SCRANTON – As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread, Bishop Joseph C. Bambera believes the work being done by priests has been nothing less than heroic.

That is why the bishop set this past Monday, Sept. 14, as a Day of Prayer and Gratitude for Priests in the Diocese of Scranton. Bishop Bambera led all diocesan priests in Evening Prayer from the Cathedral of Saint Peter. While only a limited number of clergy were in attendance, the others watched on CTV: Catholic Television or via social media.

“Thank you for being creative and responsive to your people’s pastoral needs. Thank you for keeping your people safe when the doors of our Churches finally reopened,” Bishop Bambera said. “And thank you most especially for placing your own safety and well-being on the line in bringing the sacraments to those who were most in need of their grace.”

During his homily, the bishop explained that priests have confronted these unusual times with great determination, but also acknowledged the struggles and questions that many continue to face.

“The words of the 13th Psalm seem particularly relevant to this moment in our lives, ‘How long, Lord? Will you utterly forget me? How long will you hide your face from me?’” the bishop said. “Let me assure you that as desperate as this time may appear to be, it is miraculously in the acceptance of the many crosses that have made their way in our lives that God’s plan for our salvation begins to take shape and our deepest hopes are realized.”

The bishop reminded the priests that hope can always be found in placing our lives in the hands of God.

“May each of you find consolation and peace in the selfless service that you offer to so many,” Bishop Bambera said. “In the face of suffering, may you simply trust in the mercy and love of God. And may you come to believe with all your hearts that such trust and love bind you to Jesus, the only source of our hope and salvation.”

Monday’s Evening Prayer Service, held on the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, also featured the Renewal of Priestly Promises, in which priests renew their dedication to Christ and to the service of His people.

The Renewal of Priestly Promises typically takes place at the Chrism Mass during Holy Week. The bishop delayed that celebration, hoping that the current health crisis would subside so that everyone could come together but that didn’t happen.

Because of social distancing measures, the bishop didn’t want anyone to be excluded.

“As priests, we have the need to acknowledge in prayer the fraternity that we share as disciples of Jesus Christ. And our good people have a need to support and pray for you,” Bishop Bambera said.

During the Evening Prayer service, the bishop also acknowledged the presence of priests who are celebrating significant anniversaries this year. Completing 25 years of ministry are Fathers John Chmil, Vincent Dang and Glenn McCreary. Celebrating 50 years of service are Father Martin Gaiardo and the Most Reverend Joseph F. Martino, D.D., Hist. E.D., and commemorating 60 years of priestly ministry is Father William Culnane.