Bishop Joseph C. Bambera prays the Act of Consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary on Friday, March 25, 2022, at the Cathedral of Saint Peter in Scranton. (Photo/Eric Deabill)

SCRANTON – The faithful of the Diocese of Scranton joined people around the world in prayer on March 25, placing the people of Russia and Ukraine under the special protection of Mary, the Mother of God, in an act of consecration.

The Most Reverend Joseph C. Bambera, Bishop of Scranton, celebrated the 12:10 p.m. Mass at the Cathedral of Saint Peter in Scranton, which included the Consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Nearly 200 people participated in-person with others taking part by livestream.

“While Saint John Paul II consecrated Russia to Our Blessed Mother in 1984, today’s act renews our trust in God and Mary’s intercession to protect the people of Russia and Ukraine in this time of great hardship and suffering,” Bishop Bambera said during his homily. “It is also a radical call to conversion for all peoples, including me and you, a call that ultimately sets the stage for true and lasting peace in our hearts, our families and our world.”

It has now been more than one month since Russian forces invaded neighboring Ukraine. Thousands of people have been killed and more than three million people have been forced to flee their homes.

“Not one of us in our cathedral has not been heartbroken by the suffering and death of countless numbers of innocent lives, inflicted because of greed, a lust for power and a disregard for the gift of human life,” the bishop added. “We Christians ought never forget that we do indeed have a way to respond to this tragic moment. We have the power of God, won for us through the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus and given to us through the gift of faith.”

Before kneeling at the feet of a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Cathedral sanctuary and reciting the Act of Consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Bishop Bambera urged all people to open their hearts in faith to the abiding presence of God in their lives and pray for an end to war.

“It was very special and meaningful and we were really honored to come up here today,” Faith Sekol, a senior at Holy Redeemer High School said. “It really gives us a sense of unity which I think we need at this time, especially in solidarity with Ukraine.”

The faithful pray the Act of Consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary on Friday, March 25, 2022, at the Cathedral of Saint Peter in Scranton.

Several students involved in the Pro-Life Club at the Wilkes-Barre Catholic School left class, making a special trip to the Cathedral to attend the Mass.

“An important part of the pro-life club is respecting all life, regardless of whether it’s an unborn baby or the elderly. I think it was really important to come together and come up with a solution to this war,” Holy Redeemer senior Kathryn McIngvale added. “It’s something that needs to be talked about.”

The students at Holy Redeemer have been keeping the people in Ukraine close to their hearts in prayer in recent weeks. They’ve also raised money for relief efforts with dress down days and most recently wrote messages and prayers which were presented to the local Ukrainian Catholic Church in Wilkes-Barre.

“Take five minutes, say a prayer in the morning or at lunch. Think about it and God will answer those prayers,” McIngvale said.