The Diocese of Scranton will hold the Retirement Fund for Religious collection Dec. 9-10. The parish-based appeal is coordinated by the National Religious Retirement Office (NRRO) in Washington, D.C. Proceeds help religious communities across the country to care for aging members.

Last year, the Diocese of Scranton donated more than $72,800 to the collection.

“We are privileged to support those who have dedicated their lives to tireless service,” NRRO Executive Director John Knutsen said. “We are immensely grateful for the continuing generosity of U.S. Catholic donors to this vital cause.”

Hundreds of U.S. religious communities face a large gap between the needs of their older members and the funds available to support them.

Historically, Catholic sisters, brothers and religious order priests — known collectively as women and men religious — served for little to no pay. As a result, many communities now lack adequate retirement savings.

At the same time, health-care expenses continue to rise, and an increasing number of older religious require specialized services. NRRO data show that nearly 25,000 women and men religious in the United States are older than age 70. The total cost for their care exceeds $1 billion annually.

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

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

The 2022 appeal raised $27.6 million, with funding distributed to 297 U.S. religious communities.

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – “As you can see, I am alive,” Pope Francis told a group of health care managers Nov. 30.

At the brief meeting with participants in a seminar on the ethics of health care management, the pope said he was suffering from a “bronchial condition. Thank God it was not pneumonia,” but he said it was a very serious bronchial infection.

Pope Francis meets with participants from a seminar on ethics in health care management at the Vatican Nov. 30, 2023. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

“I no longer have a fever, but I am still on antibiotics and things like that,” he told the group.

He had canceled his appointments Nov. 25 because of “flu-like symptoms” and went that afternoon to a Rome hospital for a CT scan of his chest. In the following days, he canceled some appointments and had aides read his prepared texts at other events.

But, he said, “the doctor would not let me go to Dubai,” United Arab Emirates, Dec. 1-3 to speak at COP28, the U.N. climate conference. “The reason is that it is very hot there, and you go from heat to air conditioning,” he told the health care managers.

The most recent medical bulletin from the Vatican press office, issued late Nov. 29, said Pope Francis’ condition is “stable. He does not have a fever, but the pulmonary inflammation associated with respiratory difficulty persists. He is continuing antibiotic therapy.”

Pope Francis used the audience to thank medical professional for what they do — “not only looking for medical, pharmacological solutions,” but also putting energy into preventative care so their patients stay healthy.

“I thank you for coming,” he told the group, “and forgive me for not being able to talk any more, but I do not have the energy.”

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – With a soft and raspy voice, Pope Francis began his weekly general audience by making the sign of the cross and explaining that “I’m still not well with this flu, and my voice isn’t great,” so he would have an aide read his catechesis and greetings.

The gathering, in the Vatican’s Paul VI Audience Hall Nov. 29, was held the morning after the Vatican announced that Pope Francis had accepted his doctors’ advice and canceled plans to travel to Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Dec. 1-3 to join world leaders in addressing COP28, the U.N. climate conference.

Pope Francis, who had an aide read his main text, takes the microphone to encourage continued prayers for peace in the Holy Land and in Ukraine at the end of his weekly general audience in the Vatican’s Paul VI Audience Hall Nov. 29, 2023. (CNS photo/Pablo Esparza)

Before the general audience, the pope met briefly with members of the Scottish soccer team Celtic F.C. There, too, he apologized for having an aide read his prepared text. “With this cold,” he said, “I can’t speak much, but I’m better than yesterday.”

The pope’s main general audience talk, part of a yearlong series about evangelization, was read by Msgr. Filippo Ciampanelli, an official of the Vatican Secretariat of State.

But at the end of the audience, the pope took the microphone back to urge people to pray for peace.

“Let’s continue to pray for the serious situation in Israel and Palestine. Peace, please, peace,” the pope said. “I hope that the cease-fire in Gaza continues so that all the hostages (taken by Hamas) are released, and access is allowed for the necessary humanitarian aid” in Gaza.

Pope Francis, who speaks regularly by telephone with priests at Holy Family parish in Gaza City, told people at the audience, “I’ve heard from the parish there. There is a lack of water, a lack of bread. The people are suffering. The simple people. The people are suffering, not those who are making the war. We ask for peace.”

“And speaking of peace, let’s not forget the dear Ukrainian people who still are suffering so much because of the war,” he said. “Brothers and sisters, war is always a defeat. Everyone loses. Well, not everyone; there is one group that earns a lot — those who manufacture weapons. They make a lot off the death of others.”

Pope Francis also used the opportunity to thank a group of circus performers — acrobats, skaters, clowns and jugglers — who had entertained the pope and the crowd for a few minutes. They train hard and bring joy to people, the pope said.

In his main talk, read by Msgr. Ciampanelli, Pope Francis focused on how salvation in Jesus is as necessary as ever and that people today need to hear the Gospel proclaimed even if society tries to convince them that “God is insignificant and useless.”

Simply repeating formulaic expressions of faith will convince no one, the pope said. And neither will shouting.

“A truth does not become more credible because one raises one’s voice in speaking it, but because it is witnessed with one’s life,” the pope’s text said.

(OSV News) – Ave Maria University is now offering “The Pursuit of Wisdom,” a series of free online courses presented by university faculty that provides practical wisdom and insights on interesting topics and themes to help Catholics contemplate the true, good and beautiful.

The series so far consists of seven courses, which can also be accessed at and via apps, and covers a variety of subjects with broad appeal. Each video course is between one to three hours and broken down into segments for ease of viewing, addressing such themes as artificial intelligence and computer science; motherhood and relationship; stewardship and environment; scholars and saints; and the foundations of America.

This is an undated photo of the campus of Ave Maria University in Florida. The university is offering “The Pursuit of Wisdom,” a series of free online courses presented by university faculty that provides practical wisdom and insights on interesting topics and themes to help Catholics contemplate what is true, good and beautiful. (OSV News photo/courtesy Ave Maria University)

The rapidly evolving and much discussed field of Artificial Intelligence, or AI, is one component of professor Saverio Perugini’s “An Introduction to Computer Science” course. He started the computer science program at Ave Maria last fall, which is now a major at the university.

“AI is a tool; it can be used for good and for evil,” Perugini told OSV News. “Like any tool in the world, it can be used for nefarious purposes and positive purposes.”

Perugini believes the ultimate goal of many AI developers is to not only try to eliminate pain and suffering – the goal of many technology developers over the past 100 years – but allow human beings to live forever.

“But unfortunately it’s trying to solve a problem that has already been solved; Our Lord has already given us the gift of eternal salvation. As Catholics, we believe we will live forever in heaven,” he said.

Perugini said that despite all the hype and fears of some who believe that AI will take over the world, “Christ came for humans, not for machines.”

Janice Chik Breidenbach, associate professor of philosophy, offers a three-part course on “The Philosophy of Motherhood.”

“This short course is what I consider the most important applied aspects of motherhood,” she told OSV News. “It’s not a niche topic for only women or Catholic women. I think motherhood is the most important relationship in society. The most important relationship in the cosmos is relationship with God. But motherhood, when we examine human society and community, is the most important relationship between persons.”

Before becoming a mother herself, Breidenbach said she held the mindset of many women in modern society, believing that motherhood was not a path she wanted to take and opting instead to focus on her education and career.

“Speaking from experience from someone who was not interested in motherhood, I’ve become a convert to motherhood and to parenthood,” she said. “The gift of co-creation that God has placed in our hands is a philosophical marvel to me. There was nothing in my life to prepare me for how metaphysically profound becoming a parent has been.”

In the course, “Stewarding the Environment,” biology professor Samuel Shephard speaks of environmental stewardship through a Catholic lens.

“The course is meant to be a conversation starter,” he said to OSV News. “The Catholic lens that I use is the idea of stewardship. The idea Pope Francis talks about in ‘Laudato Si’,” the way that if we start to talk about creation as opposed to nature, then we go from just being a part of a natural ecosystem — just being a creature among creatures — to creation which enables us to place ourselves in God’s loving plan. We’re caught up in salvation history.”

In creating awareness of what it means to be good stewards of creation, Shephard hoped that Catholics will enter more fully into the discussion of protecting the environment.

“I want people to have confidence. The church provides us with a really holistic framework for looking after creation,” he said. “God has given us an unequivocal imperative, to draw the rest of creation up towards God.”

Other courses in the initial series include, “The Foundations of America: U.S. Constitution” with Seana Sugrue; “The Genius of J.R.R. Tolkien” with Joseph Pearce; “The Wisdom of C.S. Lewis” with Michael Dauphinais; and “The Wisdom of Fulton Sheen” with James Patterson.

Ave Maria University plans to release more courses over the year and will continue to develop “The Pursuit of Wisdom” courses over time.

“We want to be a resource and a leaven for the life of the church and society,” Roger Nutt, Ave Maria’s provost and professor of theology, told OSV News. “Through these courses, we want to show the vibrant academic life of Ave Maria University through the excellence of our faculty to the outside world who may not know intimately the qualifications of our professors.”

Nutt says that what sets these courses apart are the Catholic professors who are experts in a wide range of disciplines who offer an invaluable depth of knowledge. He believes that viewers who avail themselves of “The Pursuit of Wisdom” series, in partaking of this wisdom, will have a better understanding of who they themselves are, and what they have to offer within the providential order.

“My hope is people will see their faith and their gifts and talents as part of God’s well-ordered and all wise plan,” Nutt says. “So that there’s a sense that in everything we do – whether a secular pursuit, or some form of work, or religious or devotional pursuit – it ought to be understood as a service of God within His all-encompassing wisdom.”

He adds that the overall hope with “The Pursuit of Wisdom” short courses is “to provide Catholics with edifying content that helps them to joyfully recognize the truth, beauty and goodness we all crave.”

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – An effective proclamation of the Gospel must speak with hope to the real-life problems of the poor, to the need to protect the earth and to the ability of people of good will to change the social and financial systems that harm the poor and the environment, Pope Francis said.

“Ten years after the publication of ‘Evangelii Gaudium’ (‘The Joy of the Gospel’), let us reaffirm that only if we listen to the often-silenced cry of the earth and of the poor can we fulfill our evangelizing mission, live the life Jesus proposes to us and contribute to solving the grave problems of humanity,” the pope wrote to a conference marking the anniversary of his first exhortation.

Pope Francis holds a copy of his exhortation “Evangelii Gaudium” (“The Joy of the Gospel”) in this file photo from 2014. The document, published Nov. 24, 2013, commonly is described as presenting the vision for Pope Francis’ pontificate. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

The Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development organized the conference Nov. 24, the anniversary of publication of the exhortation, which was widely described as outlining Pope Francis’ vision for his pontificate.

In his message to the conference, the pope said the proclamation of the Gospel today — like it was for the church of the first centuries — “requires of us a prophetic counter-cultural resistance to pagan, hedonistic individualism,” resistance “to a system that kills, excludes and destroys human dignity, resistance to a mentality that isolates, alienates and limits one’s inner life to one’s own interests, distances us from our neighbor and alienates us from God.”

Being a “missionary disciple,” he said, means working for the kingdom of God by struggling for justice, providing food to the hungry and working for a fair distribution of goods.

Putting the poor at the center of one’s concern, the pope wrote, “is not politics, is not sociology, is not ideology – it is purely and simply the requirement of the Gospel.”

The practical implications of that requirement could vary, depending on whether one is a government leader or a business owner, a judge or a labor union worker, he said, “but what no one can evade or excuse themselves from is the debt of love that every Christian — and I dare say, every human being — owes to the poor.”

Cardinal Michael Czerny, prefect of the dicastery, told participants, that the “joy of the Gospel” comes “from the encounter with the Risen Lord who, passing through the humiliation of the cross, takes upon himself the sin, weakness, miseries and poverty of the human race, so that all might share in his victory over death.”

The joy of the Gospel, the cardinal said, gives Christians and the whole church the grace, motivation and strength “to go beyond referring to its own self and move toward the margins, in order to look right at that suffering humanity often considered as mere ‘waste,’ as inevitable and acceptable ‘collateral damage,’ as ‘necessary sacrifice,’ as an ‘offering’ owed to the idols of consumption.”

Juan Grabois, founder of the Confederation of Popular Economy Workers in Buenos Aires, Argentina, told the conference about how he moved away from the church in adolescence and young adulthood believing the church to be “reactionary, hypocritical, accommodating and distant from the serious social problems of my country and the world.”

Then, about 20 years ago, he heard the archbishop of Buenos Aires, the future Pope Francis, give a homily supporting the rights of the “cartoneros,” the people who lived off collecting paper and other objects for recycling.

The pope, he said, has always advocated “for the poor, the excluded and the oppressed, be they individuals, groups or peoples.”

“This aspect of his personality remained when he was elected pope,” Grabois said. “Francis has continued to advocate for the poor just as before, but with more strength, with a strength that did not slacken, and his voice is heard all over the world.”

Living in a way that cares for the poor and for the Earth will mean sacrificing some material comforts, he said, “but Francis tells us that if we fulfill this Christian mandate, if we fulfill it well, we will be happy, that this is where we will find Jesus again, that this is the wellspring of faith, that this is where the joy of the Gospel is to be found.”

“He proposes that we exchange well-being for joy,” he said.

“Evangelii Gaudium” is a document on evangelization, but it also advances Catholic social teaching, several participants noted. It shows the inextricable bond between the church’s mission and care for the poor that goes beyond charity.

“There is nothing more anti-Christian, anti-Catholic, than the divorce between spirituality and social liberation,” Grabois said. By his words and example, Jesus taught that Christians must love their neighbor and care for the poor.

Cardinal Czerny said that if one were to print out everything the pope has said and written in the past 10 years and weighed them, “I suspect that the spiritual, theological, ecclesial content is heavier than the social,” but the media tends to focus on his pronouncements on social issues without highlighting how they are connected.

Dominican Sister Helen Alford, president of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, told the conference that St. John Paul II was the first pope to teach that Catholic social teaching was part of Catholic moral theology — highlighting how faith has implications for the way a believer must live and act in society and not only in one’s personal life.

“With St. John Paul, you get this idea (of social teaching) really coming into the center of the church’s evangelizing mission. And not everybody’s understood that yet,” she said. By calling his exhortation “Evangelii Gaudium,” she said, Pope Francis is continuing to give a central place to the connections between faith and life, especially as they impact the poor.

WASHINGTON (OSV News) – The number of abortions in the U.S. increased in 2021, according to new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. national public health agency, and the agency’s last report of such data with Roe v. Wade still in place.

For nearly 50 years following the Jan. 22, 1973, Roe decision, abortion was legally considered a constitutional right. The Supreme Court later overturned the Roe decision in June 2022 with its decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, allowing both recent and long-established state laws restricting abortion access to take effect.

This 2014 photo shows the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention headquarters in Atlanta. The CDC released its first post-Roe abortion statistics report Nov. 22, 2023. (OSV News photo/Tami Chappell, Reuters)

Since the Dobbs decision in 2022, states across the country have alternately moved to restrict or expand access to abortion.

The CDC’s annual report on abortion studies both the profiles of those undergoing abortions and by what means. The study only accounts for legal abortions in states that report their data to the federal government. Although the CDC requests data from all 50 states and the District of Columbia, it excludes California, Maryland, New Hampshire and New Jersey because they did not provide data. New York City provided its own data.

The report documented a total of 625,978 abortions in jurisdictions that reported their data, an uptick from the previous year. The data reflects the last full calendar year with Roe still in place.

The CDC’s report about 2020, released in November 2022, found 620,327 abortions were reported during 2020, marking a 2% decline from the CDC’s 2019 report. However, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic that year may have impacted those numbers.

The new report of 2021 statistics found that the vast majority of legal abortions occur before 13 weeks gestation, and more than half of those procedures were carried out via medication, sometimes referred to as a medication or chemical abortion.

Some pro-life groups have called on GOP presidential candidates to embrace a 15-week federal ban on abortion. The 2021 report, as in previous years, found that abortions after this point in pregnancy are statistically low.

The Catholic Church teaches that all human life is sacred and must be respected from conception to natural death. As such, the church opposes direct abortion as an act of violence that takes the life of the unborn child.

After the Dobbs decision, church officials in the U.S. have reiterated the church’s concern for both mother and child, as well as about social issues that push women toward having an abortion.

INDIANAPOLIS – The National Catholic Youth Conference can have a deep impact on high school teens.

For three days – this year Nov. 16-18 in Indianapolis – their faith was enriched through speakers, uplifting music, Eucharistic Adoration, group prayer, the opportunity for the Sacrament of Penance and Daily Mass.

Their faith also is emboldened in witnessing and worshipping with thousands of their Catholic peers, leaving the youths encouraged by the fact that they are not alone in following Christ in the one true church.

“NCYC was truly incredible. I came in, not expecting it to be half of what it was,” Hannah Rocco from Saint Eulalia Parish in Roaring Brook Township, said. “Adoration with 13,000 kids was truly incredible!”

The Diocese of Scranton sent a total of 92 pilgrims – young adults and chaperones – to this year’s conference.

“It was such an awesome experience,” Hayden Schwabe from Saint Jude Parish in Mountain Top, added. “You don’t have to worry about hiding your faith or being scared about putting your hands up in the air to take in the Holy Spirit because other people are doing it.”

We will have more coverage and reaction from the local students who attended NCYC 2023 in the Dec. 14 edition of The Catholic Light.

SCRANTON – Thousands of people throughout the greater Scranton area will have a warm meal this Thanksgiving in their own homes thanks to the generosity of their neighbors.

On Wednesday, Nov. 22, 2023, volunteers with the Family-to-Family Food Basket Program handed out hundreds of food bags outside the Scranton Cultural Center beginning at 9 a.m.

Volunteers with the Family-to-Family Food Basket Program distribute bags of groceries outside the Scranton Cultural Center Nov. 22, 2023. (Photo/Eric Deabill)

“It has been a very busy day so far, but everything is going very, very well,” Linda Robeson, Director, Family to Family, explained.

Families were provided all of the grocery items needed to prepare a traditional Thanksgiving meal, include a turkey, stuffing, potatoes, yams, and even pie.

“This is a full community effort,” Robeson explained.

Hundreds of volunteers from local schools and corporations volunteer to assemble all of the food bags and distribute them via “drive thru” or “walk up.”

“If we didn’t have the kids here, we’d never get this done,” Robeson added.

The Family-to-Family Program was prepared to serve 3,500 families and still needs help to raise the $250,000 to cover the food bill.

“We realize it’s a very tough time of year for everybody, but we have 30 days to pay the bill and then we have Christmas coming up so we’re still accepting donations. Any amount will help. If you can only afford five dollars, we are eternally grateful for that,” Robeson said.

Donations of any amount help toward the $250,000 goal, and can be mailed to Family to Family, P.O. Box 13, Scranton, PA 18503, or given online at

The Family-to-Family Food Basket Program followed the annual Thanksgiving Dinner of Adults and Elderly which was held on Tuesday at the Scranton Cultural Center. For the fourth year in a row, warm Thanksgiving meals were distributed take-out style from in front of the Scranton Cultural Center as well.

JERUSALEM (OSV News)– The Latin patriarch of Jerusalem, Cardinal Pierbattista Pizzaballa, expressed his happiness at the late-night hostage-exchange agreement reached between Israel and Hamas Nov. 21, and said he hoped it would lead to end to the war which broke out after an Oct. 7 Hamas terrorist attack on 22 southern Israeli agricultural communities along the border with Gaza.

“We are happy with the news and hope that this will lead to further positive development that will bring the conflict to a conclusion,” said Cardinal Pizzaballa in a brief statement released to journalists in Italian and English.

Palestinians men rest on a sofa near a house damaged in an Israeli airstrike in Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip, Nov. 7, 2023, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestinian Islamist group Hamas. (OSV News/Mohammed Salem, Reuters)

The Israeli government said in a statement it was obligated to return all the hostages home and had approved the outline of the first stage of the goal.

According to the agreement, which was negotiated with the help of Qatar, at least 50 Israeli hostages — women and children — will be released over four days, during which there will be a pause in the fighting. The release of every additional 10 hostages will result in one additional day in the pause, they said.

The truce is aimed to begin at 10 a.m. Nov. 23. In the exchange Israel will also allow fuel, medicine and other humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip and will release up to 300 Palestinians — also women and children — held in Israeli prison.

President Joe Biden welcomed the deal to secure the release of hostages “taken by the terrorist group Hamas during its brutal assault against Israel on October 7th,” Nov. 22 White House statement said.

“Jill and I have been keeping all those held hostage and their loved ones close to our hearts these many weeks, and I am extraordinarily gratified that some of these brave souls, who have endured weeks of captivity and an unspeakable ordeal, will be reunited with their families once this deal is fully implemented,” the president said.

“As President, I have no higher priority than ensuring the safety of Americans held hostage around the world,” Biden said. He said that the U.S. “national security team and I have worked closely with regional partners to do everything possible to secure the release of our fellow citizens.”

The president said the first sign of negotiations was releasing Judith Tai Raanan, 59, and her daughter Natalie, 17, on Oct. 20.

“Today’s deal should bring home additional American hostages, and I will not stop until they are all released,” the president said.

“Today’s deal is a testament to the tireless diplomacy and determination of many dedicated individuals across the United States Government to bring Americans home,” Biden stressed.

U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres said Nov. 22 that the U.N. will “mobilize all its capabilities” to support the implementation of the Israel-Hamas truce.

“I welcome the agreement reached by Israel and Hamas. It‘s an important step in the right direction, but much more needs to be done,” Guterres said in a statement.

On Nov. 22, Pope Francis renewed his appeal for prayers for people suffering due to wars in Ukraine and the Holy Land, saying “this is not war; this is terrorism.”

The Holy Father recalled his meeting earlier the same morning with two delegations: 12 members of the Israeli delegation at his residence in the Casa Santa Marta and Palestinian delegation in a room in the Paul VI hall.

“They suffer so much. I heard how they both suffer,” Pope Francis said. “Wars do that,” he stressed, adding that the situation in the Holy land reminded that “here we have gone beyond wars.” “This is not war; this is terrorism,” he said.

The parents of Israeli hostage Hersh Goldberg-Polin, 23, who was among those captured from a desert dance party near the Gaza border Oct. 7 and also holds American citizenship, met with the pope.

“I feel blessed and honored to have had that experience. He was very kind and empathetic,” said Rachel Goldberg, who is originally from Chicago. In a video posted on social media, she told the pope: “This is my son,” holding up her cellphone to the pope. “No arm — it’s been 47 days.”

An Israeli television channel read the possible names of hostages to be released Nov. 22, showing pictures of dozens of children — babies, toddlers and teenagers, who could be reunited with their families, but families to whom OSV News spoke say they were told that nothing is for certain until the hostages actually cross the border with Gaza. The list allegedly includes Abigail Mor Idan, the 3-year-old Israeli-American who saw her parents murdered, and was then taken hostage to Gaza.

Abigail’s father Roy Edan, 43, a photojournalist, and her mother, Smadar Edan, were murdered Oct. 7. “The one thing that we all hold on to is that hope now that Abigail comes home, she comes home by Friday,” the toddler’s aunt Liz Hirsh Naftali told CNN Nov. 21.

“Friday is her 4th birthday. We need to see Abigail come out and then we will be able to believe it.”

Hamas is believed to have taken 239 people as hostages into Gaza following their incursion. They are mainly civilians, including Israelis, dual-citizens, foreign workers from Thailand, Nepal and the Philippines and two international students from Tanzania.

Some 1,200 people, also mainly civilians, were killed in the terrorist attack — including Israeli Muslim citizens and foreign workers, which Hamas documented in gruesome videos released of that day’s atrocities from the terrorists’ bodycams.

The ensuing war which has included Israeli air, land and sea assaults has left Gaza virtually in ruins with over 14,100 Palestinians dead according to Hamas, which does not differentiate between civilians and Hamas casualties. Eighteen Christians were killed in an Israeli bombing of a Hamas target which caused a wall to collapse in the compound of the Greek Orthodox church.

In addition, according to the U.N., some 1.7 million people — nearly three quarters of Gaza’s population — have been displaced as Israel has continued its attacks for almost seven weeks with its stated purpose of rooting out Hamas and its leadership from the Gaza Strip. Some 386 Israeli soldiers also have been killed in action. Caritas confirmed Nov. 22 that one of its workers, 35-year-old Issam Abedrabbo, widower and father of three, was killed along with two of his children in Gaza. Only his 3-year-old daughter survived.

While some reports are heralding the truce as the first step toward the end of the brutal conflict, Israelhas insisted that it will continue the war until all the hostages are returned and that it will “complete the elimination of Hamas and ensure that there will be no new threat to the State of Israel from Gaza.”

(OSV News) – A community of women religious in Pennsylvania is mourning the tragic death of one of its sisters who was traveling within the state to promote vocations.

Sister Augustine Marie (Georganne) Molnar, 43, was killed Nov. 18 in a head-on automobile accident on Route 183 in Jefferson Township, according to the Berks County, Pennsylvania, coroner.

Sister Augustine Marie (Georganne) Molnar is pictured in this undated photo. The 43-year-old member of the U.S. province of the Sister Servants of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, was killed Nov. 18, 2023, in a head-on automobile accident in Pennsylvania as she was traveling to promote vocations. (OSV News photo/courtesy Sister Servants of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus)

“With broken hearts, we must share the terrible news that our dear Sister Augustine Marie Molnar went unexpectedly into eternal life” on Nov. 18, wrote Sister Mary Joseph Calore, mother provincial of the American Province of the Sister Servants of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, on X (formerly Twitter).

The accident occurred at approximately 9:30 a.m., with Sister Augustine Marie pronounced dead at 11:02 a.m. by deputy coroner Terri Straka. No autopsy is planned as the cause was determined to be accidental.

The two passengers in the other vehicle sustained only minor injuries, and Sister Augustine Marie was traveling alone, Sister Mary Joseph told OSV News, adding that “how Sister went off the road is unclear.”

“We’re not certain if she fell asleep at the wheel (or) if she had a medical incident,” she said.

In an additional message posted Nov. 19 to X, Sister Mary Joseph admitted she has “been in a fog since the Pennsylvania State Troopers came to the door yesterday and said, ‘We regret to inform you that Sister Molnar is no longer with us.'”

“How can such a light go out so quickly?” asked Sister Mary Joseph. “And yet, she loved the Lord so much, that light has been caught up in a greater Light, a stronger Love.”

She told OSV News that Sister Augustine Marie had been en route to a reunion for attendees of the Diocese of Allentown’s annual “Fiat Days,” which assist young women in discerning religious vocations.

“She was going to be able to share her vocation story at that event,” said Sister Mary Joseph. “She was looking forward to it for months. … But Sister never arrived at her destination. She had another destination.”

According to the congregation’s website, Sister Augustine Marie entered the order Sept. 8, 2013, and made her first profession March 19, 2017, at St. Francis Xavier Church in Cresson, Pennsylvania. Since Aug. 1, she belonged to the local community of St. Maximilian Kolbe at the province house there, serving at All Saints Catholic School and at the sisters’ personal care home, John Paul II Manor.

Sister Mary Joseph told OSV News residents of the personal care home were grief-stricken upon learning that Sister Augustine Marie, who provided physical therapy and assisted with dispensing medications at the home, had died suddenly.

When not working at the home, Sister Augustine Marie was a devoted Catholic educator who was committed to ensuring her students received “substance” in the theology classes she taught, said Sister Mary Joseph.

She added that it seemed “God was preparing his encounter” with Sister Augustine Marie, who had “just come (from) an amazing retreat.”

“Sister Augustine Marie is loved by her religious Sisters, her family and friends who mourn her sudden and untimely passing,” said the order on its website. “May Sister Augustine Marie, and all our beloved departed, rest in peace.”

The funeral Mass will be celebrated Nov. 27.

The Sister Servants of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus were founded in Krakow, Poland, in 1894 by St. Joseph Sebastian Pelczar, a Polish bishop and theologian, and Blessed Klara Szczesna

The congregation serves in Poland, Ukraine, Italy, France, Bolivia, Argentina, Jamaica and the United States. Its U.S. province focuses on teaching and catechesis, nursing and personal care, parish ministry, kitchen and clothing outreach to the poor, evangelization of homes and families, social media outreach, prison ministry and missionary work in Jamaica. The province is present in the dioceses of Altoona-Johnstown, Pennsylvania; Buffalo, New York; Columbus, Ohio; Grand Rapids, Michigan; and Mandeville, Jamaica.

Donations are being accepted in loving memory of Sister Augustine Marie Molnar at John Paul II Manor, 856 Cambria St., Cresson PA 16630, where she worked. Visit to learn more.