VATICAN CITY (CNS) – The Catholic Church and all its members must end silence about clerical sexual abuse and ensure cases are no longer covered up, Pope Francis said, adding it is “non-negotiable.”

Meeting Nov. 18 with Italian diocesan and regional representatives of safeguarding programs and listening centers, the pope said it also is essential to “pursue the ascertainment of the truth and the restoration of justice in the ecclesial community, including in those cases where certain behaviors are not considered crimes by the law of the state, but are under canon law.”

Pope Francis meets with people involved in child protection and abuse prevention programs in Catholic dioceses throughout Italy Nov. 18, 2023, in the Apostolic Palace at the Vatican. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

Cardinal Matteo Zuppi of Bologna, president of the Italian bishops’ conference, presented Pope Francis with the conference’s second annual report on safeguarding, covering the year 2022.

While 81% of calls to the listening centers were to seek information, the rest were to report cases of abuse to church authorities, said the report, compiled by researchers at the Piacenza campus of the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart. The reports involved 54 presumed victims and 32 alleged perpetrators — 31 men and one woman — almost evenly divided in thirds between priests, religious and lay church employees.

The number of diocesan or interdiocesan listening centers increased by 20 to 186 in 2022, the report said, and now cover 190 of the 206 dioceses or church territories.

The group’s meeting with Pope Francis took place on the Italian church’s national day of prayer, repentance and education on clerical sexual abuse.

The goal of the Catholic community, he said, must be to “protect, listen and heal.”

The whole Catholic community must be involved in the protection of minors and vulnerable people, he said, “because the action of protection is an integral part of the church’s mission in building the kingdom of God.”

“Listening to the victims is the step necessary for enabling a culture of prevention to grow,” the pope said, and that culture must include the education of the whole community, the implementation of procedures and good practices and vigilance.

“Only listening to the pain of people who have suffered these terrible crimes paves the way to solidarity and drives one to do everything possible to ensure abuse is not repeated,” he said. “This is the only way to truly share what has happened in a victim’s life so that we feel called to personal and community renewal.”

Efforts to help survivors heal are “a work of justice,” the pope told the group. “Precisely for this reason it is important to prosecute those who commit such crimes, especially in ecclesial contexts.”

The perpetrators themselves “have the moral duty of a profound personal conversion that leads to recognition of their own vocational infidelity, to the resumption of the spiritual life and the humble request for forgiveness from the victims of their actions,” he said.

Pope Francis asked the centers to do everything possible to ensure that “those who have been harmed by the scourge of abuse may feel free to turn with confidence to the listening centers, finding that welcome and that support that can soothe their wounds and renew their betrayed trust.”

Also, he said, efforts must continue to train priests and all pastoral workers in safeguarding so that “a genuine cultural change is promoted, placing at the center the smallest and most vulnerable in the church and in society. This ecclesial action of yours can foster the growth of attention in Italian society as a whole on this scourge that unfortunately involves many, too many, minors and adults.”

(OSV News) – When his 29-year-old daughter Katie died in 2016, Deacon Edward Shoener shared a heartrending truth in the obituary: she had taken her life amid a long-running struggle with depression.

“(She) fought bi-polar disorder since 2005, but she finally lost the battle,” wrote Deacon Shoener, who serves at the Cathedral of St. Peter in Scranton.

A silhouette of a solitary individual walking toward the sun. Nov. 18 marks International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day, dedicated to those who wrestle with the complex and often silent grief of having lost loved ones to suicide. (OSV News photo/Gerd Altmann, Pixabay)

Nov. 18 marked International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day, dedicated to those who wrestle with the complex and often silent grief of having lost loved ones to suicide. Ahead of the observance, Deacon Shoener told OSV News the Catholic Church needs to be on the frontlines of addressing suicide and mental illness, and understanding their impact on individuals and loved ones.

After his daughter’s obituary received national attention, Deacon Shoener said he “heard from literally thousands, if not tens of thousands of people … predominantly Catholics, saying, ‘The church needs to step up and be more involved in mental health ministry, and support the people that have lost someone to suicide.'”

Part of that mission is spreading awareness of the profound comfort those who have lost a loved one to suicide can find in church teaching on the issue — something Father Chris Alar, a priest of the Marians of the Immaculate Conception and superior of the order’s U.S. and Argentina provinces, has been doing for several years.

Father Alar, whose grandmother took her life several years ago, co-authored the book “After Suicide: There’s Hope for Them and for You” with fellow Marian Father Jason Lewis.

While the Catechism of the Catholic Church stresses that suicide is “gravely contrary to the just love of self”, Father Alar told OSV News that “if somebody does make that wrong choice, it should not cause us to despair.”

He pointed to the Catechism’s observation, in paragraph 2282, that “grave psychological disturbances, anguish, or grave fear of hardship, suffering, or torture can diminish the responsibility of the one committing suicide.”

As a result, the three conditions for a sin to be mortal explained by the catechism — a grave matter committed with full knowledge and deliberate consent — are usually not met in cases of suicide, Father Alar said.

“Most people who take their life probably don’t have free will,” said Father Alar. “They have some kind of mental illness or some kind of depression or anxiety.”

Deacon Shoener and Bishop John P. Dolan of Phoenix – who himself has lost three siblings and a brother-in-law to suicide – are also working to bring the light of Catholic faith to bear on the issue of mental illness, and now lead the Association of Catholic Mental Health Ministers as president and chaplain respectively.

The organization, under the patronage of Our Lady of Lourdes, is a lay association of the Christian faithful whose members seek to be “a healing presence in the lives of people with mental illness,” and to “see Christ in those who live with a mental illness,” according to its website.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide is one of the leading causes of death, with almost 49,450 individuals taking their own lives in 2022, an increase of 2.6% from the year prior. Most of those who die by suicide are male, although suicide among females rose 3.8% in 2022 to 10,194 individuals.

Overall, more than one in five U.S. adults live with a mental illness, with one in 25 of them experiencing serious conditions such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or major depression, and with over one in five young people (ages 13-18) gripped by a seriously debilitating mental illness, according to the CDC.

Deacon Shoener and Bishop Dolan assisted in developing the recently launched U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ National Catholic Mental Health Campaign launched Oct. 10 to coincide with World Mental Health Day.

While the campaign is still in its early stages, one of its initial goals is simply to “encourage people to recognize this illness not as a condemnation, not as a punishment, but something that is to be touched by the Lord and embraced by the community,” Ukrainian Catholic Archbishop Borys Gudziak of Philadelphia, who chairs the USCCB’s Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, told OSV News just before he updated the bishops on the campaign Nov. 15 during their fall plenary assembly in Baltimore.

Overcoming the stigma attached to mental illness and to the grief of suicide survivors is essential, Deacon Shoener said.

“Katie’s not defined by her illness or manner of death,” he said. “She’s a beautiful child of God and loved by Christ. We need to do better and we need to drop the stigma, and stop discriminating against people that live with these illnesses.”

Father Alar said he himself wrestled with that stigma at his grandmother’s death by suicide.

“I was still in college, so I was old enough to understand the impact but young enough to still be very influenced by it,” he said. “I really was carrying baggage, because I didn’t even pray for her at the time she died. I was more concerned with the reputation of the family and the scandal that this was going to cause.”

Yet God’s mercy is still present when a loved one chooses suicide, said both Father Alar and Deacon Shoener.

Father Alar cited section 2283 of the Catechism, which states that “we should not despair of the eternal salvation of persons who have taken their own lives,” since “by ways known to him alone, God can provide the opportunity for salutary repentance,” and therefore “the Church prays for persons who have taken their own lives.”

Deacon Shoener said that when he ministers to those mourning a suicide loss, “the first thing I tell them (is that) their loved one still very much exists … albeit in a different state of existence.

“I pray for Katie all the time,” he said. “And I think anyone who’s lost someone to suicide can be assured that they’re loved by God … and we can pray for them.”

BALTIMORE (OSV News) – For two days, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops met in plenary assembly in Baltimore advancing key issues related to liturgy, living out the faith, including in the public square, and retooling the conference to better serve the church’s mission.

However, the bishops’ Nov. 13-16 meeting, which took place nearly three weeks following the conclusion of the global Synod on Synodality, also concluded without a common game plan for how bishops could get consultative feedback from their local parishes with respect to the synod’s “halftime” report before it reconvenes in 11 months.

Bishops attend Mass Nov. 13, 2023, at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Baltimore at the start of their 2023 fall plenary assembly. (OSV News photo/courtesy Angelus Virata, Baltimore Basilica)

At the assembly’s opening Mass Nov. 13, the bishops prayed for peace, with USCCB president Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio of the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services in the homily saying they asked for wisdom to help others embrace Jesus Christ, and noting the feast day of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, the first American saint, and herself an immigrant who championed care for immigrants.

The public portions of the bishops’ plenary assembly Nov. 14-15 were marked with extraordinary unanimity as the bishops’ closed-door “fraternal dialogues” gave them time for face-to-face group discussions to work out contentious issues in advance of presentations and votes.

The bishops approved a letter to Pope Francis, affirming their shared concern over global conflicts, his teaching on “ecological conversion,” and their commitment to prayerfully reflect on the Synod on Synodality synthesis report.

In their addresses, Cardinal Christophe Pierre, the apostolic nuncio to the U.S., and Archbishop Broglio offered contrasting viewpoints on synodality. Cardinal Pierre focused on Luke’s Gospel account of the risen Jesus revealing himself to his disciples on the road to Emmaus as illustrating “precisely the synodal path in its essential elements: encountering, accompanying, listening, discerning and rejoicing at what the Holy Spirit reveals.” Archbishop Broglio shared his view that existing advisory structures in the U.S. church, both at the diocesan and national level, are examples of existing synodal realities to “recognize and build on” while remaining open to “new possibilities.”

Over Nov. 14-15, the bishops voted with overwhelming majorities on every issue: U.S. adaptations to the Liturgy of the Hours and liturgical drafts related to consecrated and religious life; national revised statutes for Christian initiation; and it also approved without controversy supplements to its teaching on faithful citizenship that reference Pope Francis’ 2020 encyclical letter “Fratelli Tutti” (“Brothers All”) while naming abortion as “our pre-eminent priority” among other threats to human life and dignity.

The U.S. bishops voted to support the sainthood cause launched by the Archdiocese of New York for Father Isaac Hecker (1819-1888), founder of the Paulist Fathers. They also endorsed an effort to declare St. John Henry Newman a “doctor of the church.”

The bishops voted to reauthorize their Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism for two more years, discern its future place in the conference structure, and change rules so retired Chicago Auxiliary Bishop Joseph N. Perry, who is African American, could continue leading that committee.

The U.S. bishops elected Archbishop Paul S. Coakley of Oklahoma City as secretary-elect of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and also elected chairmen-elect for six committees – education, communications, cultural diversity, doctrine, national collections and pro-life activities – as well as bishops for the boards of Catholic Legal Immigration Network Inc., or CLINIC, and Catholic Relief Services, the U.S. church’s overseas relief and development agency.

A surprise came when the bishops decided to punt approval of a pastoral framework for Indigenous Catholic ministry that they had commissioned four years ago in order to revise and revisit the plan at their June 2024 assembly.

Outside the hotel where the bishops’ assembly was held, the Baltimore-based Defend Life organization held a rosary rally led by Bishop Joseph E. Strickland. The event, however, was planned in advance of the bishop learning Nov. 11, just days before the assembly, that Pope Francis had removed him from pastoral governance of his Diocese of Tyler, Texas. About 125 participants, including some clergy and religious, participated.

Bishop Strickland told reporters, including OSV News, that he was told by “the nuncio” – indicating Cardinal Christophe Pierre – not to attend the fall plenary meeting. He said he “respected” the decision,” as well as his “commitment to be here for this prayer.”

Back in the bishops’ assembly, the prelates heard an update on the National Eucharistic Revival revealed attendees of the National Eucharistic Congress July 17-21 in Indianapolis now have the option of purchasing single-day and weekend passes, among other provisions to make participation more affordable and flexible, including scholarships and increasing housing options. A plenary indulgence also will be available to anyone who participates in one of the four main routes of the national pilgrimage to the Eucharistic congress.

The bishops also heard an update on the newly launched Institute on the Catechism. Some bishops advocated that instituting lay men and women to the new ministry of catechist would fill a need for authentic, well-formed witnesses to bring that “evangelizing catechesis” to others.

The bishops most sustained public dialogue took place over the mental health campaign launched in response to the “dire mental health crisis” in the U.S. with some bishops calling for more Catholics to enter the mental health field, educating seminarians and priests in properly referring people for counseling, or connecting people with mental health resources similar to the “Walking with Moms In Need” initiative.

With respect to the Oct. 4-29 Synod on Synodality, the bishops heard about positive experiences from some of their delegates, particularly the value of the synod’s “conversations in the Spirit” as a model for carrying out regular conversational interaction among the church’s members for the sake of the church’s mission.

However, by the time the plenary assembly concluded, the bishops did not seem to have any definite process or task force to help them engage the faithful in consultation on the synod’s 41-page report summarizing the body’s consensus, matters for consideration and priority actions.

During a Nov. 14 press conference, Bishop Flores told OSV News he anticipates it will be discussed in June once bishops have taken the time to “let it sink in and read it carefully.” He said what the USCCB could do immediately was request guidance from the Synod Secretariat in Rome, on how to engage their local churches in a focused and relevant way “because the first responsibility of the bishops is to go back to their own people and to say these are some issues that impact us in particular.”

He indicated a synodal culture needs to take root in the local church first – noting parish or diocesan pastoral councils are not used in some places since they are not mandatory – in order to discern what structures are needed to support it at all levels of the church.

The bishops’ showed a move toward deepening that kind of engagement by replacing the USCCB’s current strategic planning cycle with a mission planning process that would allow the conference to have defined regular responsibilities and the flexibility to focus on “mission directives that evolve after a process of discernment” that can be informed by bishops engaging in local and regional consultation.

“I think it is more synodal,” Archbishop Broglio said in an interview with OSV News, “and I think that will be something that will make a difference in how we address issues and concerns of the church in the United States in a different way, in a new way.”

WASHINGTON (OSV News) – The March for Life’s theme for its 2024 event will be “Pro-Life: With Every Woman, For Every Child,” the group’s president announced Nov. 14.

The March for Life first took place in Washington in 1974 in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion nationwide the previous year. Pro-life advocates have gathered in Washington to march each year since then to protest the ruling, with a smaller-in-scale event during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2021.

Pro-life demonstrators carry a banner past the U.S. Supreme Court during the annual March for Life in Washington Jan. 20, 2023, for the first time since the high court overturned its 1973 Roe v. Wade abortion decision June 24, 2022. The March for Life’s theme for the 2024 event will be “Pro-Life: With Every Woman, For Every Child,” the group’s president announced Nov. 14, 2023. (OSV News photo/Jonathan Ernst, Reuters)

After the high court reversed Roe in 2022, marchers still gathered to protest abortion. Each year, the group selects a theme that it says fits the cultural moment. Jeanne Mancini, March for Life president, said that following the court’s ruling in Dobbs, she wanted to highlight the work the pro-life movement does to support women facing difficult or unplanned pregnancies.

At an event in Washington, Mancini said the theme was selected due to what she called “the false narrative around abortion, whether it’s through mainstream media or the entertainment industry or academia, is that abortion is empowering and necessary.”

“We disagree,” she said. “Such fear-based messaging tries to convince women who are facing unexpected pregnancies that they’re alone, that they are incapable, that they are ill-equipped to handle motherhood. We who are here today know that is just not true. We aren’t saying that it’s easy. But we are saying that it is right to choose life and we hold that choosing life is empowering, and that love saves lives.”

Mancini said that she wanted to highlight “the vast pro-life safety net” from pregnancy resource centers to state resources, including the Mississippi Access to Maternal Assistance program — or MAMA program — administered by the office of the Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch, R-Miss., which connects pregnant women and families with resources for parents. Fitch argued the Dobbs case before the Supreme Court.

Mississippi Deputy Attorney General Whitney Lipscomb said at the Nov. 14 event that “in the Dobbs case we asked the Supreme Court to return the issue of abortion to the states, for the people through their elected leaders to decide how to best promote the dignity of life and support mothers and children.”

“And when the Supreme Court did just that, it became incumbent on all of us to find ways to match the compassion in our hearts with the compassion and justice in our laws,” Lipscomb said, adding that the MAMA program connects public and private resources, ranging from medical care during pregnancy to food stamps to job training.

“When a woman is facing an unexpected pregnancy, what she most needs to hear (at) that moment is you can do this,” Mancini said.

The national march is scheduled for Jan. 19. The 2024 event will take place in both a presidential election year, and one that could bring additional ballot measures on abortion, possibly in states including Arizona and Florida.

Ohio voters Nov. 7 approved Issue 1, a measure that will codify abortion access in the state’s constitution through fetal viability, typically understood to be 24 weeks gestation, and beyond, if a physician decided an abortion was necessary for the sake of the mother’s life or health. The loss marked another electoral defeat for anti-abortion ballot measures in the wake of the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision: In 2022, voters in California, Kentucky, Michigan, Montana, Vermont and Kansas either rejected new limitations on abortion or expanded legal protections for it.

The March for Life said some of the speakers at its 51st include singer Danny Gokey, as well as Pastor Greg and Cathe Laurie. Former NFL tight end and founder of the Watson 7 Foundation, Benjamin Watson, will be speaking at the Rose Dinner, which follows the event. The group said a full speaker list will be announced prior to the event.

WILKES-BARRE — When the late Scranton Bishop J. Carroll McCormick dedicated the new Saint Vincent de Paul Kitchen as a program of Catholic Social Services of the Diocese of Scranton on May 19, 1983, he urged the people of the Wyoming Valley to “accept the challenge to love those whom the world has scorned.”

Two weeks later, Saint Vincent de Paul Kitchen at 39 East Jackson St. in downtown Wilkes-Barre served its first meal on June 2, 1983. Monsignor Donald McAndrews, the executive director of Catholic Social Services in the Diocese who envisioned such a haven of charity for the area’s needy, looked on with pride as a legacy was born.

For the past 40 years, Saint Vincent de Paul Kitchen has provided a safe space for people in need to enjoy a hot meal, warm clothes, kindness, compassion and companionship.

That first simple meal served to some 100 underprivileged members of the community will be fondly recalled and celebrated when “A Bountiful Harvest,” the Kitchen’s 40th anniversary event under the major sponsorship of McCarthy Tire Service, will take place this Saturday evening, Nov. 18, at The Westmoreland Club in Wilkes-Barre.

The celebratory gala — fittingly slated for the weekend before Thanksgiving — will serve as an evening of gratitude and giving, featuring a cocktail party, piano music and auction, including a $5,000 cash raffle.

Serving as event chairman is Gary Lambert Jr., a member of the Kitchen Advisory Board since June who recalls earning high school “service hours” as a volunteer at Saint Vincent de Paul. The evening’s program will honor three longtime board members for their charitable and distinguished service to the Kitchen apostolate, as well as the community at large.

Among the honorees are Lambert’s grandmother, Cecelia “Cece” McCarthy; Rose Marie Panzitta; and John Graham.

As it has done since its humble beginnings 40 years ago, Saint Vincent de Paul’s doors are open to the less fortunate in the community every day of the year, including weekends and holidays. The serving of nutritious lunchtime meals begins each morning at 11 a.m. and ends at 12:30 p.m. Today an average of about 300 meals are prepared daily.

In addition to the Kitchen, the Saint Vincent de Paul Food Pantry is open every Tuesday and Thursday from 9 to 11 a.m.

Dr. David Shemo, a Wilkes-Barre area dentist who serves as president of the Saint Vincent de Paul Kitchen Advisory Board, expressed his pride and that of his fellow board members in celebrating the Kitchen’s time-honored apostolic work — and those community members responsible for it — on the occasion of the milestone anniversary.

“Over the course of the past 40 years, Saint Vincent de Paul has served literally millions of hot meals to our community,” Dr. Shemo said. “Its enduring success is a living testament to the generosity of our community. We are honored to help those in need and look forward to continuing to welcome patrons to the Kitchen for many years to come.”

Mike Cianciotta, director of Saint Vincent de Paul Kitchen, said the facility provides a basic necessity to those it serves, adding that there are those who erroneously believe most of Saint Vincent’s clients are homeless.

“The idea that only homeless people need this place is a total misconception,” Cianciotta said. “Those who come to the Kitchen are retired and are on fixed incomes. Some may suffer from a mental or physical disability which prevents them from working, and many are actually the working poor.”

During his 12 years of supervising the charitable operations at Saint Vincent de Paul, Cianciotta continues to see an increase in need for what the Kitchen provides.

“I’m still in awe of the generosity of the community, as well as seeing God’s hand at work in providing all of our needs,” he noted. “My prayers are that the Kitchen will be here for many more years, providing for the less fortunate.”

INDIANAPOLIS – Please join us in praying for the 94 pilgrims from the Diocese of Scranton that are leaving today for Indianapolis for the 2023 National Catholic Youth Conference (NCYC).

The event is a unique three-day experience of prayer, community, evangelization, catechesis, service, and empowerment for Catholic teenagers (of high school age) and their adult chaperones.

The theme for NCYC 2023 is “Fully Alive,” focusing on the following Scripture passages, “God created mankind in His image; in the image of God, he created them” (Genesis 1:23-27) and “I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly” (John 10:10).

Parishes that have students attending NCYC this year are: Exaltation of the Holy Cross, Hanover Township; Our Lady Queen of Peace, Brodheadsville; Saint Catherine of Siena, Moscow; Saint Eulalia, Roaring Brook Township; Saint Ignatius Loyola, Kingston; Saint Joseph Marello, Pittston; Saint Jude, Mountain Top; Saint Luke, Stroudsburg; and Saint Matthew, East Stroudsburg.

PITTSTON — Piously accenting the National Eucharistic Revival currently underway in Catholic churches throughout the United States, the Pittston parish communities of Saint John the Evangelist and Saint Joseph Marello will unveil a new Adoration Chapel during the weekend celebration of the Solemnity of Christ the King, Nov. 25-26.

Open house events for the chapel of exposition and adoration of the Eucharistic Lord, located in the Monsignor Bendik Pastoral Center at 37 William St., Pittston, will be held following Masses celebrated that weekend at the neighboring parishes.

Father Joseph Elston, pastor of both Saint John the Evangelist and Saint Joseph Marello parishes, announces the Most Blessed Sacrament will be transferred for the first time into the Adoration Chapel in a ceremony following the 11:30 Sunday Mass at Saint John Church.

Parish faithful, adorers and visitors walking through the doors of the new shrine of the Holy Eucharist for the first time will, fittingly, receive a grace-filled welcome by experiencing “Carlo’s Exhibition” — an impressive collection displaying the accounts of nearly 160 Eucharistic miracles that have occurred over the centuries and granted official approval by the Catholic Church.

The exhibit is named for Blessed Carlo Acutis, an English-born Italian Catholic youth who died from leukemia in 2006 at the age of 15.

Prior to his death, young Carlo received attention throughout the religious world for documenting Eucharistic miracles and the approved Marian apparitions, from numerous countries, and cataloguing them onto a website.

His devotion to the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist became the central theme of the young man’s brief life. Carlo was beatified by the Catholic Church on Oct. 10, 2020 — two days before the 14th anniversary of his death — in the Basilica of Saint Francis in Assisi, Italy, where he is interred in the Church of Saint Mary Major.

ROARING BROOK TOWNSHIP – A faith formation grant from the Diocesan Annual Appeal is helping the leadership at Saint Eulalia Parish meet the needs of its people.

“In a recent parish survey, one of the top needs identified by the parishioners was their desire to learn more about their faith. On top of that list, they wanted to learn more about the bible,” Deacon Nick Rocco said.

Deacon Nick Rocco leads a bible study program at Saint Eulalia Parish on Nov. 9.

On Nov. 9, Deacon Nick began an eight-part bible study series, ‘Unlocking the Mystery of the Bible,’ which was attended by more than 25 participants ranging from teenagers to parents and grandparents.

Because part of the program is video-based, Saint Eulalia Parish wanted to upgrade its technology before beginning the series and applied for a $2,750 faith formation grant from the 2023 Diocesan Annual Appeal.

“The faith formation grant that we received from the Diocesan Annual Appeal allowed us to upgrade the audio and video system that we use for our religious education programs. A larger screen with a proper audio system with internet capabilities was necessary for our parish to take advantage of all the great resources available for ongoing faith formation,” Deacon Nick added. “Not only is everyone in the room now able to see and hear the program that they are watching, but those with hearing difficulties are now able to read the closed captioning on the screen because it is now large enough for them to be able to read it from across the room.”

In addition to the upgraded audio and video system, part of the grant money the parish received was used for a pilgrimage to Our Lady of Martyrs Shrine.

This year, 43 parishes across the Diocese of Scranton received a faith formation grant. Parishes applying for funding needed to lay out specific objectives of their initiatives in one of the four following categories:

• Promotion of Life-Long Discipleship
• Inviting and Welcoming Home Catholic/non-Catholics into the parish
• Providing spiritual support to families, singles, youth and young adults
• Using technology and media to grow faith formation events

While Saint Eulalia’s ‘Unlocking the Mystery of the Bible’ series will continue on Nov. 16 and 30, Jan. 4, 11, 18 and 25, and Feb. 1, Deacon Nick believes it is already successful.

“All present not only loved the first session, but they also commented on how nice it was to watch it on our new A/V system – a huge upgrade from what we had,” he said. “As the facilitator of the course and the deacon of the parish, I am beyond thrilled with all the capabilities that this new system has to offer and look forward to offering more faith formation programs for years to come.”



All Saints Parish, Plymouth $2,676.23
Blessed Virgin Mary, Queen of of Peace Parish, Hawley $3,201.00
Christ the King Parish, Archbald $1,850.00
Epiphany Parish, Sayre $1,554.25
Holy Rosary Parish, Hazleton $750.00
Mary, Mother of God Parish, Scranton $1,500.00
Most Holy Trinity Parish, Susquehanna $2,500.00
Most Holy Trinity Parish, Cresco $4,875.00
Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish, Dushore $600.00
Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, Montoursville $4,469.98
Our Lady of the Snows Parish, Clarks Summit $1,300.00
Our Lady of Victory Parish, Tannersville $4,200.00
Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish, Dupont $5,000.00
Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary Parish, Jermyn $3,500.00
Saint Ann Parish, Shohola $1,700.00
Saint Ann Parish, Williamsport $3,000.00
Saint Brigid Parish, Friendsville $2,364.20
Saint Eulalia Parish, Roaring Brook Township $2,750.00
Saint Gregory Parish, Clarks Green $2,500.00
Saint John Bosco Parish, Conyngham $1,000.00
Saint John Parish, East Stroudsburg $5,000.00
Saint John the Evangelist Parish, Pittston $4,570.00
Saint John the Evangelist Parish, Honesdale $3,000.00
Saint John Vianney Parish, Montdale $2,650.00
Saint Joseph the Worker Parish, Williamsport $4,250.00
Saint Luke Parish, Stroudsburg $2,597.40
Saint Nicholas – Saint Mary Parish, Wilkes-Barre $1,100.00
Saint Therese Parish, Shavertown $2,200.00
Saint Thomas More Parish, Lake Ariel $3,100.00
Saint Vincent de Paul Parish, Milford $4,300.00
Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish, Dickson City $930.00


Our Lady of the Abingtons Parish, Dalton
Saint Mary of the Lake Parish, Lake Winola
Saint Patrick Parish, Nicholson $3,546.00

Saint Boniface Parish, Williamsport
Saint Lawrence Parish, South Williamsport $4,000.00

Saint John Neumann Parish, Scranton
Saint Paul of the Cross Parish, Scranton $5,000.00

Saint Joseph Parish, Matamoras
Saint Patrick Parish, Milford $5,122.00

Saint Thomas the Apostle Parish, Elkland
Holy Child Parish, Mansfield
Saint Peter Parish, Wellsboro $11,516.51




SCRANTON — The Friends of the Poor apostolate is proud to announce, once again, its three community-based programs to help feed — in body & soul — the region’s less fortunate this Thanksgiving.

Volunteers with the Family to Family Food Basket Program distribute hundreds of food bags outside the Scranton Cultural Center in 2022.

The 47th annual holiday program is incorporating new collaborative partners to aid the Friends of the Poor’s Thanksgiving Dinner for Adults & Elderly, Family to Family Thanksgiving Food Basket Program, and the kick-off Interfaith Prayer Service.

“The Thanksgiving Community Program has never been one to operate in a silo,” Meghan Loftus, president and CEO of Friends of the Poor, said. “From its humble beginnings feeding a few dozen community members, our program has relied on the generosity of area individuals, businesses and institutions to make the holiday special for those who often go without.”

Nearly 50 years later, the same remains true today as efforts have been well underway to prepare and serve 3,500 meals and provide another 3,500 families with Thanksgiving groceries.

A sponsored work of the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary religious community, Friends of the Poor this year officially welcomes the Catherine McAuley Center and Weinberg Northeast Regional Food Bank as partners in service for the Thanksgiving Community Program.

“This further proves that we are stronger together than we ever could be alone,” Loftus commented, noting that the McAuley Center will offer support staff for each event to help accommodate the projected increase in need, and the Weinberg Food Bank will provide the turkeys for the cooked Thanksgiving take-out meal.

The Thanksgiving program series of events begins on Friday, Nov. 17, at 7 p.m. with the Interfaith Prayer Service hosted at Temple Hesed, 1 Knox Road, Scranton. All are welcome to attend and participate in the prayer service celebrating gratitude as the cornerstone of the area’s faith traditions and the true meaning of the holiday.

On Sunday, Nov. 19, University of Scranton students will get hands-on insight into the inner workings of the Family to Family program, as the University’s Center for Service and Social Justice will provide Thanksgiving menu items to 200 families in the Hilltop and Valley View housing developments within the Scranton Housing Authority.

The traditional Thanksgiving Dinner for Adults & Elderly will be distributed, take-out style, for the fourth year in a row on Tuesday, Nov. 21, outside the Scranton Cultural Center, 420 North Washington Ave,. Scranton., from 2:30 to 5:30 p.m.

Anyone in need of a cooked Thanksgiving meal is welcome to drive-thru or walk-up for the packaged dinner. No pre-registration or proof of income is required. During this time the 400 & 500 blocks of North Washington and Vine streets will be closed for traffic control.

Patrons are requested to arrive no sooner than 2 p.m. to facilitate the delivery of approximately 1,500 meals to pre-registered, low-income seniors with continued assistance from the dedicated volunteer drivers from the Junior League of Scranton.

The following morning, Thanksgiving Eve, Wednesday, Nov. 22, the Family to Family Thanksgiving Food Basket Program, under the direction of the Robeson Family, will pick up where the dinner left off.

Beginning at 9 a.m., various grocery items that will allow families to prepare a traditional Thanksgiving meal in their homes will be provided in front of the Scranton Cultural Center on North Washington Ave. until 5 p.m., or while supplies last.

Also a drive-thru event with no need for pre-registration or proof of income, this event will include a dedicated tent with supplies and volunteers to assist those arriving for walk-up service.

“We’ve all seen an incredible increase in need in our area over the last several years,” Loftus concluded. “The number of families seeking assistance from Friends of the Poor every day is astonishing, and the holidays add to that number.”

She added that while many families struggle to make ends meet each week throughout the year, the holidays bring with them additional expenses many simply cannot afford.

“We are making every effort to extend as much as we can to meet this need, but we cannot do it without the help of dozens of organizations who partner with us, and every member of our community who wishes to share the magic of the season with a neighbor in need,” Loftus concluded.

SCRANTON – While in his first year studying at Saint Vincent Seminary in Latrobe, seminarian Daniel O’Brien made it a priority to come back to northeastern Pennsylvania to attend the 2023 Leave a Mark Mass at the Cathedral of Saint Peter on Nov. 5, 2023.

The Leave a Mark Mass is an annual opportunity for young Catholics from various parishes around the 11-county Diocese to come together in worship. The name of the Mass comes from remarks of Pope Francis at World Youth Day 2016 in which he told young people they didn’t come into this world to ‘vegetate’ but to ‘leave a mark.’

Young adults from parishes and Catholic colleges across the Diocese pray together at the 2023 ‘Leave a Mark’ Mass. (Photos/Mike Melisky)

“It was wonderful to be able to be back and celebrate with the youth of the Diocese of Scranton,” O’Brien said.

A parishioner of Saint John the Evangelist Parish in Pittston, O’Brien entered seminary this fall after graduating from Marywood University. He has been attending the Diocese’s annual gathering of the young Church since 2019.

“The Leave a Mark Mass is really one of the best things that our Diocese can do as part of a huge evangelization summit to bring all the youth from the Diocese together under one roof, to celebrate Mass, be in the presence of the Bishop, and to be in the presence of each other as missionary disciples,” O’Brien added.

The Most Rev. Joseph C. Bambera, Bishop of Scranton, served as principal celebrant of the 5 p.m. Mass, which is traditionally held at the start of National Vocation Awareness Week. Father Alex J. Roche, Diocesan Director of Vocations and Seminarians, delivered the homily.

During his remarks, Father Alex said being taught by the Sisters of Christian Charity at Saint Ann Parish in Williamsport played a role in his own vocation story.

“It was in that school and in that church as a young boy that the seeds of my vocation to the priesthood were planted and I could never offer the words to truly express my gratitude to thank the Sisters for their witness they showed me and the trust they inspired in me,” he said.

Father Alex encouraged the young people attending the Leave a Mark Mass to identity people they trust and receive faith from them.

“Trust those in your life that carry the peace of God with them. Trust God with your vocation, with your very life, and become people in the world that inspire trust in others,” he said.

In addition to praying for vocations to the priesthood, the Leave a Mark Mass is also an opportunity for people to pray for vocations to the diaconate, consecrated life and married life.

“Keep your hearts and your minds open to the word of God prompting you to walk his His disciples, prompting you in the best way that you can to answer His call in whatever way that might be extended to you and to leave your mark for good in Jesus’ name,” Bishop Bambera said at the conclusion of Mass.

Following the Mass, a social featuring food trucks, live music, games and more was held at the Diocesan Pastoral Center across the street.

Diana Lozinger, a student at The University of Scranton, first attended the Leave a Mark Mass last year and returned because she thinks young Catholics should be taking a more active role in the church.

“I think there is a growing movement of young people that I’ve seen, in my own life and even online, that are really committed to the church and I hope that we can continue this movement,” Lozinger said.

Ray Sabatini, a young adult from Saint Jude Parish in Mountain Top, said it doesn’t take much to leave a mark for good.

“All we have to do is change one person’s life to make a true difference in the world and if we just do that one person at a time, the world would be a much better place,” he said.

Events like the Leave a Mark Mass, which are sponsored by the Vocations Office, are made possible because of the gifts to the Diocesan Annual Appeal each year.