SCRANTON – Calling the moment “historic,” Bishop Joseph C. Bambera celebrated an opening Mass for the 2023 Synod of Bishops locally on Oct. 17 at the Cathedral of Saint Peter. Faithful from around the diocese participated in the Mass in-person and via Catholic Television.

“We join with dioceses from around the world at Pope Francis’ request to begin a process of reflection, a process of dialogue and a process of discernment, as we as a local Church, contribute our perspective, our thoughts, our hopes, our dreams, our prayers, to a worldwide Synod of Bishops that will convene in Rome in 2023,” Bishop Bambera said.

Over the next six months, the Diocese of Scranton will encourage all people – including those in parishes, schools and other diocesan structures – as well as those who have fallen away from the Church or are on the margins of society to offer their thoughts on various aspects of Church life. The process will include both in-person listening sessions and an online survey that will be made available to everyone in the Diocese of Scranton.

“From the earliest days of Christianity as noted in the Acts of the Apostles, the Church has sought to listen to the voice of Christ alive in each member of the Church through the power of the Holy Spirit,” Bishop Bambera said during his homily. “Today, under the leadership of our Holy Father, Pope Francis, and with the Church throughout the world, we begin here in the Diocese of Scranton, that process of listening; listening to the hearts of the people of God and the movements of the Holy Spirit found therein.”

After the local listening sessions are complete, the Diocese of Scranton – and all other dioceses in the United States – will submit a summary of local discussions by April 1 to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. That information will then be synthesized at the national level and forwarded to the Vatican.

“By virtue of our Baptism, all of us are called to be active participants in the life of the Church through discernment, participation and co-responsibility,” Bishop Bambera noted. “By means of a process of careful listening, our participation in the Synod process will hopefully enable us to better understand how the entire Christian community is called to participate in the life of our Church and how that shared participation among our members might grow in the future.”

In addition to sending the summary of listening sessions to the USCCB, the Diocese of Scranton also plans to utilize the feedback provided locally.

As he reflected on Jesus’ life and ministry, Bishop Bambera reminded the faithful that He spent a great deal of time listening.

“The Holy Father’s hope, which is my prayer as well, is that the experience of this unique worldwide opportunity will bring about a new springtime for listening, discernment, dialogue and decision-making in our Church,” the bishop noted.

 

SCRANTON – Parishioners in the Diocese of Scranton are invited to participate in a Pontifical Mass in celebration of World Mission Sunday on Sunday, Oct. 31, 2021, at 12:15 p.m. at the Cathedral of Saint Peter.

The Most Rev. Joseph C. Bambera, Bishop of Scranton, will be the principal celebrant. Father Brian J.T. Clarke, Diocesan Director of the Pontifical Mission Societies, will concelebrate. The homilist will be Father Stephen A. Asomah, Parochial Vicar, Our Lady of the Snows Parish, Clarks Summit.

Father Stephen A. Asomah was born and raised in Ghana, West Africa. Desiring to be a priest, he attended St. James Seminary High School and continued his seminary formation in St. Paul’s Major Seminary, Sowotuom, Accra, for spirituality and philosophy and St. Peter’s Regional Seminary, Pedu, Cape Coast, for theological studies. He was ordained on July 12, 2008. Prior to moving to the Diocese of Scranton in 2020, Father Stephen served in the Archdiocese of New York as a missionary from 2012-2019.

For those unable to attend the Mass in-person, CTV: Catholic Television of the Diocese of Scranton will broadcast the Mass and provide livestreaming through the Diocese of Scranton website and social media platforms.

The Pontifical Mass will follow a special collection for World Mission Sunday that is taken up annually in parishes across the Diocese of Scranton on Oct. 23 & 24. The World Mission Sunday collection supports the Society for the Propagation of the Faith, which supports the work and witness of the Mission Church, as it provides for priests, religious and lay leaders who offer the Lord’s mercy and concrete help to the most vulnerable communities.

In his message for World Mission Sunday, Pope Francis said compassion and a constant effort to reach out to others are essential elements of being “missionary disciples,” even in the midst of a pandemic.

“In these days of pandemic, when there is a temptation to disguise and justify indifference and apathy in the name of healthy social distancing, there is urgent need for the mission of compassion, which can make that necessary distancing an opportunity for encounter, care and promotion,” Pope Francis wrote.

The theme chosen for the 2021 celebration is taken from the Acts of the Apostles: “We cannot but speak about what we have seen and heard.

To read Bishop Bambera’s Letter for World Mission Sunday, please click here.

 

 

My Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Just a few days ago on October 3, we celebrated the feast day of St. Thérèse of Lisieux. Affectionately known to many as the “Little Flower,” St. Thérèse is the patroness of the Missions. Perhaps the great paradox of her patronage is that Thérèse never left her cloister. Her entire religious life was lived out in her humble convent in Lisieux, France. Though she desired so deeply to be a missionary, she was compelled to live a life of relative obscurity, to become a missionary through her prayer, her sacrifice and the “little way” that defined her life and has inspired the lives of many.

Thérèse’s simple life reminds me of a quotation from another saintly missionary, Mother Teresa of Calcutta, “do small things with great love.” Each of us has been compelled to encounter how to carry out the Christian way of life in our own “cloisters” as pandemic restrictions had us holed up in our homes in the early months of COVID-19. Somehow, our lives as people of faith and as disciples of Jesus Christ had to carry on. Admittedly, to do so we had to find creative ways to be faithful to our worship and acts of prayer as our public worship was curtailed. We found ways to reach out to family and neighbors even as we were limited in our physical contact with them and discovered opportunities to support the poor and vulnerable as so many religious and social service agencies found it challenging to meet their needs.

This is the crux of missionary discipleship. Certainly, many have and will continue to travel to places throughout the world to serve as missionaries. Indeed, in our own country, missionaries will continue to serve the needs of the poor and marginalized as they seek to alleviate their burdens. And, yes, many will continue to serve with a missionary zeal in a spirit of servant leadership from their homes. Not everyone—whether it’s because of illness, age, or other circumstances—can leave their homes to engage the mission entrusted to them. Much can be learned from the example of St. Thérèse who, despite never leaving her cloister, is among the most notable missionaries in our Church.

In his message for World Mission Sunday, Pope Francis spoke of “a temptation to disguise and justify indifference and apathy in the name of healthy social distancing…” However, he went on to highlight that there is an “urgent need for the mission of compassion, which can make that necessary distancing an opportunity for encounter, care and promotion.” Surely, even from a distance we can serve and can encounter. Let us endeavor to do so spurred on by the life of St. Thérèse and the Gospel mandate to “make disciples of all nations” (Mt. 28:19).

Faithfully yours in Christ,

The Most Reverend Joseph C. Bambera, D.D., J.C.L.
Bishop of Scranton

 

 

 

The Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Denver is seen Oct. 10, 2021, after it was vandalized. Since February 2020, the Archdiocese of Denver is aware of 25 parishes or ministry locations in northern Colorado that have been the target of vandalism, property destruction or theft. (CNS photo/courtesy Archdiocese of Denver)

WASHINGTON (CNS) – The Oct. 10 vandalization of Denver’s cathedral basilica that resulted in satanic and other “hateful graffiti” being scrawled on its doors and at least one statue brought to 100 the number of incidents of arson, vandalism and other destruction that have taken place at Catholic sites across the United States since May 2020.

That month the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee for Religious Liberty began tracking such incidents, according to an Oct. 14 USCCB news release.

“These incidents of vandalism have ranged from the tragic to the obscene, from the transparent to the inexplicable,” the chairmen of the USCCB’s religious liberty and domestic policy committees said in a joint statement included in the release.

“There remains much we do not know about this phenomenon, but at a minimum, they underscore that our society is in sore need of God’s grace,” they said, calling on the nation’s elected officials “to step forward and condemn these attacks.”

“In all cases, we must reach out to the perpetrators with prayer and forgiveness,” said Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, chairman of the Committee for Religious Liberty, and Archbishop Paul S. Coakley of Oklahoma City, chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development.

“Where the motive was retribution for some past fault of ours, we must reconcile; where misunderstanding of our teachings has caused anger toward us, we must offer clarity; but this destruction must stop. This is not the way,” they said.

“We thank our law enforcement for investigating these incidents and taking appropriate steps to prevent further harm,” Cardinal Dolan and Archbishop Coakley said. “We appeal to community members for help as well. These are not mere property crimes — this is the degradation of visible representations of our Catholic faith. These are acts of hate.”

In a July 2020 joint statement, Archbishop Coakley and Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami, then acting chairman of the religious liberty committee decried the growing number of incidents of church vandalism.

“Whether those who committed these acts were troubled individuals crying out for help or agents of hate seeking to intimidate, the attacks are signs of a society in need of healing,” the two archbishops said.

“In those incidents where human actions are clear, the motives still are not. As we strain to understand the destruction of these holy symbols of selfless love and devotion, we pray for any who have caused it, and we remain vigilant against more of it,” they said.

“Our nation finds itself in an extraordinary hour of cultural conflict,” they added. “The path forward must be through the compassion and understanding practiced and taught by Jesus and his Holy Mother. Let us contemplate, rather than destroy, images of these examples of God’s love. Following the example of Our Lord, we respond to confusion with understanding and to hatred with love.”

These incidents have ranged from a man crashing his van through the doors of a Catholic church in the Diocese of Orlando, Florida, and setting the interior ablaze, to a St. Junípero Serra statue outside Mission San Rafael in San Rafael, California, in the Archdiocese of San Francisco, being desecrated with red paint and toppled, leaving just the saint’s feet in place.

In response to such attacks, the Committee for Religious Liberty launched the “Beauty Heals” project featuring videos from various dioceses discussing the significance of sacred art.

At least 10 videos are available on YouTube; a link to the play list of all the videos can be found at https://bit.ly/3peNq3o.

In a June 1, 2021, letter to the respective chairs and ranking members of the Appropriation Committee in the House and Senate , the USCCB’s Committee for Religious Liberty joined with several other faith groups calling for more funding for appropriations for the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Nonprofit Security Grant Program in fiscal year 2022.

The text of the letter can be found at https://bit.ly/3n6Rz6t.

“As organizations representing Jewish, Muslim, Sikh, Catholic, Episcopal, Evangelical, Lutheran, Protestant, Seventh-day Adventist, and other Christian and communities of faith across the United States, we believe that all people ought to be free from fear when gathering for religious worship and service,” they wrote, urging more funds for the FEMA grant program.

The grants provide funds for “target hardening and other physical security enhancements and activities” for, as the letter stated, “at-risk nonprofits from urban settings to suburban neighborhoods and rural communities, including houses of worship, religious schools, community centers and other charities.”

“There is a critical need and urgency for these grants,” the faith groups said. “Our sacred spaces have been desecrated, and our faithful murdered.”

In a 20-year period starting in mid-1999, there were shootings at an estimated 19 houses of worship resulting in fatalities.

WASHINGTON (CNS) – As Christian missionaries and family members, some as young as 8 months old, were still being held for ransom in Haiti by a gang notorious for group kidnappings, other charities and religious groups examined how they can remain safe while delivering humanitarian aid.

Seventeen members of Christian Aid Ministries, based in Millersburg, Ohio, were kidnapped Oct. 16. The 400 Mawozo, which is considered in control of Croix-des-Bouquets and the surrounding area where the abductions occurred, claimed credit for the kidnapping and is demanding a $17 million ransom — $1 million per person.

The Ohio group was grabbed after their visit to an orphanage in Croix-des-Bouquets, a northeast suburb of Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince.

In April, five priests and two nuns were abducted in that same area, and released after 20 days when ransoms were paid. Christian Aid Ministries is connected to Amish and Mennonite groups in the United States.

“This is the worst Haiti has been for a long time,” Miami Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski told The Tablet, the newspaper of the Diocese of Brooklyn, New York. “It’s hard to see when it turns around. You think once it hits bottom it would start going on the uptick, but every time we think we hit bottom we find out that bottom is even deeper.”

AVSI, a nonprofit humanitarian relief and development organization based in Milan, Italy, which bills its mission as being based on Catholic social teaching, has had about 300 people in Haiti to address basic needs for food and shelter following the Aug. 14 earthquake there, and also to assist victims of urban violence.

Fiammetta Cappellini, the organization’s Haiti representative, told Catholic News Service that precautions they take for their people range “from reducing travel to stopping any travel during sensitive time slots.”

“We have a curfew at 8 p.m. because most kidnappings took place a few months ago after dark. We can also limit the movements in some regions of the city that are particularly exposed,” she said.

But Cappellini acknowledged, “It is impossible to reduce the risk of kidnappings to zero. The phenomenon is so vast and affects such diversified segments of the population. For example, there have been kidnappings of women in the market with minimal sources of income so that it can affect anyone.”

“What is certain is that statistically, the kidnappings are mainly aimed at the wealthiest population and are concentrated in certain areas at crucial time slots,” she said. “It does not happen exclusively then and there, but it is more frequent.”

The work itself, she said, “explicitly provides the best protection for this phenomenon because we build excellent relations with the community. If we build the best possible relationships, our presence will be considered an added value. It becomes a relationship in which the community understands our work, respects us and in some ways protects us.”

Of the Oct. 16 kidnappings, Cappellini called them “so upsetting because I’m sure these missionaries certainly have an excellent relationship with the community, so when the gangs kidnap those helping their communities, it destabilizes all of us and worries us a lot.”

Should kidnappings become more frequent, she said she expected her organization would be forced to suspend its Haiti operations.

In an Oct. 19 statement released to the media, Christian Aid Ministries said those who were abducted included five men and seven women ranging in age range from 18 to 48 and five children, ages 8 months, 3, 6, 13 and 15.

A White House spokeswoman said Oct. 18 the FBI was working with the U.S. diplomatic team in Haiti in to locate the missionary group and get them freed.

 

Pope Francis sits next to 10-year-old Paolo after the boy spontaneously walked on to the stage during the weekly general audience at the Vatican Oct. 20, 2021. (CNS photo/Remo Casilli, Reuters)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Pope Francis had a special guest help him illustrate the meaning of Christian freedom: a young boy wandered onto the stage during the pope’s general audience and made himself at home.

At his audience Oct. 20, the pope was continuing his series of talks on St. Paul’s Letter to the Galatians and planned to reflect on the freedom that comes from serving and loving others.

As the Bible passage was being read, 10-year-old Paolo walked onto the stage and right up to Pope Francis, who shook his hand.

A papal aide offered Paolo a seat next to the pope, which elicited applause from the crowd, and from the little boy. But he did not stay seated long; after clasping the pope’s hands again, Paolo pointed with amazement at the pope’s zucchetto. Moments later, the young boy could be seen happily bounding down the steps, returning to his mother wearing a brand new zucchetto on his head.

Departing from his prepared remarks, Pope Francis said the boy’s courage reminded him of “what Christ says about the spontaneity and the freedom of children.”

“Jesus tells us, ‘If you do not become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of God.’ It is the courage to be close to the Lord, to be open to the Lord, to not be afraid of the Lord. I thank this child for giving this lesson to all of us,” the pope said.

“There is no freedom without love,” Pope Francis said. “The selfish freedom of doing what I want is not freedom because it comes back to yourself, it isn’t fruitful.”

“It is Christ’s love that has freed us, and again it is love that frees us from the worst slavery, that of the self; therefore, freedom grows with love,” he said.

The freedom St. Paul writes about does not imply “a libertine way of living, according to the flesh or following instinct, individual desires or one’s own selfish impulses,” the pope said. Rather, the apostle speaks of a freedom that is “fully expressed in love.”

“It is the love that shines out in gratuitous service, modeled on that of Jesus, who washes the feet of his disciples and says, ‘I have given you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you;’ to serve one another,” the pope said.

St. Paul, the pope continued, also warns about viewing freedom as “doing what you want and what you like” which only leads to the realization “that we are left with a great emptiness inside and that we have used badly the treasure of our freedom.”

Pope Francis said Christians need to “rediscover the communitarian, not individualistic, dimension of freedom,” especially in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

“The pandemic has taught us that we need each other, but it is not enough to know this,” he said. “We need to choose it in a tangible way every day. Let us say and believe that others are not an obstacle to my freedom, but rather the possibility to fully realize it because our freedom is born from God’s love and grows in charity.”

 

His Excellency, Bishop Joseph C. Bambera, announces the following appointment, effective as follows:

Reverend Michael J. Kloton, to Administrator, Pro Tem, Saint Patrick Parish, White Haven, effective October 14, 2021.  Father Kloton will continue to serve as Pastor of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception Parish, Freeland, and Good Shepherd Parish, Drums.  In addition, Mrs. Mary Ann Malone will continue to serve as Parish Life Coordinator at Saint Patrick Parish, White Haven.

 

 

SCRANTON – Pope Francis wants to hear your thoughts and dreams about the Catholic Church.

The Holy Father is inviting Catholics who are already involved in church life – as well as those who may be on the margins or who have left the church – to voice their ideas and concerns about issues that are important to the Catholic Church today.

The pope is calling for the church to practice “synodality,” that is listening to – and hearing – one another in all facets of church life.

The process launches Oct. 17 in dioceses worldwide. On Oct. 10, Pope Francis celebrated Mass in Saint Peter’s Basilica to officially open the 2023 Synod of Bishops preparatory phase.

The Most Reverend Joseph C. Bambera, Bishop of Scranton, is inviting the faithful of the Diocese of Scranton to join him in an Opening Mass for the Synod of Bishops on Oct. 17 at 10:00 a.m. at the Cathedral of Saint Peter in Scranton.

The Diocesan Mass on Oct. 17 will begin a local listening process in the Diocese of Scranton that will take place over the next six months.

“Through a process of careful listening, our participation in the synod process will enable us to better understand how the Christian community participates in the life of our Church in the Diocese of Scranton today and how that shared participation among our members might grow in the future,” Bishop

Bambera wrote in a letter to the faithful earlier this month.

The Diocese of Scranton is still in the process of developing a broad consultation process that will utilize parishes, schools and other diocesan structures. While some of the listening opportunities will be conducted in-person, there will also be an online opportunity to reach all members of the community in the Diocese of Scranton.

Through this process, Pope Francis is calling all Catholics to look more deeply into how we are all “journeying together” as a church and where the Holy Spirit is calling us.

“The calling of this synod is well-aligned with the challenge Pope Francis offered his brother bishops to ‘dialogue fearlessly,’” according to a document provided to local dioceses by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. “The Holy Father has made a request of the people of God to participate as fully and authentically as possible in the synodal process.”

More details on how individuals in the Diocese of Scranton can participate and make their voice heard will be released in the coming weeks.

The Catholic Light will continue to provide coverage of the opportunities that are available to the faithful.

 

SCRANTON – Parishioners across the Diocese of Scranton are being asked to make a gift to the 2021 Diocesan Annual Appeal this weekend.

The weekend of Oct. 16 & 17 is designated as In-Pew Commitment Weekend. Pledge envelopes have been mailed to the homes of all parishioners and everyone is asked to return the envelopes to their parish offertory this weekend.

If anyone has not received a pledge envelope, they can use the form included in this week’s The Catholic Light or can visit annualappeal.org to make a safe, secure online donation.

Gifts to the 2021 Diocesan Annual Appeal have a significant impact to help diocesan ministries serve an increasing number of people in need and provide opportunities to offer programs and services in different ways in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The main ministries supported by gifts to the Diocesan Annual Appeal are:

  • Parish Social Justice Grants
  • Faith Formation Grants
  • Catholic Social Services
  • Catholic Schools
  • Care of Ill & Retired Priests
  • Support of Seminarians
  • Parish Life and Ministry Formation
  • Catholic Media and Communications

Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, Diocesan ministries have responded to the ongoing challenges in many unique ways.

Catholic Social Services of the Diocese of Scranton – along with parish food pantries – have served an increased number of individuals, families and seniors since the pandemic began in March 2020. All of our community partners continue to identify hunger as one of the most pressing needs throughout the pandemic and the recovery period.

During the pandemic, more than 75 percent of parishes began livestreaming Masses to keep parishioners connected. The Diocesan Office for Communications continued to broadcast the Daily Mass from the Cathedral of Saint Peter in Scranton and has offered new weekend Masses and prayer opportunities both on television and through livestreaming. Tens of thousands of parishioners have utilized the Mass broadcasts.

Significant adjustments were made in our Catholic schools in March 2020 to quickly move to distance learning. The faculty and staff of Diocesan schools worked tirelessly to provide in-person education during the 2020-2021 school year in a safe environment.

Donors to the Diocesan Annual Appeal can designate their gift to any of the ministries that is funded.

For more information on the ministries supported by the Appeal or to view one of the regional videos highlighting the importance of the Appeal visit annualappeal.org.

Gifts may also be made by calling the Diocesan Development Office at (570) 207-2250.

Donations may also be sent to: Diocesan Annual Appeal, 300 Wyoming Avenue, Scranton, PA, 18503.

 

Ann Marie Crecco, volunteer with the Saint Ann Basilica Parish food pantry, packs food bags to be distributed to people in the community.

SCRANTON – For nearly 18 years, the food pantry at Saint Ann Basilica Parish has been meeting the needs of its community.

“It started out slow in 2004 and ever since it has been growing and growing,” co-founder Dennis Yanchik said.

The West Scranton parish recently received a Social Justice Grant from the Diocesan Annual Appeal to make sure all clients are able to receive assistance. Every parish in the Diocese of Scranton can apply for a Social Justice Grant to address important needs in their community like parish food pantries.

“The Diocesan Annual Appeal is a fantastic endeavor,” Yanchik added. “It’ll help us purchase items that we’re low on. We can do a lot of things with it and we do a lot of things with it to help other people.”

Saint Ann Food Pantry holds two distributions monthly – on the second and fourth Wednesday of the month from 2:00 until 4:00 p.m.

People who rely on the food pantry say it is an important community asset.

“It is a big helping hand,” Joseph ‘Greg’ Saylock said while selecting food to take home on a recent Wednesday. “Some weeks you have nothing and then you come here and eat for a couple days.”

The Old Forge man says he appreciates the “fabulous work” of the volunteers.

“They’ve been nothing but terrific to me,” he explained.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, organizers of the food pantry say they have seen additional clients who have fallen on hard times – whether because of job losses, health problems or loss of insurance.

“We’re here for anybody, anybody and everybody,” Yanchik said. “They don’t have to be parishioners.”

Ann Marie Crecco began volunteering at the Saint Ann Food Pantry in 2006 after seeing an advertisement in the parish bulletin.

“When you reach out to people, they reach back to you,” she said.

In addition to helping on pantry distribution days, Crecco also brings food to the homebound.

“When I deliver the food, it is where it is Christmas all over again for people,” she explained. “They just can’t believe that I actually want to help them.”

Each one of the volunteers who help operate the Saint Ann Food Pantry is humble and kind. While they often downplay the importance of their work – it is truly making a difference.

“We’re not saving the world or anything but it gives us a good feeling,” Yanchik said.