Pope Francis greets a boy who ran onstage during his general audience in the Paul VI hall at the Vatican Aug. 17, 2022. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Pope Francis dedicated his general audience talk to the urgent need for young and old to come together so older people can share their faith and wisdom about the world.

“Let’s think about dialogue, about the alliance between old and young,” he said, as well as make sure this bond is not broken. “May the elderly have the joy of speaking, of expressing themselves with young people and may young people seek out the elderly to receive the wisdom of life from them.”

It was an appeal one small boy in the Vatican’s Paul VI audience hall seemed to take to heart, walking past the guards and straight up to the pope to stand transfixed by his side during the final greetings at the audience’s end.

The pope affectionately rubbed the boy’s close-cropped hair and reassured him he was welcome to stay.

“During the audience we talked about dialogue between old and young, right? And this one, he has been brave and he’s at ease,” the pope said about his small guest to applause.

The pope continued his series of talks on old age and reflected on how reaching a ripe old age is a reassurance of eternal life in heaven.

In fact, “the image of a God, who is watching over everything with snow-white hair, is not a silly symbol, it is a biblical image, it is a noble image, even a tender image,” the pope said. To depict God the Father as venerable in age and authority “expresses God’s transcendence, his eternity and his constant care for this world and its history,” the pope’s talk said.

The vocation for every older man and woman, the pope said, is to bear witness to the faith and to the wisdom acquired over the years.

“The witness of the elderly is credible to children. Young people and adults are not capable of bearing witness in such an authentic, tender, poignant way, as elderly people can,” the pope said.

He said it is also very compelling when the elderly bless life as it comes their way and show no resentment or bitterness as time marches on and death nears.

“The witness of the elderly unites the generations of life, the same with the dimensions of time: past, present and future, for they are not only the memory, they are the present as well as the promise,” the pope said.

“It is painful and harmful to see that the ages of life are conceived of as separate worlds, in competition among themselves, each one seeking to live at the expense of the other. This is not right,” he said.

An alliance between the elderly and young people “will save the human family,” he said. “There is a future where children, where young people speak with the elderly. If this dialogue does not take place between the elderly and the young, the future cannot be clearly seen.”

Humanity, even with all its progress, still seems “to be an adolescent born yesterday,” which needs “to retrieve the grace of an old age that holds firmly to the horizon of our destination.”

Death is a very difficult passage in life, the pope said, but it “concludes the time of uncertainty and throws away the clock,” ushering in “the beautiful part of life, which has no more deadlines.”

During the last part of the general audience, when the pope offers special greetings to those attending from different parts of the world, the pope reaffirmed his prayers for Ukraine, asking that people not forget “this martyred people.”

There was also a brief interruption during the greetings when a Swiss guard, who was standing behind one of the language speakers, fell face forward, dropping his halberd. Two men from security assisted him in standing back up and another Swiss guard took his place.

SUNYANI, GHANA – While more than 5,000 miles may separate the Dioceses of Scranton and Sunyani geographically, the two communities continue to grow closer in learning about one another and sharing their culture and faith.

The Most Reverend Joseph C. Bambera, Bishop Scranton, along with Father Gerald W. Shantillo, Vicar General, and Father Brian J.T. Clarke, Diocesan Director of Pontifical Mission Societies, just completed a week-long pastoral visit to Sunyani. The trio departed the United States on Aug. 10, 2022 and will be returning Friday, Aug. 19.

“It has been an incredible experience,” Bishop Bambera said in regards to the visit. “We were made to feel so welcome.”

Throughout the pastoral visit, Bishop Bambera has been documenting his experiences and sharing regular updates on the Diocese of Scranton’s social media platforms. An archive of photos and videos that the bishop has posted is also available on the Diocese of Scranton website.

“Pope Francis often says the church is most alive in Africa. That has been our experience and we in Scranton are so blessed to have experienced this and to have the good blessing of eight priests from the Diocese of Sunyani to serve in our parishes,” Bishop Bambera said during one of the videos he shared.

CELEBRATING THE FEAST OF THE ASSUMPTION

Bishop Bambera’s pastoral visit to Sunyani was planned to coincide with the Diocese of Sunyani’s annual four-day celebration of the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The event brings roughly 15,000 people to Mary Queen of Peace Grotto each year.

Every parish in the Diocese of Sunyani sends parishioners to participate in the pilgrimage. The faithful participate in Morning Devotions, listen to testimonies and talks, celebrate Mass, recite the Rosary and enjoy each other’s company.

Bishop Bambera presided at the Closing Mass of the four-day celebration on Sunday, Aug. 14, 2022.

“I was touched by the enthusiasm of the faithful, by their desire to express their faith, by the richness of their involvement in the liturgy and by their generous spirit and the beautiful procession of gifts when they brought food for the poor,” Bishop Bambera said.

The Diocese of Sunyani is home to more than 200,000 baptized Catholics. In 2023, the Diocese will celebrate its 50th anniversary.

The Most Rev. Matthew Kwasi Gyamfi, who is currently serving as Bishop of Sunyani, is only the second bishop in the history of the Diocese. He was appointed bishop in 2003 after the death of Bishop James Kwadwo Owusu.

Bishop Matthew called the pastoral visit for Scranton’s delegation “extraordinary.”

“People are so excited to have them,” Bishop Matthew said. “We thank the people of the Diocese of Scranton for permitting the bishop to come and join us. We are extremely grateful!”

SAYING THANK YOU

One of the many reasons why Bishop Bambera, Father Shantillo and Father Clarke wanted to travel to Sunyani is to express gratitude for the incredible generosity that Sunyani has provided Scranton in terms of its priestly resources.

Over the last four years, ten priests from the Diocese of Sunyani have travelled abroad to serve in the Diocese of Scranton. There are currently eight serving here right now.

“It really means a great deal for me, on behalf of the clergy and the faithful of our Diocese, to go the Diocese of Sunyani and share with their bishop and with all of their people, our deep gratitude for their presence here,” Bishop Bambera explained. “It is a sacrifice to travel halfway around the world and to live in a land that you don’t necessarily understand and know as well as you own home.”

While in Ghana, the Diocese of Scranton delegation was especially grateful to have dinner with the parents of the priests who are working the Diocese of Scranton.

Throughout the course of the week-long visit, Bishop Matthew highlighted to his own people the good work that the Pontifical Mission Societies do. In reality, Bishop Matthew helped showcase the fact that as the People of God we all serve one another.

“Our churches and our faith is much, much bigger than simply our corner of the world that we know as the Diocese of Scranton,” Bishop Bambera added. “We join with brothers and sisters around the world, hands across the Atlantic Ocean now, to the Diocese of Sunyani.”

LEARNING AND SHARING

The Diocese of Sunyani is roughly 7,500 square miles. By size, that means it is a little smaller than the size of Scranton, which is roughly 8,800 square miles.

Throughout their week overseas, Bishop Bambera, Father Shantillo and Father Clarke had the opportunity to tour schools, a seminary, clinics and other various institutions.

On Monday, Aug. 15, the trio celebrated Mass at Saint James Seminary, a high school seminary, which has 900 students. Roughly 200 of those students are in the seminary formation program.

“It was a great opportunity to listen to their incredible voices singing and praising God,” Bishop Bambera noted.

The group also toured a sewing factory that makes religious vestments and school uniforms that is sponsored by the Diocese of Sunyani.

“What is so amazing about that is it started with a donation of three industrial sewing machines that were given to one of the priests of Sunyani several years ago and it has grown into an incredible industry,” Bishop Bambera explained. “It trains women to learn the craft of sewing that enables them to find jobs in that factory and elsewhere to start their businesses.”

While there was so much joy and inspiration on the pastoral visit, the Diocesan delegation also took time to mark a dark period in the history of Ghana.

On the second day of their visit, as they were traveling from Ghana’s capital city of Accra to Sunyani, the group stopped at Cape Coast Castle. The castle is one of dozens of “slave castles” built on the Gold Coast of Africa by European traders. Originally established for the gold/mineral trade, they eventually because used to hold slaves before they were put on ships and sold in the Americas.

“It was a reminder to us of the need for us to work against injustice in any way that we can, to bring an end, finally once and for all, to racism and discrimination,” Bishop Bambera said following his visit.

The final Mass that Bishop Bambera celebrated in Ghana was with young people of Sunyani on Wednesday, Aug. 17. He encouraged the young people to continue bringing Jesus’ message of love and forgiveness to the world in which they live.

“Stand up against intolerance and hatred, show the world by your example that we are all brothers and sisters,” he said. “Break down barriers of selfishness, protect this wonderful creation that we’ve been given, respect it, treasure it, and serve the poorest in our midst!”

SCRANTON – Suicide is a leading cause of death in the United States. It was responsible for nearly 46,000 deaths in 2020. This is about one death every 11 minutes.

In observance of Suicide Awareness Month in September, the Most Reverend Joseph C. Bambera, Bishop of Scranton, will celebrate a Mass for Suicide Healing and Remembrance on Sunday, Sept. 18, 2022, at 12:15 p.m. at the Cathedral of Saint Peter in Scranton. All are welcome.

The Mass will serve to remember loved ones lost to suicide and to promote healing for those who grieve their passing. During the Mass, those attending will be invited to bring forward a flower to the altar in remembrance of those lost.

“This ritual is a way for all of us to acknowledge and remember those who have died by suicide and to symbolize our commending them to God’s love, mercy, and care,” Jennifer Housel, Executive Director for the Association of Catholic Mental Health Ministers, said.

Suicide affects all ages. In 2020, suicide was among the top nine leading causes of death for people ages 10-64. Suicide was the second leading cause of death for people ages 10-14 and 25-34.

“This Mass is an important opportunity for our Church to offer particular comfort and healing for those who are grieving a loved one who has died by suicide. It is also important to have this Mass in order to reduce the stigma that still surrounds suicide and to increase awareness,” Housel added. “Too often in my years of ministry I have encountered both Catholics and non-Catholics who do not know the Church’s current teaching about suicide.”

Suicide and suicide attempts affect the health and well-being of friends, loved ones, co-workers, and the community. When people die by suicide, their surviving family and friends may experience shock, anger, guilt, symptoms of depression or anxiety and may even experience thoughts of suicide themselves.

“Suicide is a tragic reality in the lives of our faithful and in our surrounding communities. Rather than remaining silent, it is important that we open our hearts and listen to the stories people want to tell, may need to tell, about the loved one they are grieving. Talking about suicide helps to reduce stigma and can allow the opportunity to share resources that may be helpful,” Housel explained.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church, Second Edition, states the following, “We should not despair of the eternal salvation of persons who have taken their own lives. By ways known to him alone, God can provide the opportunity for salutary repentance. The Church prays for persons who have taken their own lives.” (CCC 2283).

Suicide is preventable. All people are encouraged to recognize the warning signs and identify ways to talk to someone who may be at risk.
Mental Health is of great concern not only for our faithful but also for those in our communities who we are called to serve. Numerous resources are available to everyone, no matter their circumstances.

First, the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline is available by calling or texting “988.” The Lifeline is available 24/7, 365 days a year.

In addition, the Veterans Crisis Line and Military Crisis Line is also available to connect veterans and service members in crisis and their families and friends with qualified, caring U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs responders through a confidential toll-free hotline, online chat or text. The number is 1-800-273-8255, Press 1.

The Association of Catholic Mental Health Ministers website, located at catholicmhm.org, allows people to view resources by topic, including resources related to suicide.

The Diocese of Scranton’s Mass for Suicide Healing & Remembrance will be broadcast by CTV: Catholic Television of the Diocese of Scranton and livestream on the Diocese of Scranton website, YouTube channel and social media platforms.

For more information on the Mass, visit dioceseofscranton.org or call (570) 207-2213.

SCRANTON – The annual Mass in Italian will be celebrated on Sunday, Sept. 4, at 10 a.m. in the Cathedral of Saint Peter. All are welcome to attend.

The liturgy is celebrated in conjunction with La Festa Italiana, which occurs over the Labor Day weekend, Friday through Monday, Sept. 2-5, on Courthouse Square, one block away.

The Most Reverend Joseph C. Bambera, Bishop of Scranton, will preside. Father David P. Cappelloni, V.F., La Festa Chaplain and pastor of Saints Anthony and Rocco Parish in Dunmore, will be the principal celebrant. The guest homilist is Jesuit Father Joseph G. Marina, president of The University of Scranton.

Concelebrants will include Monsignor Constantine V. Siconolfi, La Festa Chaplain Emeritus, and priests from the Diocese of Scranton. Deacons from the Diocese will also participate.

The Mass will be broadcast live by CTV: Catholic Television of the Diocese of Scranton and will be rebroadcast on Tuesday, September 6, at 8 p.m., and Wednesday, September 7, at 10:30 a.m. In addition to airing live on CTV, the Mass will also be livestream on the Diocese of Scranton website, YouTube channel and a link will be provided across all Diocesan social media platforms. It will also be available at anytime after the live broadcast concludes.

Fr. Joseph Marina, President

Father Marina became the 29th president of The University of Scranton on June 14, 2021. Prior to assuming this position, he served as provost and vice president for academic affairs and professor of education at Le Moyne College from 2016 through the spring of 2021. Previously at Le Moyne he was associate provost, interim chair of the education department and special assistant to the president.

Earlier in his career, Father Marina served as the dean of the School of Continuing Education at Providence College, assistant dean for the College of Science and Mathematics at Montclair State University, and assistant dean for Metropolitan College at Saint John’s University. In addition, he taught religious studies at Providence College and mathematics at Saint John’s University. He served as pastor of the Church of Saint Francis Xavier and as associate pastor of the Church of Saint Ignatius Loyola, both of which are in New York City.

Father Marina holds a Doctor of Philosophy in administration and supervision from Fordham University, a Master of Divinity and a Master of Theology from Boston College and a Master of Science in Secondary Education from Saint John’s University. He earned a Bachelor of Science in Physical Sciences, with a theology minor, from Saint John’s University.

Father Marina entered the Society of Jesus in 2004 and was ordained to the priesthood in 2012.

This year’s Italian Mass is being offered in memory of all those members and friends of La Festa Italiana who passed away since the last Mass was celebrated, including Ed Balderson, Anthony J. Cali, Paul Casparro, Carole Coccodrilli, Rocco Damiano, Most Reverend John M. Dougherty, Rosemary Gallagher, John “Yogi” Jagodzinski, Jennifer Gregory Martin, Marilouise Agnone Ruane, Alice Vanston and Pasquale “Pat” Yanni.

Music ministry for the Italian Mass will be provided by the choir of Saints Anthony and Rocco Parish, Dunmore; accompanied by a brass quartet, all directed by Joseph Moffitt. Dominick DeNaples, mandolin; Patrick Loungo, Nicholas Luongo, Lou Cossa, guitar, and Monica Spishock, timpani, will also accompany.

Ashley Yando-DeFlice is the cantor and the leader of prayer. The featured soloist will be T. J. Capobianco from the New York City Metropolitan Opera.
The lectors are the Honorable Judge Robert Mazzoni and Sister Catherine Iacouzze, MPF. The Prayer of the Faithful will be led by Diane Alberigi, Attorney Frank Castellano and Karen Clifford.

The offertory gifts will be presented by La Festa Founding Member Robert W. Pettinato, UNICO National President Dr. Peter and Maggie Pettinato, and family members of the late Paul Casparro: Paul Casparro, Lindsey Casparro Evans, and Lauren Casparro Conaboy.

James Baress, Patrick Caramanno, Joshua Cillo, Jonathan Eboli, Stephen Eboli, Richard Garofalo and Joseph Wentline are the ushers.

Parishioners of Saints Anthony & Rocco Parish held the annual procession of saints in Dunmore on Sunday, Aug. 14, 2022.

DUNMORE – A tradition that is more than a century old continued in Dunmore this year.

On Sunday, Aug. 14, 2022, Saints Anthony and Rocco Parish held its annual procession of the saints throughout the Bunker Hill section of the community.

Started in 1906, the procession has taken place every year, including during the COVID-19 pandemic, when the event was broadcast on social media.

“Saint Rocco’s actual Feast Day is Aug. 16, so we always have our procession the closest weekend prior to the Feast, unless the Feast falls on a Sunday,” parishioner Carlo Pisa said.

Pisa has been involved in the procession his entire life.

“It gets the community together. It gets the neighborhood together,” he said. “In today’s world, tradition is very, very important.”

Many families participate in the procession together. When they all come together, it symbolizes the strength of their parish family.

“This is definitely important for all of us to come together and share what we have,” parishioner Ivan Worobey said. “This bonds us forever, and the feeling, you don’t get this feeling too often.”

Reverend David Cappelloni, Pastor, Saints Anthony & Rocco Parish, who blessed the people with a relic of Saint Rocco at a special Mass before the procession said the event helps the parish have an identity.

“We carry the statues of our patron saints, the Blessed Virgin Mary and Saint Joseph throughout the neighborhood to remind people of who we are and who we’re called to be,” he explained.

Angelesa DeNaples of Moscow is grateful for the annual tradition.

“I love every moment of it. It is so nice to see everyone. The Lord has sent us here,” DeNaples said. “It’s an amazing tradition that we keep doing and I pray that we never stop doing it.”

In addition to the special Mass and procession, the community also celebrated its annual three-day festival the same weekend.

“These people walk in a procession of faith but if you talk to so many of them, as I do, 90 percent of them will tell you that their walk and their prayers are for someone that they are remembering,” Larry Spegar of Jessup added.

SCRANTON — The University of Scranton was again alive with the sounds of joyful praise as the Holy Spirit consumed nearly one thousand devotees who descended on the Scranton campus during the Aug. 5-7 weekend. That is when the annual summer Catholic Charismatic Renewal Conference of the Diocese of Scranton — a sight not witnessed since 2019 due to the COVID-19 pandemic — took place.

Glory to God and gratitude for being able to once again gather in His Holy Name was palpable for the three-day spiritual pilgrimage, which traditionally attracts fervent faithful from across the country.

Fittingly, the 2022 Charismatic Conference theme — “O magnify the Lord with me and let us exalt His name together’’ — matched the prayerful, jubilant celebration of the masses, and it certainly was not lost on Charismatic Renewal liaison and conference coordinator Karen McLain.

“We were so grateful and excited to have this in-person conference!” McLain exclaimed, stating approximately 900 souls gathered in the Diocese that weekend. “God inhabited the praises of His people and blessed us with His presence in challenging messages from our speakers.”

“All left encouraged to take the message home to their parishes,” she added.

Fellow conference organizer, Brian Hughes, was equally elated.

“It was great seeing so many faces, new as well as familiar ones after being apart for three years,” he said. “It was a great spiritual reunion, and I’m looking forward for a bigger reunion next year.”

The gathering was nothing less than “amazing” for Cindy Cox, who proclaimed this year’s much-anticipated conference was truly “a blessing to so many people!”

Longtime Catholic Charismatic Renewal participant Cathy Best continued to be filled with a sense of joy and love throughout the weekend.

“Volunteer workers and people I didn’t know, who traveled here from out of state, greeted me with happy smiles,” Best commented, adding how the Holy Spirit touched each and every person in attendance. “I had walked in tired but the lively music ministry soon got me off my feet, giving me energy to praise.”

She concluded, “The (conference) teachings opened my mind to know Jesus and how He responds to our prayers and praise,” more than she ever realized before.

The weekend’s many inspiring speakers and uplifting music came to an all-encompassing celebratory conclusion at the conference closing Mass on Sunday, with Bishop Joseph C. Bambera as principal celebrant and homilist.

Bishop Bambera opened his homily by referring to his recent visit to Rome for the Vatican’s International Catholic-Pentecostal Dialogue.

“What struck me more than anything else during my first experience leading the Dialogue was that while the differences between the Catholic Church and the Pentecostal movement are not insignificant in terms of our theological and ecclesiological understandings, our belief in the Eucharist and the sacramental life, and our style of worship, at the heart of our faith is a shared appreciation for and openness to the Spirit of God,” the bishop noted.

He added further, “It’s also fair to say…that Catholics and Pentecostals share a deep appreciation for the Charismatic Renewal that has touched our lives so deeply and that we celebrate this weekend.”

One attendee from New York City commented at the end of the conference, “Let us continue to spread the message we heard at Scranton. Victory is our praise! God inhabits the praises of His people, so let us go forth into this day with a praise on our lips and a song in our heart…making joyful melodies unto the Lord.”

Pennsylvania March for Life 2021 in Harrisburg (Photo/Eric Deabill)

HARRISBURG – The second annual Pennsylvania March for Life will take place on Monday, Sept. 19, 2022, at the State Capitol in Harrisburg.

The rally at 11 a.m. and march at noon will take place on that date because it is the first day when both the Pennsylvania House and Senate will be back in session in Harrisburg.

After we have seen a wave of exciting pro-life legislation across the states, now is a great time to continue the momentum and show our state lawmakers support for protecting the sanctity of life in Pennsylvania.

The rally will take place on the front steps of the State Capitol Building. The address is 501 N. 3rd Street, Harrisburg, PA 17120. The front steps are on the corner of 3rd Street and State Street.

The march route will encircle the Capitol Complex, covering N. 3rd Street, North St., Commonwealth Avenue and Walnut Street. The length of the march route is approximately one mile.

All are welcome to attend and no advanced registration is required.

Besides the rally and march, other events will be taking place on the same day. There will be Morning Mass at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, 212 State Street, Harrisburg at 9:30 a.m. At 10 a.m., there will be prayer and a praise pre-rally on the main stage.

Thousands of people are planning to attend the second annual Pennsylvania March for Life. Several organizations locally are organizing bus trips to help people attend the event.

The Diocese of Scranton is sponsoring a bus trip that will depart from Scranton and will make a pick-up in Wilkes-Barre. Seating is limited and preference will be given to college students, young adults and young families. For more information, contact Shannon at SKowalski@dioceseofscranton.org or (570) 207-2213, x1155.

The Pennsylvanians for Human Life in Hazleton will have a bus heading to the rally and march. They will begin with 8 a.m. Mass at Saint John Bosco Church in Conyngham. The cost of the bus is $15 which includes a beverage and snacks. To reserve a seat, contact Maryann Lawhon at (570) 788-5646.

Gate of Heaven Parish in Dallas is also planning a bus trip which will leave the church’s upper parking lot at 8:30 a.m. Organizers plan to pray the rosary on the trip to Harrisburg. The bus is limited to the first 50 people but if another 50 people express interest, and there is enough to fill it, they will have a second bus attend. To sign up, call Gate of Heaven Parish at (570) 675-2121.

A bus will also depart from Saint Maximilian Kolbe Parish, Pocono Pines, on Sept. 19. Anyone that is interested in attending can contact Stephen Gilnane at sglinane2013@yahoo.com or (570) 977-4617.

SCRANTON – Evangelization is all about spreading good news. As people of faith, when we evangelize, we share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with others so that they may respond to His invitation as well.

Unfortunately, research has shown that on average, 95-percent of parishioners haven’t completely welcomed Christ into every aspect of their life.

As a way to help parish leaders find ways to help others give their “Yes” to God, the Diocese of Scranton Office for Parish Life sponsored a ‘relit’ training course July 29-30 at the Diocesan Pastoral Center. Several dozen people attended the program.

“What I really want them to see is what a beautiful thing it is to evangelize and then give them the basic tools to be able to do it,” presenter Michael Dopp said. Dopp is the founder of Mission of the Redeemer Ministries and the New Evangelization Summit.

During the interactive course, Dopp said simple gestures can make a big difference for a parish.

“It starts with the way that we think about our faith. Our faith isn’t just for us. Our faith is meant to be passed onto others,” he explained.

He urged those attending to speak about what God has done in their life, about who He is and His plan for each of us.

“The crucial thing for a parish is to understand what it exists to do. A parish is there to evangelize and therefore every ministry within the parish is there to serve that mission,” Dopp added.

Father Mark J. DeCelles, Assistant Pastor of Our Lady of Fatima and Saint Nicholas Parishes in Wilkes-Barre, attended the ‘relit’ training.

“It’s about relighting that fire, that enthusiasm, to help us remember what we have to offer is Good News, what we have to offer is an invitation to what will truly satisfy us,” he said.

He appreciated the ‘relit’ program because it allowed him to take the good work his parish is already doing and discover ways to be even more effective.

“We all have gifts. We all have things that we can share,” Father DeCelles added.

Carla Preate, Pastoral Council President at the Cathedral of Saint Peter in Scranton, also participated in the ‘relit’ program.

“You have friends and family that have fallen away from the church and you try to get them to come back but it doesn’t seem like you’re doing the right thing or you’re getting through to them,” she said.

Preate said she looks forward to taking what she learned back to her parish community.

“I would like to expand this course out to others in the parish, get more people involved in the process of this new evangelization to bring former Catholics back to church,” she added.

Programming and events coordinated through the Office for Parish Life are made possible, in part, due to gifts and donations made to the Diocesan Annual Appeal.

The Most Reverend Joseph C. Bambera, Bishop of Scranton, delivers the homily for the Solemn Closing Mass of the Novena on the Feast Day of Saint Ann, July 26, 2022. (Photos/Mike Melisky)

SCRANTON – Thousands of people made their way to the Basilica of the National Shrine of Saint Ann in West Scranton in late June for an annual pilgrimage that has been ongoing for 98 years.

The Solemn Novena in honor of Saint Ann, the mother of the Blessed Virgin Mary, began on Sunday, July 17, and culminated with the celebration of the Feast of Saint Ann on Tuesday, July 26.

“It is such a holy place. As soon as you walk on the grounds, you can feel it. It is inspiring and a time when you can reflect on your faith,” Novena volunteer Debbie Coval said.

Coval and other volunteers were happy to see so many worshippers turn out for this year’s event.

“With all of the bad stuff going on, it’s good to see a lot of people practicing their faith,” volunteer Noah Palauskas added. “Everybody is extremely friendly here. You can come and make new friends without even trying.”

The guest preacher for this year’s Novena was Passionist Father Paul Fagan.

“Each day is more energizing,” Father Fagan said. Father Fagan preached about Saint Joseph, the son-in-law of Saint Ann, this year.

“We started with looking at Saint Joseph generally and for the rest of the Novena, we took a title of Saint Joseph each day and reflected on that,” he explained.

Carol Ann McNulty of Laflin has been coming to the annual Novena for more than 25 years. She says Saint Ann has blessed her with health, happiness, holiness and prosperity.

“When I have asked Saint Ann to intercede for my family, if it were health problems or whatever it may be, she has come through for us,” McNulty explained. “My brother who had cancer, we brought him here for the very first time when he was going through treatments. When he came, he was amazed at the size of the Saint Ann statue and he said he felt different after he left, it was like a special blessing he received.”

This year, the tradition of blessing the faithful with a relic of Saint Ann has returned after a two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“They tell you, ‘Be careful what you pray for because you may get it but not in the way you think you’re going to get it,’” Marion Kruska of West Wyoming said. “I’ve had a lot of things happen in my lifetime and I got what I wanted but it was a long haul of comfort and suffering to guide me through it.”

Guy Pelosi has been attending the Novena for decades. His mother taught him to have a deep love and respect for Saint Ann.

“I was born and raised in West Scranton. I was a member of Saint Ann Monastery since birth. I was an altar boy, a choirboy, a boy scout, I was in the Vocation Club. I worked here years ago as a porter and also worked in the kitchen washing dishes. I literally grew up here. This is my life. Our community was based at Saint Ann’s,” he explained.

When asked to describe how the Novena itself has impacted his life, Pelosi responded simply, “It is beyond words!”

The Most Reverend Joseph C. Bambera, Bishop of Scranton, celebrated the Solemn Closing of the Novena on the Feast of Saint Ann.

During his homily, he discussed faith, family, gratitude.

“My sisters and brothers, open your ears and listen to the voice of God as he speaks to your heart and offers you a message of consolation and hope,” Bishop Bambera said. “Look within yourselves. See God walking with you even and particularly amid all of the hurts, the wounds, the brokenness, the guilt, the grief and pain that are yours.”

He continued, “See in the Eucharist – the Body and Blood of Jesus – God’s love poured forth for you, for me, as we are, wth the gifts of life, salvation and peace.”

As the Solemn Closing Mass of the Novena came to an end, Father Richard Burke, C.P., Rector of St. Ann’s, thanked all those who made the 55 Masses and Novena services possible, including Bishop Bambera, who celebrated the final Mass.

“Your Excellency, Bishop Bambera, we are so pleased that you are here with us tonight to bring to a conclusion this week of marvelous prayer, marvelous hope and marvelous inspiration that we’ve had from the virtues of Saint Joseph throughout these nine days,” Father Burke said.

MOUNTAIN TOP — Most Rev. Joseph C. Bambera, Bishop of Scranton, served as principal celebrant of a concelebrated Pontifical Mass of Christian Burial for Father Stephen A. Krawontka on July 26 at Saint Jude Church in Mountain Top.

A native of Poland who was serving as pastor of the parish communities of Ascension in Forest City and Saint Katharine Drexel in Pleasant Mount, Father Krawontka died July 19 at Wayne Memorial Hospital, Honesdale.

Born in Lapsze Nizne, Poland, on March 27, 1950, son of the late Jan and Julia Nowobilska Krawontka, Father Krawontka received his early education at local public schools and graduated from Zakopane High School in southern Poland.

He attended the Papal Faculty of Theology in Krakow, Poland, where he completed his theological studies and priestly preparation, and was ordained to the priesthood for the Archdiocese of Krakow on May 22, 1977, by Cardinal Karol Wojtyla, the future Pope Saint John Paul II.

Following 13 years of ministering as a priest in his native country, Father Krawontka came to the Diocese of Scranton in July 1990 and was appointed assistant pastor of Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish in Dickson City.

With the consent of the Krakow Archdiocese, Father Krawontka was incardinated in the Scranton Diocese on Nov. 23, 1993, and was eventually appointed in July 1997 as assistant pastor of Saint Joseph Parish, Hazleton, where he served for 11 years.

In July 2008, he was assigned as administrator of the churches of Saint Mary, Our Lady of Perpetual Help, and Ascension of the Lord, both in Mocanaqua, and Saint Martha Church, Fairmount Springs. Two years later, he was appointed assistant pastor at Saint Patrick Parish, West Scranton, where he would also serve as administrator pro tem and Senior Priest.

Father Krawontka received his next assignment in November 2017 to serve as Senior Priest at the parishes of Our Lady Help of Christians, Dorrance, and Saint Jude, Mountain Top. In 2019, Father was appointed as pastor of Ascension Parish, Forest City, and Saint Katharine Drexel Parish, Pleasant Mount, where he remained until his death.

“Did you know that Father Stephen skied with Pope Saint Paul II?” was the intriguing opening line of Father Joseph Evanko’s homily for the funeral Mass of his friend, Father Stephen Krawontka, referring to the Polish priest’s close relationship with the future Pope and Saint who ordained him to the priesthood 45 years ago.

“If I did not start this homily with acknowledging Father Stephen’s connection to Pope Saint John Paul, he would not be happy,” Father Evanko continued, as he recalled Father Krawontka’s treasured photo of then-Cardinal Karol Wojtyla of Krakow laying his hands on the young priest during his ordination.

“Father Stephen had a strong sense of memory and identity when it came to being the shepherd…For him, being the shepherd, as a priest is called to be, very much comes from remembering the culture of our ethnic backgrounds and identifying with whom our parents taught us to be,” Father Evanko noted. “His Catholic Polish heritage trained him with the religious dimension of respect and veneration of not just his parents but all people of faith.”

The homilist remembered that at the time of his parent’s death, Father Krawontka “was a shepherd to my family by reminding us how our faith and tradition provide hope for us.”

Referring to the funeral reading of Saint Paul’s Letter to the Romans, Father Evanko remarked, “Father Stephen believed that we are all brothers and sisters in Christ and when we respect each other and venerate God, as the Commandments demand, we are never separated from the love of Christ.”

Father Evanko proceeded to quote parish Deacon Jim Atherton, who said of the late priest upon his recent passing, “Imagine Father Stephen was ordained by a future Pope and Saint, then came to serve the Diocese of Scranton and went home to God serving the people of Forest City. He lived out the Gospel trying the best he could with the talents that God gave him.”

“In the end, Father Stephen battled cancer…but continued to serve as a shepherd modeled in the memory and identity developed through family, faith and ordination,” the homilist remarked, concluding further, “Pope Saint John Paul II stated, ‘Freedom is not only a gift but a task to be used for the common good.’ Father Stephen you have used your gift well and your task is complete. May you enjoy the slopes of eternal life!”

Surviving are two sisters, Teresa Klapacz and husband, Peter; and Maria Olszowska and husband, Wlodek; a brother, Emil Krawontka and wife, Marta; and numerous nieces and nephews.

Interment was conducted at Calvary Cemetery in Drums, Luzerne County.