VATICAN CITY (CNS) – While older people love to complain about “young people today,” they must admit that the younger generations are leading the way in opposing “an economic system that is unfair to the poor and an enemy of the environment,” Pope Francis wrote.

“They are not only asking us; they are doing it,” he said, pointing to a trend in choosing to consume less, to buy products “produced following strict rules of environmental and social respect” and to lower their carbon footprints with the means of transportation they use.

This is cover of the Italian book, “The Taste for Change: Ecological Transition as the Path to Happiness,” which was released May 17, 2023. The book by Jesuit Father Gaël Giraud and Carlo Petrini features a preface written by Pope Francis. (CNS photo/Courtesy LEV)

Pope Francis wrote about the connections between the dominate global economic system and climate change in a preface to the Italian book, “The Taste for Change: Ecological Transition as the Path to Happiness,” by the Jesuit economist Father Gaël Giraud and Carlo Petrini, the Italian founder of the International Slow Food Movement.

Vatican News published the text of the preface May 17, the day the book was released by the Vatican publishing house.

Pope Francis wrote that the authors find hope in the younger generation, countering the tired narrative of claiming the past was better and that “those who come after us are squandering our achievements.”

“Instead, we must admit with sincerity that it is the young people who embody the change we all objectively need,” the pope wrote.

The young, Pope Francis said, are asking older people “to change. Change our lifestyle, so predatory toward the environment. Change our relationship with the Earth’s resources, which are not infinite. Change our attitude toward them, the new generations, from whom we are stealing the future.”

The book, he said, focuses on “the truly critical environmental situation in which we find ourselves, the child of that ‘economy that kills’ and which has caused the suffering cry of the Earth and the distressing and anguished cry of the world’s poor.”

Christians cannot remain indifferent when they see people suffering because of drought and other environmental disasters and or who are forced to migrate because of climate change,” he wrote.

Those who stand by and watch or turn the other way, he said, are “accomplices in the destruction of the beauty that God wanted to give us in the creation that surrounds us.”

It is not just about the land, the pope said. With the destruction of the earth, “that ‘very good’ gift that the Creator forged from water and dust — man and woman — will perish.”

“Let’s face it,” he said, people have given in to a “reckless economic development,” which is “causing climatic imbalances that are weighing on the shoulders of the poorest, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa. How can we close the doors to those who are fleeing, and will flee, unsustainable environmental situations, the direct consequences of our immoderate consumerism?”

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – After literally hundreds of public prayers for peace in Ukraine and 443 days after Russia launched an all-out war on the Eastern European country, Pope Francis welcomed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to the Vatican.

The topics of the conversation May 13 included “the humanitarian and political situation in Ukraine caused by the ongoing war,” the Vatican press office said.

Pope Francis and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy shake hands after their meeting at the Vatican May 13, 2023. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

Pope Francis assured the president of “his constant prayers, evidenced by his many public appeals and continuous invocation to the Lord for peace since,” the statement continued.

“Both agreed on the need for continued humanitarian efforts to support the population,” the Vatican said. And “the pope particularly stressed the urgent need for ‘gestures of humanity’ toward the most fragile people, the innocent victims of the conflict.”

Zelenskyy, in a tweet after the meeting, said he was grateful for the pope’s “personal attention to the tragedy of millions of Ukrainians.”

But he also said he asked the pope “to condemn Russian crimes in Ukraine. Because there can be no equality between the victim and the aggressor.”

Earlier that morning, in a speech to new ambassadors to the Vatican, Pope Francis seemed to indirectly address criticisms, including by many Ukrainians, of his attempts not to demonize and isolate Russia.

Having no “political, commercial or military aims,” the pope said, the Vatican operates on the world stage “through the exercise of a positive neutrality. Far from being an ‘ethical neutrality,’ especially in the face of human suffering, this affords the Holy See a certain standing in the international community that allows it to better assist in the resolution of conflicts and other matters.”

Zelenskyy also tweeted that he spoke to the pope “about our ‘peace formula’ as the only effective algorithm for achieving a just peace,” and he said asked the pope to support it. Among other things, the formula insists on the withdrawal of Russian forces from all of Ukraine’s territory and proposes Russia pay reparations for the damage inflicted on Ukrainian infrastructure.

As he often does with formal visits in the afternoon, the pope met with the president in his studio at the back of the Vatican audience hall rather than in the library of the Apostolic Palace.

Photos from Vatican Media showed Pope Francis going to the door of the building to welcome the president as soon as he stepped from his car.

While the Vatican did not allow live coverage of the visit, a Vatican video clip showed Zelenskyy placing a hand on his chest and telling the pope, “It’s an honor.”

Once they were in the studio, the pope told Zelenskyy, “Thank you for this visit.”

The Vatican press office said the pope and president spoke privately for 40 minutes before they were joined by Zelenskyy’s entourage for the presentation of gifts.

The president gave the pope a poster, resembling a Marian icon, but with a dark figure where the child Jesus would normally be. Titled “Loss 2022-58,” it commemorates the 243 children who died during the first 58 days of the war, said an accompanying explanation. In addition, Zelenskyy gave the pope a collage painted on the bullet-dented plate of a soldier’s bulletproof vest.

Pope Francis gave the president a bronze olive branch. The accompanying note referred to the biblical story of Noah and the flood, referring to the olive branch as a symbol of peace and of renewal after destruction.

After meeting the pope, Zelenskyy and his entourage also met with Archbishop Paul R. Gallagher, Vatican foreign minister. Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, was out of town.

Pope Francis and Zelenskyy had spoken on the phone at least twice in the first month of the war, which began Feb. 24, 2022, but had not seen each other in person since early 2020.

The president and members of his government repeatedly have invited Pope Francis to visit Kyiv, but the pope consistently has said he would not visit the Ukrainian capital unless he also could visit Moscow on a mission of peace. Russian officials continue to say the time is not right.

Earlier that morning, the pope welcomed to the Vatican a group of new ambassadors.

Listing countries torn by strife, he included “the ongoing war in Ukraine, which has led to untold suffering and death.”

“When will we learn from history that the ways of violence, oppression and unbridled ambition to conquer land do not benefit the common good?” he asked them. “When will we learn that investing in the well-being of people is always better than spending resources on the development of deadly weapons?”

But he also seemed to indirectly address criticisms, including by many Ukrainians, of his attempts not to demonize and isolate Russia.

Having no “political, commercial or military aims,” he said, the Vatican operates on the world stage “through the exercise of a positive neutrality. Far from being an ‘ethical neutrality,’ especially in the face of human suffering, this affords the Holy See a certain standing in the international community that allows it to better assist in the resolution of conflicts and other matters.”

Zelenskyy also met in Rome with Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni and President Sergio Mattarella, thanking them both for their support of Ukraine and for the military assistance Italy is providing.

Pope Francis has consistently condemned the arms trade, including in remarks since the Russian invasion, leading many to think he opposed the efforts of the European Union and NATO to help Ukraine defend itself.

But, when asked specifically about Ukraine buying or receiving weapons, he said in September, “This is a political decision, which can be moral — morally acceptable — if it is done according to the conditions of morality, which are manifold. … But it can be immoral if it is done with the intention of provoking more war or selling weapons or discarding those weapons that are no longer needed.”

A few hours before Pope Francis welcomed Zelenskyy to the Vatican, a message on Pope Francis’ Twitter account read: “May #OurLadyOfFatima, the mother of Jesus and our own mother, help us create paths of encounter and dialogue that lead toward peace, and grant us the courage to trod them without hesitation.”

May 13 is the feast of Our Lady of Fatima, the anniversary of the day in 1917 when three Portuguese children said they first saw Mary. In the monthly apparitions, which continued until Oct. 13, 1917, Mary encouraged the children to pray for peace and, they said, for the conversion of Russia.

Pope Francis, at his general audience May 3, said, “I recall the request of Our Lady of Fatima to the three shepherd children: ‘Pray the rosary every day for peace in the world and an end to the war.’ I, too, ask you to pray the rosary for peace.”

The meeting between the pope and Zelenskyy came two weeks after Pope Francis told reporters the Holy See is working on a project related to peace between Russia and Ukraine, but he could not talk about it yet.

“There is a mission underway that is not public yet; when it is public, I will tell you about it,” Pope Fng I think has been explained, and I think it will go forward.”

Pope Francis has said the Vatican has been involved in successfully mediating prisoner-of-war exchanges between Ukraine and Russia and, in late April, when Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal visited the pope at the Vatican, he asked for the Vatican’s help in returning to Ukraine children taken by force to Russia.

The Ukrainian government’s “Children of War” website claimed, as of May 13, that 19,393 children had been forcibly removed from Ukraine and taken to Russia.

This map shows the four routes of the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage to the National Eucharistic Congress in 2024. Pilgrims traveling in “Eucharistic caravans” on all four routes will begin their journeys with Pentecost weekend celebrations May 17-18, 2024, leaving May 19. They will all converge on Indianapolis July 16, 2024, the day before the five-day Congress opens. (OSV News illustration/courtesy National Eucharistic Congress)


ST. PAUL, Minn. (OSV News) – Mike Wavra thinks of the 2024 National Eucharistic Pilgrimage as “an opportunity to walk with the Lord.”

He and his wife, Cindi, both 65-year-old retirees, plan to join the pilgrimage at its northern launch point in Minnesota in May 2024, and then walk for about a week, before rejoining the pilgrims seven weeks later in Indianapolis for the 10th National Eucharistic Congress.

The Wavras are among thousands of Catholics from across the United States anticipated to participate in next year’s pilgrimage to the Congress, part of the U.S. bishops’ three-year National Eucharistic Revival that began in 2021. The pilgrimage has four routes, with one beginning in the north, south, east and west of the country.

Pilgrims traveling in the “Eucharistic caravans” on all four routes will begin their journeys with Pentecost weekend celebrations May 17-18, 2024, leaving May 19. They will all converge on Indianapolis July 16, 2024, the day before the five-day Congress opens.

The pilgrimage is an opportunity for prayer and evangelization, as well as a way to engage Catholics unable to attend the Congress, said Tim Glemkowski, the National Eucharistic Congress’ executive director.

“What the pilgrimage does is it builds us in prayerful anticipation for what God is going to do at the Congress,” he told OSV News May 5. “It’s two months of us pilgrimaging, fasting, praying, interceding, asking the Lord to renew his church, his bride, in those five days. … They’re not two different things. It’s one pilgrimage: five days of which happen in a stadium in Indianapolis, and two months of which happen across our country on the way there.”

Weekend stops in major cities will include special liturgies, Eucharistic adoration, processions and service opportunities, Glemkowski said.

The northern “Marian Route” that the Wavras plan to take begins in northern Minnesota at Lake Itasca, the headwaters of the Mississippi River. The route follows the river to St. Paul and Minneapolis, its first weekend stop. Then the route heads south to Rochester, Minnesota, and then east through La Crosse and Green Bay, Wisconsin. It continues through Milwaukee, Chicago and Notre Dame, Indiana, before arriving in Indianapolis.

The “Juan Diego Route” begins more than 1,600 miles south of Lake Itasca in Brownsville, Texas, at the U.S.-Mexico border. It will follow Texas’ eastern border through Corpus Christi and Houston, and continue through New Orleans; Mobile, Alabama; Atlanta; Nashville, Tennessee; and Louisville, Kentucky.

The “Seton Route” — named for St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, the first U.S.-born saint — begins in New Haven, Connecticut, and continues through New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, Pittsburgh, and Steubenville, Columbus and Cincinnati, Ohio.

The “Junipero Serra Route” begins in San Francisco — with hope of walking over the Golden Gate Bridge — and continues through Reno, Nevada; Salt Lake City; Denver; North Platte and Omaha, Nebraska; Kansas City, Kansas and Missouri; and St. Louis.

At more than 2,200 miles long, the Junipero Serra Route is the longest and most rigorous route. Pilgrims will use transport to cross sections of their route, but some of the Rocky Mountains and the Great Plains are expected to be crossed on foot. In an interview with Bishop Andrew H. Cozzens of Crookston, Minnesota, for a February episode of the popular podcast “Catholic Stuff You Should Know,” co-host Father John Nepil said he wanted to walk with the Eucharist and fellow priests in the Rockies over the highest elevation the pilgrimage routes will reach.

Besides the thrill of the physical challenge, “there’s always been a close connection for me between thinking of the Eucharist as the source and summit of our faith, and the ways we reflect on the Eucharistic high points as a place of transcendence, and then the way it connects to the mountains,” Father Nepil, a priest of the Archdiocese of Denver and vice rector of St. John Vianney Theological Seminary in Denver, told OSV News May 8.

Modern Catholic Pilgrim, a pilgrimage nonprofit with offices in Minnesota and California, is organizing the national pilgrimage. Its founder and president, Will Peterson, connects the pilgrimage to the scriptural journey from Jerusalem to Emmaus, where two of his disciples met Jesus after the Resurrection. Luke 24 recounts how Jesus comforted them, and then revealed himself in the breaking of the bread.

The routes include important Catholic sites in the United States, such the 18th-century ministry of St. Junipero Serra in what is now California, the Philadelphia tombs of St. John Neumann and St. Katharine Drexel, and in Wisconsin, the National Shrine of Our Lady of Champion, the only approved Marian apparition in the United States.

“People are going to reach an ‘Emmaus point’ at these spots along the way, and we want to support the local church,” Peterson said May 9. “That’s where it’s such a great gift to coordinate with like 65 dioceses to say, ‘How can we really highlight the great sacred sites of your diocese?'”

Each pilgrimage route is expected to have 12 “perpetual pilgrims,” young adults, including two seminarians, committed to traveling the entire route, from their launch points to Indianapolis. Each route also will include priest chaplains who will carry the Eucharist, usually in a monstrance specially designed for the pilgrimage. While some chaplains may join the entire pilgrimage route, others may join for segments of the journey, Glemkowski said.

The faithful are invited to join the pilgrimage for hours, days or weeks. Each day of the pilgrimage will begin with Mass and a Eucharistic procession with the local community before pilgrims continue the trek to their next stopping point. Pilgrims joining the Eucharistic caravans for short stretches will be responsible for arranging their own food and overnight accommodations, although some parishes along the routes may provide meals and lodging.

Parishioners of St. Bernard Parish in Thief River Falls, Minnesota, the Wavras have worked out their own logistics: They plan to take their truck with a camper and two motorized bicycles, and “hopscotch” their way along the route, taking their truck each morning to drop off their bikes at that evening’s stop, driving back, walking the pilgrimage route, and then taking their bikes to pick up their truck.

The Wavras expect the pilgrimage to include comradery with fellow Catholics and their bishop, Bishop Cozzens, whose Diocese of Crookston is home to Lake Itasca and the first stretch of the Marian Route. Bishop Cozzens is chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis, which is overseeing the revival.

The pilgrimage “brings Jesus out of our churches and out into the public,” Mike Wavra told OSV News May 4. “This is just an opportunity for people to see the Jesus that we know and love.”

Wavra also expects the pilgrimage to attract interest and curiosity from non-Catholics. “They wonder what some crazy Catholics are doing, following a piece of bread,” he said. “It’s not a piece of bread, it’s the Lord himself. What an opportunity for us to share that.”

(OSV News) – “There are no unwanted children,” an anonymous inspiring quote declares, “just unfound families.” If that’s so, the almost 400,000 children in the U.S. foster care system – approximately 100,000 of whom are legally adoptable – need only wait. But the reality, especially in post-Roe v. Wade America, presents a more complex and challenging scenario – one in which foster care must, Catholic experts urge, be viewed as a pro-life issue.

Children are escorted to the Cayuga Center, which provides foster care and other services to immigrant children separated from their families, in New York City, July 10, 2018. In the U.S. there are nearly 400,000 children in the foster care system. (OSV news photo/Brendan McDermid, Reuters)

“What we’re trying to do,” said Kimberley Henkel, a Ph.D. who is executive director of Springs of Love — a ministry that “encourages, equips and educates Catholics to discern and live out the call to foster and adopt,” according to its website — “is to help create a culture of fostering and adoption in the Catholic Church. And we see fostering and adoption, clearly, as a very significant pro-life issue.”

Henkel – who has four adopted children – added that “Jesus commands us to care for widows and orphans in their distress, and the children in foster care are our modern-day orphans. We are coming up upon the one-year anniversary of the end of Roe,” she said, “and we’re seeing a rise in adoption as some states are no longer allowing abortion, and we are seeing a need for encouragement and education for Catholics to learn how important this issue is. … As we work to end abortion, we need to be recognizing that we need to take care of the mothers and the children after they’re born.”

Protestant communities, Henkel has found, are much more active in foster care ministries and outreach than are Catholic churches. When she and her husband began fostering, this quickly became apparent. “We were looking around and we were saying, ‘Where are the Catholics?'”

In the Diocese of Columbus, Ohio, where she lives, Henkel has identified only two Catholic foster families. There must be more, she said – but these two Catholic foster families are so isolated that they “feel like islands.”

To support foster families, Henkel encourages “wraparound care” – care communities at the parish level that assists with basics like meals, supplies, respite care and more. Statistics show, Henkel said, that without such care, 50% of foster families will quit after one year. With accompaniment, however, 90% stay.

“I saw so many beautiful Protestants bringing children to their home and just loving them,” Henkel recalled, “and just pouring out the love of Jesus on these children. And that’s what I want to see in the Catholic community.”

“If we were talking more in the church about the children in our care and seeing them as God’s children – these are God’s kids, and they need a family – I don’t see how we can turn away,” said Henkel. “This is our responsibility. These children are our responsibility.”

“My soapbox from a foster care perspective is helping our church open their eyes and see this as a fuller reflection of what it means to be whole life,” said Lisa Wheeler, who – with her husband, Timothy – has adopted five children ages 7 to 14, and fostered 15 others.

Wheeler — the Texas-based president and founder of Carmel Communications, a Catholic public relations agency — urges an outlook that is “not just pro-life, but truly whole life, reflecting both babies in the womb and families that have already chosen life but are still in need of support and resources in order to keep their families intact.”

For the first 15 years of their almost 26-year marriage, the Wheelers were childless. A parish adoption and foster care information session led to training and approval as potential adoptive parents. They planned to add just one child to their family – but journeying with their now-eldest daughter for two years prior to adoption changed that.

“We really were exposed to what a crisis we face here in our country as it relates to children,” Wheeler shared. “We have a modern day orphan crisis within the foster care system — and we knew pretty quickly that we weren’t going to be able to walk away, if we had a successful adoption. Because we just were seeing too much — and knew that there was a great need for people like us to stand in the gap for these kids.”

The traditional orphanage — the terrifying source material of many a rags-to-riches literary tale — no longer exists in America. But awareness of the modern adoption and foster care system and its issues is, Wheeler said, typically lacking at the parish level. She recalled the “deafening silence” from her own church community, which made no particular effort at accompaniment.

Given her personal experience, “I felt a real call on my heart over the last few years that we weren’t educating in our churches enough about the crisis that exists in our country with foster care,” Wheeler explained. “And now of course with the overturning of Roe v. Wade, the very real possibility that more children will end up in the foster care system without the adequate supports in place to help families in crisis.”

Wheeler’s adoption and foster care ministry wish list, like Henkel’s, also includes parish care communities. Priests and leadership could also acknowledge that “within their church community, there are foster families in those pews, there are families who have adopted out of foster care — and are facing real challenges parenting in that way, because of the uniqueness of that call,” said Wheeler.

She also is exploring specialized retreats. “Parents that are parenting these children that come from trauma suffer a secondary type of post-traumatic stress because of the unique daily challenges we face in helping these kids get through some of the difficulties that came from their early life,” Wheeler said.

“You can assume that foster kids have had a rocky history,” said Ray Guarendi, clinical psychologist, author and host of EWTN’s Living Right with Dr. Ray.

“By their very nature they have been custodially taken from a birth parent or two,” Guarendi noted. “There’s been a lot of neglect — not only abuse — in their histories. They have learning problems; they have social problems; they have emotional struggles.”

Often, Guarendi said, “these are kids who have been exposed to drug and alcohol in the womb. And because of that, their brain doesn’t quite develop as smoothly as it would if they had a healthy womb environment, and a healthy first couple of years.”

Affection alone also is unlikely to resolve a complicated family history.

“The attitude of, ‘Well, I’ll just give them love and stability, and everything will smooth out.’ That typically doesn’t happen,” Guarendi cautioned. “Your goal is to give this child or children a stable, loving period of time. And perhaps you may be able to adopt. If you can’t, you at least bought seven months, or a year-and-a-half, or maybe even two years of giving them a stability they’ve not known.”

The state of California has more children in the foster care system than anywhere else in the country, said Kathleen Domingo, executive director of the California Catholic Conference. While now keenly aware of adoption and foster issues, Domingo — who previously worked in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles — admits this wasn’t always so. As a founder of the archdiocese’s annual pro-life event, OneLife LA, she remembers an onstage shout-out from evangelist Nick Vujicic that changed everything.

“He really challenged the pro-life community in Los Angeles to say, ‘If you’re truly pro-life, what are you doing for the tens of thousands of children languishing in the child welfare system in California?'” Domingo recalled. “And I was standing next to (Los Angeles) Archbishop (José ) Gomez. He turned to me and said, ‘Kathleen, what are we doing to help foster youth in LA?’ And I said, ‘Archbishop, I don’t know — but I’m going to find out.'”

The Archdiocese of Los Angeles worked to become “foster friendly,” through foster fairs at parishes, Catholic school tuition assistance, and other offerings. The desperate need for such programs cannot be overstated; on May 2, The Sacramento Bee revealed Sacramento County illegally housed foster kids in the cells of a former juvenile detention center, while in 2021, Fresno County’s Social Services Department lodged foster children in abandoned offices, forcing them to sleep on conference room tables.

“It really is incumbent upon Catholics to step in and say, ‘We have space in our home and in our heart to help some of these children,'” said Domingo. “God is calling some of you — not all of you, but some of you — to be foster families.”

SCRANTON – Mothers of all types were celebrated on Sunday, May 14, 2023, as the faithful came together for a special Mother’s Day Adoption Mass at the Cathedral of Saint Peter.

During the Mass, the faithful prayed in an intentional way for all mothers, grandmothers, godmothers, stepmothers, adoptive mothers, foster mothers and all those who “mother” throughout their lives.

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

As he reflected on the readings for the Sixth Sunday of Easter, Bishop Bambera said our mothers and grandmothers give us a great example of how to love each other as Jesus loved.

“We exist to love, to forgive and to work for peace,” Bishop Bambera said. “Is it a tall order? Yes! Is it an expectation beyond our ability? Not at all! Just look at the women whose lives we honor this day and for whom we give thanks: our mothers and grandmothers and all those who have so nurtured and cared for life – loving selflessly, without expectation or receiving love in return – in the spirit of the merciful and selfless love of Jesus.”

Several families who have adopted children with the help of Saint Joseph’s Center attended the Mass.

During the liturgy, those in attendance prayed that society would accept adoption as a viable means to provide abused, neglected and abandoned children with a safe home as well as for women who have had the courage to place their babies up for adoption.

On the same day at the Vatican, Pope Francis expressed his appreciation for women who have given birth to children and entrusted them to the protection of Our Lady.

“Let us recall with gratitude and affection all mothers, those who are still with us and those who have gone to Heaven,” Pope Francis said. “Let us entrust them to Mary, the mother of Jesus.”


On Sunday, May 14, 2023, the Saints Francis & Clare Progressive Catholic Community reopened the former Saint Mary of Czestochowa Church building in Moosic for worship. The Diocese of Scranton sold the church property in September 2014 during a previous parish consolidation process.

In response to questions that have been received, we wish to remind the faithful that the Progressive Catholic Church is neither affiliated with the Diocese of Scranton nor in communion with the universal Catholic Church.

The faithful of the Diocese of Scranton should not attend Masses nor receive the sacraments provided by the Progressive Catholic Church community. Particularly regarding the sacraments of Confession and Marriage, these celebrations would not only be illicit, but also invalid.

Faithfully yours in Christ,
†Joseph C. Bambera
Most Reverend Joseph C. Bambera, D.D., J.C.L.
Bishop of Scranton


SCRANTON – William A. Asinari, a native of Honesdale, will be ordained a deacon for the Diocese of Scranton by the Most Reverend Joseph C. Bambera, Bishop of Scranton, on Saturday, May 27, 2023, at the Cathedral of Saint Peter in Scranton. The ordination Mass will be celebrated at 10 a.m.

The public is invited to attend the Ordination Mass, which is a very important event in the life of the Diocese. The Mass will be broadcast live on CTV: Catholic Television of the Diocese of Scranton and livestream on the Diocese of Scranton website and across Diocesan social media platforms.

Asinari will be ordained for service as a transitional deacon, the ordination serving as the last major step before ordination to the priesthood, which typically occurs a year later after additional pastoral, liturgical and educational preparation.

Once ordained as a deacon, Asinari will assist the bishop and his priests in ministries of the Word, Liturgy and Charity. This includes proclaiming the Gospel, leading intercessions, preaching, preparing the altar, celebrating baptisms, leading the faithful in prayer, distributing holy communion, witnessing marriages and conducting wake and funeral services. Deacons also identify the needs of poor and underserved, and shepherd the Church’s resources to meet those needs.

Asinari, 24, is the son of Robert and Cathleen Asinari and is a parishioner of Saint John the Evangelist Parish, Honesdale.

Please plan to attend the Ordination Mass, to pray with Bishop Bambera, who will administer the Sacrament of Holy Orders in a rite that will be witnessed by friends, family, fellow seminarians, as well as many consecrated religious, deacons and priests.

SCRANTON – Nearly 40 years after Saint Francis of Assisi Kitchen opened its doors in its current location, the facility is getting a “once in a generation renovation” to ensure its mission continues for decades to come.

The work, which is already underway, will be completed over a ten-week period. It should be finished by the end of July.

Exterior work is underway at Saint Francis of Assisi Kitchen in Scranton for its “once in a generation renovation.” In addition to a new entrance and walkways, the interior of the Kitchen will also be upgraded. (Photo/Eric Deabill)

“This renovation will not only allow us to serve our brothers and sisters in need in a dignified way for another generation but will prepare us for future expansion,” Rob Williams, Executive Director of Saint Francis of Assisi Kitchen, said. “This organization is primed and ready to serve God and His people in ways that we cannot yet imagine. We were founded by and through God’s inspiration and we will continue to serve Him and His beloved people in every way possible.”

The Kitchen currently serves ten meals to the community each week and that service will continue uninterrupted – but the meals will be prepared and served in different locations while renovations are underway.


Starting May 19, all weekday meals (11 a.m. midday meal on weekdays and 5 p.m. dinner on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday) will be served at ‘The Space at Olive’ at 541 Wyoming Avenue in Scranton. ‘The Space at Olive’ is only one block away from Saint Francis of Assisi Kitchen’s current location.

“Part of what we provide for the community is the ability for our brothers and sisters to sit around the table together and enjoy comradery with one another,” Williams explained. “We want to keep that sense of community as much as we can through this renovation process and the dining room at ‘The Space at Olive’ will allow us to do that.”

The 11 a.m. midday meal on Saturday and Sunday will be served in ‘grab and go’ containers from Saint Francis food pantry at 504 Penn Avenue in Scranton.

During the renovation project, all of the Kitchen’s meals will be prepared at Lackawanna College.

“Lackawanna College is gifting us with the use of its commercial kitchen for the ten weeks. They have been amazing to us. They are also letting us put two Road Scholar trucks on campus for dry storage and freezer space,” Williams added.

While unexpected challenges may arise during this process, Williams has been working to ensure a smooth transition of services for the last several months.

“The idea is to keep everything as close to normal as possible,” Williams said. “Since 1978, we have only missed four meals and we won’t miss a meal because of this project. There will be ten meals a week straight through.”


When Williams took over as Executive Director of Saint Francis of Assisi Kitchen in August 2019, he quickly realized renovations were needed after fixing leaks in the facility’s roof several times.

In June 2022, the roof was completely fixed and new vents and rain gutters added, paving the way to the rest of the renovation work to begin both inside and outside the Kitchen.

Visible signs of the renovation work are always underway – front walkways are already being fixed and a glass enclosure in the front of the building has been taken down.

“There was a glass enclosure in the front that was always damp and musty. We will have a new entrance but the roof will hang over another eight feet. It will have a stucco-look like the rest of the building with stone accents,” Williams said. “The façade is going to be really beautiful.”

Inside the Kitchen is where most of the changes will be taking place.

Throughout the building there will be new ceilings, LED lighting and paint and all of the appliances in the Kitchen will either be replaced or rebuilt. All of the Kitchen’s public bathrooms will become handicap accessible, a new distinct laundry room will be created and the Kitchen will get new refrigeration and freezer spaces.

“There are times when people offer us 850 boxes of meat and we either have to say no to that donation or we have to borrow space in Pittston. Increasing the freezer space in this building will gear us up for another generation of service,” Williams explained.

While the Kitchen is being renovated, a local artist will also restore a statue of Saint Francis of Assisi, which has a broken hand and several cracks, as well as a statue of Saint Anthony.

Monsignor Constantine V. Siconolfi founded Saint Francis of Assisi Kitchen in 1978. Its current building was dedicated in 1986.

Williams, who refers to himself simply as the “current keeper of the vision” of Saint Francis of Assisi Kitchen, says the renovation project is an exciting opportunity. He said it would not be possible without community support.

“I am deeply grateful to our board members, our benefactors, our staff members and volunteers, who partnering with us are animating this extraordinary mission that we share,” Williams explained.


BRODHEADSVILLE – Eight years after grabbing headlines around the world for building a model Vatican out of 500,000 Lego bricks, Father Bob Simon is back at it.

This time, the pastor of Our Lady Queen of Peace Parish in Brodheadsville just completed a replica of the University of Notre Dame’s iconic Main Building and Golden Dome on April 26, 2023.

“To be invited by the University and by the Notre Dame family to do this is something that my heart is really all in on and was a delight to work on,” Father Simon said.

Father Bob Simon, pastor, Our Lady Queen of Peace Parish, Brodheadsville, poses with the LEGO replica of the University of Notre Dame’s iconic Main Building and Golden Dome on April 21, 2023. (Photos/Eric Deabill)

Father Simon initially received the request from the University in January 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic curtailed his ability to get the project done quickly but still estimates spending roughly eight months working on it overall.

While Father Simon admits he didn’t keep an exact count, he estimates using around 300,000 Lego bricks this time.

“In the windows alone, the blinds and the windows and the glass in it, there are 60-some bricks in each of the 300-plus windows,” he explained. “There’s a total in the windows, just inside them, over 25,000 bricks for that and over 70,000 tan bricks around the exterior of the building.”


As a Notre Dame alumnus, Father Simon immediately recognized the challenge of creating the iconic Golden Dome.

“That is the part I was afraid of,” Father Simon joked. “Unlike the dome I did for Saint Peter’s Basilica, it doesn’t have ribbing and I was very afraid of it because it is 1800s architecture that I’m not so familiar with but I’m really happy with the way it turned out.”

After being afraid of building the dome for a long time, Father Simon admits it came together in just a couple of days.

The University of Notre Dame also helped to ensure that Mary was honored properly in the display.

Father Bob Simon works on the LEGO replica in his parish rectory.

“Notre Dame created her statue on a 3D printer. It is an exact replica of the statue on the top. I gave them the size that I wanted and it fits perfectly right on top, because I gave them the scale,” Father Simon explained.

While many might assume creating the Golden Dome was the hardest part of the project, Father Simon says that is not the case.

“The math was definitely the problem, making sure everything was proportional,” he said. “In particular, what really gave me trouble was the roof. The roof is quite elaborate and trying to make sure the math was all right with the roof and the structure itself was probably the most difficult part.”


While Father Simon is dwarfed by the size of his massive Lego creation, he smiles when admitting the building itself is not often what most people make comments about.

“As much as the structure is impressive, what people probably spend more time looking at are the human interest details,” he explained. “The people wearing Notre Dame attire which the university helped me out with some graphics. If students don’t tie their bicycle up, it gets placed in a tree, people delighted at seeing that.

In addition to the building itself, the LEGO replica also features many characters that depict life on campus.

The ‘ring at spring’ proposals happening on campus, I have one of those represented, and the squirrels and golf carts that are on campus. There are even little robots that deliver food from the cafeteria and the restaurants on campus now so I’m going to make sure there is one of those in the scene as well, just to be very current.”

While Father Simon’s love of Lego sets started around the age of five, as a priest, he believes there is a deep connection between the playful and prayerful parts of this project.

“I’ve realized that building something like this with Lego is a real invitation to contemplation, to mediation, to prayer, it is sort of like the Rosary,” Father Simon explained. “While your hands are busy, your mind and your heart can be elsewhere… I realized the building is in the shape of a Cross with the longest arm of any Cross I’ve ever seen, which seems to represent Father (Edward) Sorin’s vision for the university.”

The Poconos pastor continued, “Just like when praying the Rosary, one contemplates the mysteries and there is really the beauty of the architecture and the vision of the founder that comes alive and is something to really mediate on.”


While much of the Lego construction took place in the living room of Father Simon’s rectory, the final construction took place on the University of Notre Dame campus in conjunction with ‘Notre Dame Day’ on April 26, 2023. On that day, the campus community comes together to celebrate the University and raise money by telling stories of students, professors and alumni.

Father Simon was featured in seven live broadcasts as the Lego creation came to completion.

“I feel great about the fact that it is finished, I feel great about the fact that it will be here at the University of Notre Dame,” Father Simon said in his final television segment.

The Lego creation will be permanently located in McKenna Hall, which hosts conferences and special events and is used to welcome prospective students and visitors.

“I’m grateful for the University and the impact it has made in my life,” Father Simon ended by saying.

HAZLETON – The 60th anniversary of the World Day of Prayer for Vocations was marked in grand style this year with a special Mass celebrated by the Most Reverend Joseph C. Bambera, Bishop of Scranton, at Queen of Heaven Parish.

Young people from parishes around the Diocese of Scranton attended the Mass and served in various liturgical roles.

“It was a special day because it was the first time I got to lector,” Joseph Tranguch of Hazleton said. “I was a little bit nervous but I did pretty good because the Holy Spirit led me!”

Matthew Sanchez, a youth group member from Saint Matthew Parish in East Stroudsburg, called the celebration “beautiful.”

The song, “Que Te Puedo Dar” played during the Presentation of the Gifts at the World Day of Prayer for Vocations Mass at Queen of Heaven Parish in Hazleton on April 29, 2023.

“I like how the choir was bilingual, both English and Spanish, and there were a lot of priests,” Sanchez explained. “Father Alex’s homily was really nice.”

Father Alex J. Roche, Diocesan Director of Vocations and Seminarians, served as homilist for the World Day of Prayer for Vocations Mass.

“Every vocation is important and vital in the life of the Church but sometimes we need to spend a little bit more time on explaining what the vocations to religious life, to the priesthood, to the diaconate are,” Father Roche said. “Explaining that they’re good and holy things and they will lead to fulfillment and happiness and like Saint Catherine of Siena says, ‘setting the world on fire.’”

The purpose of the World Day of Prayer for Vocations is to publicly fulfill the Lord’s instruction to, “Pray the Lord of the harvest to send laborers into his harvest” (Mt 9:38; Lk 10:2). As a climax to a prayer that is continually offered throughout the Church, it affirms the primacy of faith and grace in all that concerns vocations to the priesthood and to the consecrated life.

“I think God is calling me personally to serve the Church in multiple ways. I think it’s being a leader in my hometown, being a leader at my local college and even being a leader in the church community that I’m a parishioner of,” Matthew Kelly, a parishioner of Saint Gregory Parish in Clarks Green, said. “He calls us, so importantly, to be disciples of the faith, to teach it to everybody around us and to bring people into the church because the whole mission of the church is to evangelize.”

In addition to the Mass in Hazleton, parishes around the Diocese of Scranton were asked to highlight the need for vocations and share vocation stories from pastors, religious education teachers, deacons and married couples.

“It is a day when, in every parish, we want people really reflecting on where God is calling them to be,” Father Roche said.