SCRANTON – The Diocese of Scranton’s annual Red Mass will be celebrated on Friday, Oct. 6, at 12:10 p.m. at the Cathedral of Saint Peter in Scranton.

The Most Reverend Joseph C. Bambera, Bishop of Scranton, will be the principal celebrant and homilist.

Historically, the Red Mass is attended by judges, lawyers and legislators for the purpose of invoking God’s blessing and guidance in the administration of justice. Its traditional name is derived from the color of vestments worn by the celebrants of the Mass, symbolizing the tongues of fire, which indicate the presence of the Holy Spirit. Moreover, the robes of the attending royal judges were, in ancient days, bright scarlet.

The public is invited to the Red Mass to pray for those in the legal profession. Members of the county bar associations from across the 11-county Diocese and the Diocesan Tribunal staff are also invited to participate.

Catholic Television of the Diocese of Scranton will broadcast the Red Mass live and a livestream will be available on the Diocese of Scranton website and social media platforms. The Mass will also be rebroadcast at 3:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Oct. 6.

SCRANTON – The Catholic Church recognizes the month of October as Respect Life Month and the first Sunday in October is designated as Respect Life Sunday.
The Most Reverend Joseph C. Bambera, Bishop of Scranton, will celebrate Respect Life Sunday Mass on Oct. 1 at 10 a.m. at the Cathedral of Saint Peter in Scranton.
The Mass is open to the public. Faithful from across the Diocese of Scranton are invited to attend the Respect Life Sunday Mass and focus on God’s precious gift of human life and our responsibility to care for, protect and defend the lives of our brothers and sisters.
Catholics are called to cherish, defend, and protect those who are most vulnerable, from the beginning of life to its end, and at every point in between. During the month of October, the Church asks us to reflect more deeply on the dignity of every human life.
For those unable to attend in-person, the Mass will be broadcast live on CTV: Catholic Television of the Diocese of Scranton and the Diocese of Scranton’s YouTube Channel. The Mass will also be livestream on the Diocese of Scranton website with links provided on the Diocese of Scranton social media platforms.

HAZLETON – Hundreds of people are expected to participate in a large Eucharistic Procession throughout the streets of South Hazleton on Sunday, Oct. 1, 2023, as part of a three-day celebration at Annunciation Parish in honor of Saint Gabriel, patron of the parish church.

Following the 11 a.m. bilingual Mass at Saint Gabriel Church, 122 South Wyoming Street, members of both the English and Spanish-speaking communities will come together to begin the procession outside of the church at approximately 12:15-12:30 p.m.

Those participating in the procession will walk for approximately a half mile, ending with Solemn Benediction back on the steps of the historic Saint Gabriel Church, recently rejuvenated through the great generosity of many benefactors and parishioners.

“The Eucharist is the source and summit of our Catholic faith. We believe it is the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Christ,” Father Kevin Miller, pastor, Annunciation Parish, said. “We are looking to bring awareness to the Eucharist, to the importance of it and how sacred it is in the church.”

The procession is being held as the Catholic Church in the United States has entered its second phase of the U.S. Bishops’ National Eucharistic Revival, a three-year initiative by the prelates to inspire belief in the Eucharist following a 2019 Pew Research study that suggested only about one-third of U.S. Catholics believe the Church’s teaching that the Eucharist is truly the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.

The second phase of the revival, the Year of Parish Revival, is meant to foster Eucharistic devotion at the parish level.

“I want to invite everyone in the Hazleton community and beyond to bear witness to the True Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist as we process through the streets of Mountain City this weekend,” Father Miller added. “We are looking to bring Christ into our everyday lives. There is nothing more powerful than having hundreds of people walking throughout the streets of Hazleton singing, praying, and pointing to Christ!”

The procession is being held on Oct. 1 in honor of the Feast Day of Saint Gabriel (which occurs annually on Sept. 29) and in celebration of El Señor de Los Milagros.

Saint Gabriel is most well known as the angel chosen by God to be the messenger of the Annunciation.

El Señor de Los Milagros (The Lord of the Miracles), is the Patron of Peruvian residents, which is celebrated during the entire month of October. El Señor de Los Milagros is traditionally one of the most popular religious celebrations in Latin America.





SCRANTON – The Cathedral of Saint Peter was filled with beautiful music and cultural pride as the Diocese of Scranton celebrated a Pontifical Mass for Hispanic Heritage Month on Saturday, Sept. 16, 2023.

Faithful parishioners of Hispanic heritage from Great Bend, East Stroudsburg, Hazleton, Wilkes-Barre, Scranton, Jermyn and beyond filled the Cathedral for the celebration. The Most Reverend Joseph C. Bambera, Bishop of Scranton, served as principal celebrant and homilist for the Mass, which was celebrated entirely in Spanish.

Following the Mass, a Hispanic Heritage celebration was held at the Diocesan Pastoral Center. Hundreds of people enjoyed food, fellowship and cultural music and dance performances. The countries represented included, but were not limited to, Mexico, Colombia, Dominican Republic and Ecuador.


(OSV News) – Almost two-thirds of Catholics believe in the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, but only 17% of adult Catholics physically attend Mass at least once per week, according to a newly published survey from Georgetown University’s Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate. The survey also revealed a high correlation between belief in the Eucharist and weekly or even monthly Mass attendance.

The Eucharist rests on a paten at the altar in the Cathedral of St. Peter in Wilmington, Del., May 27, 2021. The “sense of mystery” and awe Catholics should experience at Mass is prompted by an awareness of sacrifice of Christ and his real presence in the Eucharist, Pope Francis said in a document released June 29, 2022. (CNS photo/Chaz Muth)

The 2022 survey of self-identified Catholics published Sept. 26 and titled “Eucharist Beliefs: A National Survey of Adult Catholics” found 64% of respondents provided responses that indicate they believe in the Real Presence, that the Lord Jesus Christ is truly present under the appearance of bread and wine in the Eucharist.

That conclusion was drawn from both open-ended and closed-ended questions respondents were asked about their understanding of church teaching about the Eucharist and additional questions to clarify their beliefs.

According to the CARA study, 49% of respondents correctly identified that the church teaches that “Jesus Christ is truly present under the appearance of bread and wine.” The other 51% incorrectly identified the church’s teaching as “Bread and wine are symbols of Jesus’ actions at the Last Supper, meaning that Jesus is only symbolically present in the consecrated bread and wine.”

“Results of this question indicate that there is substantial confusion about what the church teaches about the Eucharist with slightly more adult Catholics not knowing this correctly than those correctly identifying the teachings,” the report stated.

The survey report noted the data from the responses to the questions indicated “most who do not believe in the Real Presence are not rejecting the teaching, as they do not know this is what the church teaches.”

The survey aimed to test or clarify the findings of a 2019 Pew Research Center survey that found one-third of U.S. Catholics agree with the church that the Eucharist is the body and blood of Christ. According to Pew’s analysis published in August 2019, “nearly seven-in-ten Catholics (69%) say they personally believe that during Catholic Mass, the bread and wine used in Communion ‘are symbols of the body and blood of Jesus Christ.’ Just one-third of U.S. Catholics (31%) say they believe that ‘during Catholic Mass, the bread and wine actually become the body and blood of Jesus.'”

The 2019 Pew survey was part of the impetus for the National Eucharistic Revival that the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops launched last year, and which will include a National Eucharistic Congress in Indianapolis in July. The initiative aims “to inspire a movement of Catholics across the United States who are healed, converted, formed, and unified by an encounter with Jesus in the Eucharist — and who are then sent out on mission ‘for the life of the world,'” its website states.

In a review of previous surveys asking Catholics about their belief in the Real Presence beginning with a 2008 American National Election Study, CARA indicated that the Pew Research Center’s phrasing for its question on the topic may have been confusing to respondents. CARA aimed to be as clear as possible with its survey’s approach, which is why it opened with an “unaided and open-ended question”: “In your own words, what do you believe happens to the gifts of bread and wine after Consecration during Mass?”

The new CARA study, while showing more Catholics believe in the Real Presence than in the Pew study, still underscores the need for the Eucharistic Revival, said Bishop Andrew H. Cozzens of Crookston, Minnesota, chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis, which is supporting the revival.

“It’s still not good news,” Bishop Cozzens, who also serves as board chairman of the National Eucharistic Congress nonprofit formed in 2022 to plan the national event, told OSV News. “What it reveals is that there’s … people who say they believe in the Eucharist, but they don’t go to Mass. In that sense, they obviously haven’t had a real encounter with Jesus in the Eucharist.”

“This is what we’re about with the Eucharistic Revival, this encounter with Jesus in the Eucharist that lets me realize he’s a living person and that changes the way I live,” he continued. “That’s what we really need.”

The survey, however, “might actually show us we have more low-hanging fruit than we thought we did,” he said. “In other words, there are people who say they believe in the Eucharist, but they don’t go to Mass every week. … How do we invite them into an encounter with Jesus in the Eucharist so that their lives can be changed?”

The survey found that knowledge of the church’s teaching on the Eucharist and belief that teaching is true is highest among Catholics who attend Mass at least once per week, at 95%. Among Catholics who attend less than weekly but at least once per month, it was 80%.

It also found that weekly Mass attendance has dropped seven percentage points during the COVID-19 pandemic from 24% in 2019 to 17% in 2022 — around 5% watch Mass on television or online due to the pandemic. An additional 18% attend less than weekly but at least once per month. Twenty-six percent attend Mass a few times per year and 35% rarely or never attend Mass.

“What we need is not just good catechesis — we do need that — but we also need to invite people to a relationship,” Bishop Cozzens said. “Helping people understand that it (lack of belief in the Real Presence) is not just an intellectual problem, it’s a problem of the heart in that sense of relationship with Jesus. What we’re really seeking is inviting people to an encounter with Jesus in the Eucharist, because that’s what will have the biggest impact.”

The national study was commissioned by the McGrath Institute for Church Life at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana, “to better understand what the current Catholic population (self-identified) believes about the Catholic Church’s teaching on the Eucharist,” the report stated. The survey included 1,031 respondents ages 18 or older with a margin of error of 4.45 percentage points. It was offered in both English and Spanish, and administered through an online form or via telephone with a live interviewer from July 11 to Aug. 2, 2022.

The McGrath Institute commissioned the CARA study because of its collaboration with the National Eucharistic Revival and the importance of having clearer data on Catholics’ beliefs regarding the Real Presence, Bishop Cozzens said.

Affiliated with Georgetown University in Washington, CARA is a national, nonprofit, research center that conducts social scientific studies about the Catholic Church.

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – The synod on synodality should dedicate substantial discussion to addressing sexual abuse in the church and include the voices of survivors, the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors said.

“We ask that sexual abuse in the church permeate your discussions as they address teaching, ministry, formation and governance,” the commission said in a written “Call to Action” released Sept. 27.

Members of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors meet during a plenary assembly at the Vatican Sept. 19, 2023. (CNS photo/Courtesy Anna Valsi)

“While at times it may seem like a daunting set of questions to face, please rise to the challenge so that you may address, in a comprehensive way, the threat posed by sexual abuse to (the) church’s credibility in announcing the Gospel,” it added.

The 19-member international papal commission, led by Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley of Boston, released the call to action on occasion of the upcoming assembly of the Synod of Bishops Oct. 4-29 at the Vatican and the consistory for the creation of new cardinals Sept. 30.

The three top priorities, the commission said, were: greater “solidarity with victims and survivors in light of ongoing revelations of abuse”; increased commitment and resources by church leaders to promote safeguarding everywhere; and giving safeguarding a more prominent place in discussions at the synod on synodality.

“The reality of sexual abuse in our church goes to the heart of the synod’s agenda,” it said. “It permeates discussions on leadership models, ministry roles, professional standards of behavior and of being in right relationship with one another and all of creation.”

“We urge you to dedicate meaningful time and space to integrate the testimony of victim/survivors into your work,” it said, as well as the experience synod participants have had in “confronting or dealing with sexual abuse in the church.”

The church and its members must aim for a number of “long-overdue goals,” it said, including:

— Being a place of welcome, empathy and reconciliation for those impacted by abuse and a strong advocate “against the endemic complacency of those in the church and society that silence these testimonies, minimize their significance and stifle hope for renewal.”

— Taking “full account and full responsibility for the wrongs done to so many in its care.”

— Protecting all children with “appropriate safety policies and procedures, ones that are known and verified.”

— Having well-run, “transparent and accessible systems of redress for wrongdoing by the church’s ministers.”

— Implementing and taking responsibility for “robust safeguarding” in dioceses, parishes, schools, hospitals, retreat centers, houses of formation and everywhere the church is present and active.

The commission urged synod participants to work toward these goals, “not just for one or two days during your gathering, but to consider them throughout the entire synod process.”

“Their achievement will be a singular sign of the synod’s success, a sign that we are walking with the wounded and the forgotten as disciples of the one Lord, in search of a better way,” it said.

The commission also said that “recent publicly reported cases point to tragically harmful deficiencies in the norms intended to punish abusers and hold accountable those whose duty is to address wrongdoing.”

“We are long overdue in fixing the flaws in procedures that leave victims wounded and in the dark both during and after cases have been decided,” it said, adding that the commission will continue to study what is not working and to press for necessary changes.

It also called for conversion among all church leaders as “deep frustrations remain, especially among those seeking justice for the wrongs done to them.”

“No one should have to beg for justice in the church. The unacceptable resistance that remains points to a scandalous lack of resolve by many in the church that is often compounded by a serious lack of resources.”

As the College of Cardinals gathers for the Sept. 30 consistory, it said, “we call upon all those in the sacred college to remember victims and their families and to include as part of their oath of fidelity a commitment to remain steadfast in honoring those impacted by sexual abuse by uniting with them in the common pursuit of truth and justice. All bishops and religious superiors should echo this commitment.”

“Together with all those who are worn down by abuse and its consequences, we say, ‘Enough!'” the commission’s statement said.

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Child pornography is “criminality available to everyone through their phones,” Pope Francis said.

Discussing abuse prevention with representatives of a safeguarding research and formation center from Latin America Sept. 25, the pope put aside his prepared remarks to address “a problem that is very serious on this matter of abuse, the filming of child pornography.”

In this 2019 file photo, former Marine Justin Gaertner works with the Department of Homeland Security in pursuing predators who collect and trade child pornography, or more accurately termed “child sexual abuse imagery,” on the internet. (OSV News photo/courtesy Justin Gaertner via U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement)

“Unfortunately, by paying a small fee, one can have it one their phone,” he said. “Where is this child pornography made? In which country is it made? Nobody knows. But it is criminality available to everyone through their phones.”

“Please let us talk about this, too,” Pope Francis urged the group of professionals from a variety of fields working to combat abuse in the church across Latin America. “These children who are recorded, are victims, sophisticated victims of this consumer society.”

In August, the pope told reporters during his return flight from Portugal that livestreamed sexual abuse of minors is “one of the greatest scourges” of society today.

At the Vatican Sept. 25, he told the safeguarding representatives that the church has come a long way in combatting abuse thanks to “prophetic pastors” like Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley of Boston, president of the Commission for the Protection of Minors, who was in Rome for the commission’s plenary assembly. The pope praised the cardinal, who was at the meeting, for being able to take hold of the “hot potato” that was the clerical sex abuse crisis in Boston.

Still, Pope Francis recalled the “sad reality” of abuse cases in the church and in the world, objecting to people who may say, “ah, there aren’t so many.”

“If it were only one, it would already be scandalous, just one, and there are more than one,” he said.

The pope also asked the safeguarding representatives not to reduce their efforts in combatting abuse to merely applying established protocols, but to “entrust them to Jesus in prayer.”

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – In a visit of under 30 hours to Marseille, France, Pope Francis highlighted his key appeals and positions concerning migration and the mandate for people of faith to care for the “stranger” in one’s land.

With just four main events and accompanying speeches, “I hope I have the courage to say everything I have to say,” he told the journalists flying with him from Rome for the Sept. 22-23 trip.

Pope Francis presides over Mass at the Vélodrome Stadium for Mass in Marseille, France, Sept. 23, 2023. (CNS photo/Lola Gomez)

What he said, in essence, has been the main thrust of his whole pontificate: The world must choose either the path of human fraternity and cooperation to have any kind of peaceful future or choose the downward spiral of indifference, division and confrontation. And, most importantly, the faithful must be exemplary models of the right path of sharing and caring for the outcast with joy and compassion.

The trip to the port city of Marseille was less about the city or nation and more about the Mediterranean Sea it touches.

The Mediterranean has been a constant concern of this pope. It is the most dangerous migration route in the world, according to the International Organization for Migration. The minimum estimated number of recorded deaths between 2014 and 2022 is more than 24,000 people.

No other place comes close: minimum estimates for the same period for the Sahara Desert are 5,323 fatalities, and the estimate for the U.S.-Mexico border crossing stands at 3,761 people dead.

“We need deeds, not words,” Pope Francis said during a powerful moment when he led a minute of silence with bishops from around the Mediterranean, local religious leaders and groups assisting migrants.

All migrants are people who have names, faces, hopes and dreams, he said at a memorial overlooking the sea, and those “who are at risk of drowning when abandoned on the waves must be rescued. It is a duty of humanity; it is a duty of civilization!”

The pope praised humanitarian groups that carry out rescue missions and condemned those who block them; opponents claim the groups encourage people to attempt illegal crossings. The pope said impeding these rescue efforts are “gestures of hatred against one’s brother” and he appealed for “balance.”

The cultural and religious diversity on display at the memorial ceremony and in Marseille underlined another important message of the pope: diversity can be an opportunity, not a threat. He praised the city’s long-standing active dedication to interreligious dialogue and mutual cooperation on concrete issues promoting fraternity and peaceful coexistence.

Like a handful of other trips, the prime purpose of the pope’s visit was to encourage a major event being held there; in this case, it was part of a church-led series of meetings that brings bishops from around the Mediterranean region together with a variety of other leaders and young people.

The meetings, which began in Bari, Italy, in 2020, recognize that the complex problems of migration, human trafficking, environmental degradation, conflict and economic disparities between North and South require strategies and solutions that involve multiple nations and sectors of society.

In a lengthy speech at the final session of the “Mediterranean Meetings” at the Pharo Palace Sept. 23, the pope covered all of that as well as some hot-button political issues.

The duty to protect the dignity and foster the well-being of every migrant is no different from the duty to protect the unborn, the elderly, young people who lack guidance, exploited workers, families and those who are escaping violence and persecution, he said, effectively condemning moves or current measures to support abortion, “assisted dying,” cutbacks to social or economic opportunities and to not recognize the rights of refugees or deny them full citizenship.

“Indeed, the real social evil is not so much the increase of problems, but the decrease of care,” especially for the most vulnerable, he said.

When it comes to migration, people have the right to not have to flee their homes, he said in that speech, and this calls for greater global justice.

“The Mediterranean mirrors the world,” he said, with the North exuding “affluence, consumerism and waste” while the South or developing countries are “plagued by instability, regimes, wars and desertification” and look to who are well-off.

The change needed for “peace to take root,” he said, is for communities to treat newcomers as brothers and sisters, “not as troublesome problems,” to integrate them and give them dignity through coordinated, equitable, legal and regular channels of entry.

His other message in Marseille was for the faithful. He asked bishops to be joyful and merciful helpers, eager to lift the burdens of “a weary and wounded humanity.”

He asked priests at the Basilica of Notre Dame de la Garde to be like Jesus, looking at people, not to judge, but to lift them up, and to help “free people from those obstacles, regrets, grudges and fears against which they cannot prevail alone.”

The pope’s final event, a huge joyful Mass in the city’s Vélodrome Stadium Sept. 23, gave him the chance to renew people’s hope and trust in God, who “makes possible even what seems impossible.”

Given so many challenges and needs in today’s world, Christians, more than ever, need to trust in the Lord, see his work in the world and be moved by his Spirit to help others.

With so much indifference, insensitivity “to everything and everyone,” selfishness, cynicism and sadness in the world, he said, “our life and the life of the church, France and Europe need this: the grace of a leap forward, a new leap in faith, charity and hope.”

The trip was a prelude to the Sept. 24 World Day of Migrants and Refugees, which was celebrated in Marseille by Cardinal Michael Czerny, prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development.

Echoing the pope’s words, he said in his homily that the world must commit to ensuring migration pathways that are “orderly and safe, guaranteeing that everyone’s rights and dignity are respected. This requires knocking on doors, expanding regular migration channels and the chance to become ‘full citizens.'”

“Because all have in common the same hope: to be able to guarantee a dignified life for themselves and their families,” he said.

(OSV News) – A U.S. Ukrainian Catholic archbishop was honored by Ukraine’s president for his decades-long efforts to foster that nation’s development.

Metropolitan Archbishop Borys Gudziak of the Archeparchy of Philadelphia received the Cross of Ivan Mazepa from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy Sept. 21 in Washington. Zelenskyy visited the U.S. capital for meetings after addressing the United Nations General Assembly in New York Sept. 19.

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy presents Metropolitan Archbishop Borys Gudziak of the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia with Ukraine’s Cross of Ivan Mazepa award during a Sept. 21, 2023, ceremony at the U.S. National Archives in Washington. (OSV News photo/Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church)

Established in 2009, the award honors individuals who have made “significant personal contribution to strengthening interstate cooperation, support of state sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, and popularization of the Ukrainian state in the world,” according to a press release from the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.

The Cross of Ivan Mazepa is named for a 17th-century “hetman” — a military commander and statesman — who sought to unite Ukrainian territories of the time as a European-facing state that retained its traditional heritage. During his career, Mazepa promoted Ukrainian economic development, scholarship, literature, arts and architecture, and funded the construction of numerous churches. His rule is often called the “Mazepa Renaissance.”

Also receiving the award, announced in a Sept. 4 presidential decree by Zelenskyy, were Ukrainian Orthodox Father Volodymyr Steliac, rector of the Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral of St. Andrew the First-Called in Silver Spring, Maryland; Alla Lopatkina, president of the Chicago-based Ua-Resistance Foundation; and Hakan Kirimli, associate professor of international relations at Bilkent University in Turkey.

During the award ceremony, which took place at the U.S. National Archives, Ukrainian first lady Olena Zelenska noted she had “the honor of knowing Archbishop Borys Gudziak personally.”

Earlier this year, Zelenska and Archbishop Gudziak jointly participated in a Jan. 17 panel discussion at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, discussing the physical, psychological and emotional trauma of war, forgiveness and their dreams for Ukraine’s future.

Zelenska noted at the award ceremony that Archbishop Gudziak “is known to thousands of Ukrainians — soldiers, displaced persons, and many others whom he helps, and young people who, thanks to him, get a great education.”

The archbishop — a native of Syracuse, New York, born to Ukrainian immigrants — has long championed Ukrainian educational initiatives.

A trained historian who holds a doctorate in Slavic and Byzantine cultural history from Harvard University, the archbishop moved to Lviv in western Ukraine in 1992, founding and directing the Institute of Church History.

The following year, he chaired a commission to renew the Lviv Theological Academy, of which he served as vice rector and then rector from 1995 to 2002. He then became rector of Ukrainian Catholic University, established on the basis of the academy, and became its president in 2013. The university has become a model for Ukrainian higher education, scholarship, disability awareness, human rights advocacy and social innovation.

During Ukraine’s 2013-2014 Maidan movement — which saw the populace reject a pro-Kremlin government at the time and decisively reorient the nation towards the European Union — Archbishop Gudziak regularly appeared on international television, providing expert commentary and active support.

As Ukraine battles a full-scale invasion by Russia that continues attacks launched in 2014, that struggle continues, said Zelenska.

“Ukraine is defending values — such as a right to life and personality,” she said. “These are not only physical things but also intangible values. The defenders of Ukraine are very different people — of different views, beliefs, or not religious at all.

“But they all clearly feel they are fighting against evil, against the worst that might be born within a human — a conscious effort to kill, destroy, grab, and enslave,” said Zelenska. “Therefore, it is also a spiritual battle. Sincere gratitude to everyone who fights together with us in the spiritual dimension and dimension of values.”

WASHINGTON (OSV News) – U.S. pro-life efforts “must remain strong to end legalized abortion” in this nation, but all Catholics have a personal responsibility to accompany women facing difficult or challenging pregnancies, said the chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities.

Bishop Michael F. Burbidge of Arlington, Virginia, invited Catholics into “radical solidarity” with pregnant women in a Sept. 18 statement commemorating the 50th anniversary of Respect Life Month in October. The U.S. bishops set aside the month “as a time to focus on protecting God’s precious gift of human life,” he said.

“While ending legalized abortion remains our preeminent priority, the most immediate way to save babies and mothers from abortion is to thoroughly surround mothers in need with lifegiving support and personal accompaniment. This is radical solidarity,” Bishop Burbidge said.

St. John Paul II first defined “radical solidarity” in this way, the bishop said, quoting from the pope’s book “Crossing the Threshold of Hope” (1994): “In firmly rejecting ‘pro-choice’ it is necessary to become courageously ‘pro woman,’ promoting a choice that is truly in favor of women. … The only honest stance, in these cases, is that of radical solidarity with the woman. It is not right to leave her alone.”

“Being in radical solidarity with women who are pregnant or raising children in difficult circumstances means putting our love for them into action and putting their needs before our own,” Bishop Burbidge said. “Pope Francis reminds us that solidarity ‘refers to something more than a few sporadic acts of generosity. It presumes the creation of a new mindset,’ a transformation within our own hearts.”

Bishop Burbidge said there is much to celebrate about the overturning of Roe v. Wade by the U.S. Supreme Court. In June 2022, the high court overturned its prior rulings that made abortion access a constitutional right — its 1973 Roe decision and its 1992 ruling in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which affirmed Roe. The court’s Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision returned the issue of abortion regulation to the states.

Twenty-two states have moved to ban or restrict abortion, although not all of those efforts are currently in effect amid court challenges.

“While we thank God that the terrible reign of Roe has ended, we also recognize that abortion still continues in most states and is aggressively promoted at the federal level,” Bishop Burbidge said. “A great many prayers, sacrifices, and good works are still desperately needed to transform a culture of death into a culture of life. Our public witness, our marching, and our advocacy must continue, yet laws alone will not end the tragedy of abortion.”

But “the new mindset” of which Pope Francis speaks “requires that we come alongside vulnerable mothers in profound friendship, compassion, and support for both them and their preborn children,” Bishop Burbidge said.

This also “means addressing the fundamental challenges that lead an expectant mother to believe she is unable to welcome the child God has entrusted to her,” he continued. “This includes collective efforts within our dioceses, parishes, schools and local communities, engagement in the public square, and pursuit of policies that help support both women and their preborn babies.

“It all the more so requires our individual, personal commitment to helping mothers in our own communities secure material, emotional, and spiritual support for embracing the gift of life,” he said. “Radical solidarity means moving beyond the status quo and out of our comfort zones.”

An example of the church’s outreach to pregnant and parenting mothers is the U.S. bishops’ parish-based and nationwide initiative Walking with Moms in Need. “(It) provides easy-to-follow, step-by-step instructions to help transform our parishes into places of welcome, support, and assistance for pregnant and parenting mothers facing difficulties,” he explained, urging Catholics to get involved in the initiative.

In his statement, Bishop Burbidge included a number of questions he said Catholics must ask themselves: “Do I know what efforts are happening in my area to help women who are pregnant or parenting in difficult circumstances? What are the needs? What are my gifts and talents? How can I adjust my schedule or budget to assist efforts to help moms in need and their children?”

“Radical solidarity can be lived out in countless ways,” he said, “including volunteering at your local pregnancy center; helping an expectant mother find stable housing; babysitting so a mom can work or take classes; providing encouragement and a listening ear to a mom without a support system; or speaking to your pastor about beginning Walking with Moms in Need at your parish.”

Along with “enshrining pro-life laws and policies” is the need to transform the culture, which “requires continual conversion of our own hearts, so that we can recognize in every person the face of Christ and place their needs before our own,” Bishop Burbidge said.

He concluded his statement by reiterating his invitation to all Catholics “to think about building a culture of life in terms of radical solidarity” during Respect Life Month this October.

“We are the Church. Our prayers, witness, sacrifices, advocacy, and good works are needed now, more than ever,” he said. “We are the hands and feet of Christ in the world today and we each have a personal responsibility to care for one another.”

EAST STROUDSBURG – April 8, 2023, is a day that Ellen Gomez of Bushkill will never forget.

With her family and friends looking on, the 57-year-old was baptized at the Church of Saint John in East Stroudsburg during the Easter Vigil Mass.

“I just feel good. I just feel like a new person,” Gomez told The Catholic Light.

Gomez grew up in the Bronx with her parents and five siblings before moving to the Poconos in 1995. While she attended church at a young age, Gomez said she never received the Sacrament of Baptism and always felt like something was missing in her life.

“I felt like I needed that blessing. I needed something. I never felt fully included,” she said.

After calling the Church of Saint John last year, staff members, including the parish deacon, made special accommodations to make sure Gomez could successfully complete RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults) classes.

Because of generous gifts to the Diocesan Annual Appeal each year, the Diocesan Office for Parish Life is able to provide support and resources for parishes that have people participating in the RCIA Program.

As the 2023 Diocesan Annual Appeal launches in parishes this month, Ellen Gomez is just one of thousands of people who have benefitted from the generosity of parishioners in the past.

The Diocesan Annual Appeal funds the good works and ministries of our local Church that are outside the scope of any one individual parish.

By donating to the Diocesan Annual Appeal, you are helping to pay for the education and formation of seminarians and assisting with the living expenses of retired priests who have faithfully served the Diocese for decades. Your gifts also support the life-changing spiritual encounters organized by the Office for Parish Life.

When you give generously to the Diocesan Annual Appeal, you enable the Church to strengthen the bonds of unity between us and respond to the needs of our community not only in the Name of Jesus, but as members of His Body.

Because no one can fulfill Christ’s mission alone, together, we can form children in faith, bring the mercy of God to those who suffer the lack of basic needs through the work of Catholic Social Services and bring the presence of Jesus and the power of God’s transforming grace to all through Catholic communication efforts.

The Diocesan Annual Appeal is the Diocese of Scranton’s single most important fundraising initiative and we need the support of all parishioners to be successful. Poverty, hunger and homelessness remain serious challenges in our community. Money raised from the Appeal helps our brothers and sisters in need, in addition to funding vocation efforts, Catholic education and parish life programs.

This year, a renewed focus is being placed on the percentage of parishioners from each parish who donate to the Appeal.

Gifts of any amount are welcome and will help us collectively reach our goal of $4.5 million.

The Appeal’s theme, “Our Call to Serve” aligns with the spirit of creating communities rooted in the life of Jesus Christ. Each of us is called to become the loving, compassionate Christ that fed the hungry.

Diocesan ministries supported by gifts to the Diocesan Annual Appeal include Catholic Social Services; parish social justice and faith formation programs; Catholic education in our 19 Catholic schools; care for our current and retired priests and support for seminarians preparing for the priesthood, parish life and pastoral planning efforts; and communication programs such as The Catholic Light and Catholic Television.

We invite all parishioners to visit our new website for Appeal at The new website helps to highlight the number of individuals and families served in a new way. You can watch several videos of what your gifts help support and you can make a secure donation online.

This year, parishes around the Diocese will launch the Diocesan Annual Appeal on the weekend of Sept. 23-24 by asking parishioners to commit to a pledge to this year’s campaign. Every dollar donated to the Appeal will support the intended ministries and cannot be used for any other purpose.

In advance of celebration weekend for the Diocesan Annual Appeal, we are asking all people to pray and discern how they can best support this year’s effort and to become familiar with the impact it has in all of the parishes across our diocese.

Anyone interested in making a gift to the Diocesan Annual Appeal can visit to give online or call the Diocesan Development Office at (570) 207-2250.