scouts explore vocations (single, married, religious, ordained) and ministries in the Church as calls from God. It includes youth-led discussions on current issues facing the Church and society.

“I’ve worked so hard for these over the past two or three years and just to get them, it is definitely a big accomplishment for me,” Michael Grandzol of Saint Jude Parish said.

Since this was the first time in four years that the Scout Mass has been celebrated, four individuals were also presented with the Saint George Emblem, which honors a member of the laity or clergy, scout or non-scout alike, who have made significant and outstanding contributions to the spiritual development of Catholic youths through scouting.

The 2023 emblem went to Leonard Omolecki of Saint Faustina Parish in Nanticoke. Elizabeth Redington from Gate of Heaven Parish in Dallas earned the recognition in 2022, Mark Kuloszewski of Saint Lucy Parish received it for 2021 and C.J. Hughes of Saint Gregory Parish in Clarks Green received the honor in 2020.

After all of the awards had been presented, Bishop Bambera once again thanked all of the young men and woman honored who have committed themselves to service and living as faithful disciples.

“We are very proud to have you with us and most especially to have you all engaged in the good work that you do on behalf of our church and on behalf of our society and our world. We need more young men and women life yourself. We are so blessed to have all of you,” Bishop Bambera said.

(OSV News) – Ahead of an annual day of prayer for vocations, a newly released report shows what one researcher called greater “consistency of age,” more diverse educational backgrounds and a commitment to Eucharistic adoration among men preparing for priestly ordination.

On April 25, the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University released the 2023 “Survey of Ordinands to the Priesthood,” a report made directly to the Secretariat of Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

New deacons from the Pontifical North American College are pictured during their ordination in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican Sept. 29, 2022. Twenty-two seminarians from 17 U.S. dioceses and one from the Archdiocese of Sydney were ordained to the transitional diaconate. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

The report coincides with the 60th annual World Day of Prayer for Vocations, celebrated April 30, the Fourth Sunday of Easter, which is also known as Good Shepherd Sunday in the Latin Church. The Gospel passage (Jn 10:1-10) for the Mass highlights Jesus’ role as the Good Shepherd.

The online survey, which CARA has overseen since 2006, was completed by 334 of the 458 total ordinands from both diocesan and religious order seminaries who were invited to participate. The ordinands represented 116 U.S. dioceses and 24 religious institutes.

CARA’s executive director, Jesuit Father Thomas Gaunt, told OSV News the age of men set to be ordained this year has “started to level out,” with “more consistently younger men entering seminary and beginning their theological studies in their early 20s — basically after having finished college — and then being ordained four to five years or so later.”

Overall, this year’s ordinands are on average 33 years old, with ordinands from religious institutes generally four years older than their diocesan counterparts.

That trend contrasts with “a notable number of older vocations” seen some “20 to 30 years ago,” said Father Gaunt. “Now, it’s a little more unusual to see a seminarian or someone entering the novitiate for a religious community entering at age 40 or 45.”

Among 2023’s ordinands, the elementary school (32%) and high school (26%) years were the peak periods for them in first considering a vocation, followed by the college years (19%).

The data also showed what Father Gaunt called a “steady increase in Hispanic ordinands year over year,” with 16% of the 2023 class identifying as Hispanic/Latino — a trendline set to rise to about 20% by 2028.

White ordinands accounted for 64% of the 2023 class, with 10% Asian and Pacific Islander, 6% Black or African, and 3% representing other ethnic backgrounds.

A significant number of the 2023 ordinands (25%) were born abroad. After the U.S., the most common countries of birth were Mexico (5%), Vietnam (3%), Nigeria (3%) and Colombia (2%).

That statistic is “basically on par” with one showing that “fully one quarter of all Catholics in this country are foreign born,” explained Father Gaunt.

While the majority (89%) of ordinands were not homeschooled, the data indicated the 11% who were educated at home (for an average of 8 years, among the 2023 class) could rise to an estimated 13% by 2028.

Ordinands who attended Catholic elementary school represented 43% of this year’s class; 34% of the 2023 ordinands attended Catholic high schools, and 35% attended Catholic colleges. Two thirds of the class (66%) had attended parish religious education programs.

The majority of 2023 ordinands had obtained a college (42%) or graduate (16%) degree prior to entering the seminary, with 18% having had some college or trade school study.

An array of pre-seminary areas of study among the ordinands have “added a whole richness to the priesthood,” said Father Gaunt.

“They begin this study with college degrees in their fields of interest or specialty, so you have a number of men coming in with bachelor’s degrees in business, finance, chemical engineering, English, education, history,” he said.

Such diversity also was reflected in the full-time work experience of ordinands prior to entering the seminary, with 21% employed in business, 18% in education, 14% in sales or customer service, and 13% in restaurant or food services.

Most of the 2023 ordinands (74%) had no educational debt upon entering the seminary. The remaining 26% averaged just over $29,500 of debt, with the lowest amount reported at $1,500 and the highest at $126,000.

Diocesan ordinands (averaging $26,579) tended to have more than double the educational debt of their religious order counterparts (averaging $11,887). Family members (44%) provided the greatest amount of assistance in paying down ordinands’ debt, followed by the Knights of Columbus Fund for Vocations (24%) and parishes (10%).

Regular Eucharistic adoration figured heavily in the pre-seminary prayer practices of the class of 2023, cited by 73% of the survey participants. Following adoration was the rosary (66%), prayer group or Bible study (45%), high school retreats (37%) and “lectio divina” (35%).

Survey respondents listed among their pre-seminary activities parish youth groups (52%), Catholic campus ministry (27%), Boy Scouts (25%), parish young adult groups (23%) and the Knights of Columbus (23%).

A majority of the 2023 ordinands, 72%, had been altar servers; 51% had been lectors, 40% extraordinary ministers of holy Communion and 33% catechists.

Most cited parish priests (63%) as those who most encouraged their vocation, followed by parishioners (44%), friends (40%), mothers (37%) and fathers (29%).

Just under half of the ordinands (48%) reported being discouraged from pursuing their vocations, with another family member (21%) or friend (21%) usually cited.

Seminary “come and see” weekends were attended by 49% of the ordinands, particularly among those entering religious orders (75%).

Overall, the report offers “hope” regarding priestly vocations, said Father Gaunt, especially as demographers continue to assess the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on religious practices.

“We want to get a couple of more years out from the pandemic,” he said. “We’re still not sure what’s an ordinary response, and what is more pandemic-related. … We’ll tell you in five years.”

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – At least three dozen women will be voting members of the assembly of the Synod of Bishops in October, Pope Francis has decided.

In a decision formalized April 17, “the Holy Father approved the extension of participation in the synodal assembly to ‘non-bishops’ — priests, deacons, consecrated men and women, lay men and women,” the synod office said in a statement April 26.

Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, relator general of the synod, told reporters April 26 that about 21% of the synod’s 370 members would not be bishops and at least half of that group would be women.

Xavière Missionary Sister Nathalie Becquart, undersecretary of the Synod of Bishops, speaks to Iacopo Scaramuzzi, a reporter for La Repubblica, in the Vatican press office April 26, 2023. The Vatican had just announced Pope Francis’ decision to have women and laymen as voting members of the synod. (CNS photo/Cindy Wooden)

Adding women and young people to the membership will make sure “the church is well represented” in the prayer and discussions scheduled for Oct. 4-29 at the Vatican, the cardinal said. “It will be a joy to have the whole church represented in Rome for the synod.”

“As you can see, the space in the tent is being enlarged,” Cardinal Mario Grech, synod secretary-general, told reporters, echoing the title that had been chosen for the working document for the just-completed continental phase of the synod. The document said that in local and national synod listening sessions there were consistent questions about how to promote greater inclusion in the Catholic Church while staying true to church teaching.

“The Synod of Bishops will remain a synod of bishops,” Cardinal Grech said, but it will be “enriched” by representatives of the whole church.

The pope’s decision to expand the categories of synod members, the April statement said, “is in continuity” with the Catholic Church’s growing understanding of the synodal dimension of the church and “the consequent understanding of the institutions through which it is exercised.”

Since the Synod of Bishops was reinstituted after the Second Vatican Council, the voting members of the synod have all been men. The membership was primarily cardinals and bishops, except for the 10 priests — and recently one religious brother — elected by the men’s Union of Superiors General.

Now, rather than the Union of Superiors General selecting 10 voting members, the office said, it will elect only five priests or brothers. And the women’s International Union of Superiors General also will elect five sisters or nuns.

Past synods have included women as non-voting “auditors,” a group that included many women.

Pope Francis has done away with the “auditor” category of synod participant, the Vatican said. Instead, there will be a group of 70 non-bishop members representing “various groupings of the faithful of the people of God,” including priests, consecrated women, deacons and laypeople from every part of the world.

The pope will choose the 70 from a list of 140 people selected by bishops and organizers of six regional groupings of bishops and by the Assembly of Patriarchs of Eastern Catholic Churches. The six regional groups are: the council of bishops’ conferences of Latin America and the Caribbean, known as CELAM; the Council of Bishops’ Conferences of Europe; the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar; the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences: the Federation of Catholic Bishops’ Conferences of Oceania; and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops together.

Each of the seven bishops’ groups will nominate 20 people, the statement said, and “it is requested that 50% of them be women and that the presence of young people also be emphasized.”

In addition to the 10 religious elected by their groups of superiors and the 70 non-bishop members nominated by continental groups, Pope Francis may include “non-bishop members” among the members he appoints.

And, since the leadership of the synod secretariat will be full members, that includes Xavière Missionary Sister Nathalie Becquart, undersecretary of the synod. Cardinal Hollerich added that after all the work they did preparing the synod, “it would be very unfair” to exclude them as members.

Most synod members will be bishops elected by their episcopal conference or by their Eastern Catholic bishops’ synod. The number of delegates each conference can elect depends on the size of the conference. Bishops’ conferences with more than 200 members — like the conferences of Italy, Brazil and the United States — will elect five members.




Being guided by “mission over maintenance,” our Parish Pastoral and Finance Councils will continue to work with the Diocese of Scranton in fulfilling the Mission Statement of Vision 2030 and will utilize the Vision 2030 Blueprint Process as a “proactive initiative focused on being as responsive as possible to the mission of the Church.”



May 13-14, 2023


Our Lady of Fatima Parish

St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception Church


Saint Nicholas Parish

St. Nicholas Church




In July 2021, the parish communities of Our Lady of Fatima at Saint Mary’s Church and Saint Nicholas came together in a linkage. Since then, we have been focused on how best to move our faith-filled communities forward given several priority drivers. These include a 26-percent drop in the total number of registered parishioners over the last decade, a $1.7 million outstanding assessment debt of Our Lady of Fatima Parish, and a facilities assessment of the deferred maintenance of the buildings and grounds at Our Lady of Fatima Parish that exceeds $800,000 in total.

There has been a significant change in the demographics of the greater Wilkes-Barre community. As a point of reference, in 1968, Wilkes-Barre had 20 parishes served by 50 priests. The city now has five parishes with only five priests. Over the last 100 years, the city’s population has effectively been reduced by 50-percent. Between 2018 and 2022, Our Lady of Fatima Parish has seen a 54-percent decline in its number of parishioners and the average attendance at weekend Mass decreased 46-percent during the same five-year time period.

The parish offertory at Our Lady of Fatima has also continued to steadily decline from 2018 to 2022. The parish does not do a significant amount of fundraising and has been unable to pay its current obligations historically. The parish also does not have any significant savings available for capital needs to address an aging facility structure and compounding deferred maintenance obligations.

Within the backdrop of this information, throughout the last seven months, representatives of Our Lady of Fatima Parish, Saint Nicholas Parish, Wyoming Valley Catholic Youth Center and the Diocese of Scranton have been studying the possibility of utilizing space at Our Lady of Fatima Parish to provide additional daycare/childcare opportunities to our Wilkes-Barre community.

The study to determine whether the project could be both successful and sustainable was not rushed. It involved an extensive evaluation of the physical space, evaluation of possible reimbursements available and more. The study determined roughly $1.4-$1.7 million would be needed to be spent at the Saint Mary’s church property in order to get the project off the ground. Aside from the normal expenditures to completely rehabilitate the space to meet the building and construction codes for childcare utilization, the existing building conditions presented additional financial challenges including: code requirements for a multi-use facility, fire protection sprinklers throughout the entire facility, new fire rated walls and assemblies, insufficient parking to comply with the zoning code and the increased cost required for below grade accessibility/means of egress and areas of refuge for both the parish center and basement of the church.

The Transition Team representing Our Lady of Fatima and Saint Nicholas, in consultation with the Diocese of Scranton, weighed all of this information. Together, we have reached the decision that it is not in the best financial interest of our parishes to continue pursuing the daycare/childcare option at Our Lady of Fatima Parish. We are committed to being outstanding stewards of all of the resources entrusted to us. An honest assessment of the financial and demographic realities we face show it is most prudent to utilize our combined resources for improved programming to support the parishioners and the mission of the Church as opposed to the struggle of maintaining bricks and mortar.

With all of these factors being extensively considered, it is the recommendation of the Transition Team that the best path forward at this time is to bring our two independent parishes, which are currently only “linked,” together as one new parish through consolidation. This means forming a new parish community for the faithful of downtown Wilkes-Barre. Once consolidation takes place, we will continue to study the impact all of the priority drivers in regards to our two church buildings and continue to prayerfully discern the best path forward. Being guided by “mission over maintenance,” our Parish Pastoral and Finance Councils will continue to work with the Diocese of Scranton in fulfilling the Mission Statement of Vision 2030 and will utilize the Vision 2030 Blueprint Process as a “proactive initiative focused on being as responsive as possible to the mission of the Church.”


With all of these factors being extensively considered, it is the recommendation of the Transition Team that the best path forward at this time is to bring our two independent parishes, which are currently only “linked,” together as one new parish through consolidation. This means forming a new parish community for the faithful of downtown Wilkes-Barre. Once consolidation takes place, we will continue to study the impact all of the priority drivers in regards to our two church buildings and continue to prayerfully discern the best path forward. Being guided by “mission over maintenance,” our Parish Pastoral and Finance Councils will continue to work with the Diocese of Scranton in fulfilling the Mission Statement of Vision 2030 and will utilize the Vision 2030 Blueprint Process as a “proactive initiative focused on being as responsive as possible to the mission of the Church.”





Editor Note: For the complete text of Pope Francis’ message in English click here.

For the complete text of Pope Francis’ message in Spanish click here.

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Every Christian has a vocation to respond to God’s love and to share that love with others, Pope Francis said.

“The Lord’s call is grace, complete gift and at the same time a commitment to bring the Gospel to others,” the pope wrote in his message for the World Day of Prayer for Vocations, which was to be marked April 30 in most dioceses.

“Vocation: Grace and Mission” was the theme the pope chose for the 2023 celebration.

Father Matt Browne is flanked by seminarians as he presides at a “Holy Hour for Vocations” prayer service at Immaculate Conception Seminary in Huntington, N.Y., Jan. 6, 2023. File photo. (OSV News photo/Gregory A. Schemitz)

The pope’s message was released at the Vatican April 26 with a news conference led by Cardinal Lazarus You Heung-sik, prefect of the Dicastery for Clergy.

The message, the cardinal said, emphasizes that a vocation is “the gift of self,” a call that is “common to all Christians: all are called to be on the front line, to do their part so that the earth may become the common home in which individuals and peoples live together as brothers and sisters, under the gaze of the one Father.”

In his message, Pope Francis said that, “led by the Spirit, Christians are challenged to respond to existential peripheries and human dramas, ever conscious that the mission is God’s work.”

The mission, he said, “is not carried out by us alone, but always in ecclesial communion, together with our brothers and sisters, and under the guidance of the church’s pastors.”

The multiplicity of vocations, gifts and responsibilities in the church, he said, always has been part of “God’s dream: that we should live with him in a communion of love.”

In the church, and in the pope’s message, “vocation” referred to more than just the call to priesthood or consecrated religious life.

In fact, the pope wrote, “our common vocation to give ourselves in love develops and finds concrete expression in the life of lay men and women, devoted to raising a family as a small domestic church and working as a leaven of the Gospel to renew the different sectors of society; in the testimony of consecrated women and men who are completely committed to God for the sake of their brothers and sisters as a prophetic sign of the kingdom of God; in ordained ministers – deacons, priests and bishops – placed at the service of preaching, prayer and fostering the communion of the holy people of God.”

The “true nature and richness” of each of those vocations, he said, is revealed and makes sense only in relation to the others within the community of the church.

“Viewed in this light,” the pope said, “the church is a vocational ‘symphony’ with every vocation united yet distinct, in harmony and joined together in ‘going forth’ to radiate throughout the world the new life of the kingdom of God.”

The vocation God gives to each Christian is not a command or imposition, Pope Francis said, but an individual call to respond to God’s love with the gifts, talents and dreams that each person has.

“In the course of our lives,” he said, “this call, which is part of the fiber of our being and the secret of our happiness, comes to us by the work of the Holy Spirit in ever new ways. It enlightens our minds, strengthens our wills, fills us with amazement and sets our hearts afire.”

Cardinal You Heung-sik, presenting the pope’s message, told reporters, “God, in fact, has a ‘dream’ that he wishes to realize for us and with us, a project that he gives us so that, accepting it and realizing it with all freedom, we can find the authentic meaning of our existence, the realization of our humanity, but also the mission through which we can contribute to the construction of a more fraternal, more just and more supportive world, the anticipation and realization of the kingdom of God.”

Sometimes the call comes “in completely unexpected ways,” Pope Francis wrote, recounting how, for him, the call came on “Sept. 21, 1953, as I was on my way to an annual school celebration, (and) I was led to stop by a church and go to confession.”

“That day changed my life and left a mark that has endured to the present day,” the pope wrote.

“The gift of vocation is like a divine seed that springs up in the soil of our existence, opens our hearts to God and to others, so that we can share with them the treasure we ourselves have found,” the pope said.

The basic way vocation works, he wrote, is: “God calls us in love and we, in gratitude, respond to him in love. We realize that we are beloved sons and daughters of the one Father, and we come to see ourselves as brothers and sisters of one another.”

Cardinal You Heung-sik told reporters that Pope Francis “truly gives an excellent example” of what a Christian vocation is, “not just as a bishop or priest,” but as a person who has encountered Jesus and joyfully shares the faith with others.

WASHINGTON (OSV News) – Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of Bishop Ronald W. Gainer of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, who is 75, and has appointed Auxiliary Bishop Timothy C. Senior of Philadelphia to succeed him.

Bishop Gainer, who has headed the Harrisburg Diocese since 2014, turned 75 last August, the age at which canon requires bishops to submit their resignation to the pope.

Bishop Senior, who turned 63 March 22, has been a Philadelphia auxiliary since 2009. He is regional bishop of Montgomery County and chancellor of the archdiocese’s St. Charles Borromeo Seminary. Bishop Senior was the seminary’s rector from 2012 to 2022.

The Most Reverend Timothy C. Senior

The resignation and appointment were publicized in Washington April 25 by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States.

Bishop Senior will be installed as the 12th bishop of Harrisburg by Philadelphia Archbishop Nelson J. Pérez during a June 21 Mass at St. Patrick Cathedral in Harrisburg.

“This is certainly a joyous day for our clergy, the religious and laity of our diocese, for the members of our diocesan staff and for me personally, and today’s announcement is one that we have been expecting for several months,” Bishop Gainer said at a press conference in Harrisburg.

He said he was grateful to Pope Francis for sending the diocese “a man devoted to living the demands of the Gospel.”

“As we enter this new chapter in the history of the Harrisburg Diocese, I do so with confidence that the offices of teaching, sanctifying and shepherding in our local church are in the very best hands,” Bishop Gainer said, noting that his successor is “a classically trained pianist.”

“I’m confident that the music and singing at our diocesan staff Christmas party will be kicked up a few notches,” he added.

Bishop Gainer also thanked the media, saying, “You help us to spread the message of the diocese beyond the walls of our churches, and I am grateful for your presence today.”

Introduced by his predecessor, Bishop Senior said he was “profoundly grateful” to the pope for “his confidence and trust in appointing me to serve the faithful of the Diocese of Harrisburg as their next bishop.”

“Trusting in God’s will and the gifts of the Holy Spirit, I pray that I may be a faithful, holy and worthy shepherd for the people of central Pennsylvania in service of Jesus Christ and for the good of his church.”

Archbishop Pérez called Bishop Senior’s appointment a “moment” of “great joy for the Church in Philadelphia!”

“I’ve known and worked closely with Bishop Senior since long before either of us were bishops. He is an exemplary priest who has served his hometown faithfully for many years with great wisdom, intelligence and apostolic zeal for the good of souls,” the prelate said in a statement. “It has been an inspiration for me to witness his humility, devotion and unending dedication for many years.”

The pope, he added, has given the faithful of the Harrisburg Diocese “a true gift in making this appointment. I know Bishop Senior will serve them joyfully as a faithful shepherd.”

Then-Msgr. Senior was named an auxiliary bishop for Philadelphia June 8, 2009, and he was ordained a bishop July 31, 2009. Bishop Senior served as the moderator of the curia for the archdiocese from 2009 to 2012, when Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, then head of the Philadelphia Archdiocese, appointed him rector of St. Charles Borromeo Seminary.

In July 2022, Archbishop Pérez named him seminary chancellor with responsibility over the plans for the seminary’s move from its historic Wynnewood campus west of Philadelphia in 2024 to Lower Gwynedd Township, which is northeast of the city. The official groundbreaking on the new campus took place Dec. 8, 2022.

Timothy Christian Senior was born March 22, 1960, in North Wales, Pennsylvania, to James Harwood (d. 1977) and Elise (née Rothwell) Senior. The youngest of three children, he has a brother, Jim, and a sister, Myra. He attended St. Rose of Lima Elementary School and graduated from Lansdale Catholic High School in 1977. He then studied at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary, earning bachelor of philosophy degree in 1981. He also has a master of divinity and a master of arts degrees in pastoral theology degrees from the seminary.

He was ordained to the priesthood for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia by Cardinal John J. Krol May 18, 1985. He served as an assistant pastor at a parish in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, and taught religion in an archdiocesan high school before pursuing full-time graduate studies at Boston College, where he earned master’s degrees in social work and business administration.

When he returned to Philadelphia, he served in the archdiocesan Secretariat for Catholic Human Services from 1992 to 2004, first as deputy secretary and then secretary. He was vicar for clergy from 2004 to 2009. He was named a monsignor in 2005.

He is a member of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development.

The 15-county Harrisburg Diocese covers 7,660 square miles and has a Catholic population of about 206,000 out of a total population of just over 2.3 million people.

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Jesus knows how to turn every difficulty or fall into a step forward, Pope Francis said.

With Christ’s love “even that which seems wearisome and unsuccessful can appear under another light,” he said April 23.

Pope Francis greets an estimated 30,000 visitors and pilgrims who joined him for the recitation of the “Regina Coeli” prayer April 23, 2023, in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

Before reciting the midday “Regina Coeli” prayer with about 30,000 people gathered in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis spoke about the day’s Gospel reading, Luke 24:13-35, which describes the Risen Jesus’ encounter with the disciples heading to Emmaus.

Jesus appears beside the two disciples and prompts them to tell him what has happened and made them sad. And, while they are walking, Jesus “helps them reinterpret the facts in a different way, in the light of the prophecies, of the Word of God,” the pope said.

“Today’s Gospel invites us to tell Jesus everything, sincerely, without being afraid of disturbing him – he listens – without fear of saying the wrong thing, without shame at our struggle to understand,” he said.

“The Lord is happy whenever we open ourselves to him,” he said. “Only in this way can he take us by the hand, accompany us and make our hearts burn again.”

The pope said a good way to do this is to dedicate some time every evening to a brief examination of conscience and to reread the day with Jesus, by “opening your heart to him, bringing to him people, choices, fears, falls and hopes — all the things that happened — to learn gradually to look at things with different eyes, with his eyes and not just our own.”

“We can thus relive the experience of those two disciples,” he said. “A difficult cross to embrace, the decision to forgive an offense, a missed opportunity for redress, the toil of work, the sincerity that comes at a price and the trials of family life can appear to us in a new light, the light of the crucified and Risen One, who knows how to turn every fall into a step forward.”