An elderly woman reacts as she meets Pope Francis during his general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican in this March 22, 2017, file photo. The pope has chosen the theme “I am with you always,” for the first World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly, to be celebrated July 25. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Writing to his peers, Catholics who have reached a venerable age like he has, Pope Francis told older Catholics that God is close to them and still has plans for their lives.

“I was called to become the bishop of Rome when I had reached, so to speak, retirement age, and thought I would not be doing anything new,” said the pope, who is 84 now and was elected when he was 76.

“The Lord is always – always – close to us. He is close to us with new possibilities, new ideas, new consolations, but always close to us. You know that the Lord is eternal; he never, ever goes into retirement,” the pope wrote in his message for the Catholic Church’s first celebration of the World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly.

The message was released at the Vatican June 22 in anticipation of the celebration July 25, the Sunday closest to the feast of Sts. Joachim and Anne, Jesus’ grandparents.

The Vatican also announced that people who attend a Mass or other celebration for the day, “devote adequate time to actually or virtually visiting their elderly brothers and sisters in need or in difficulty” or join in prayers for the elderly July 25 can receive a plenary indulgence as long as they fulfill the usual requirements of also going to confession, receiving the Eucharist and praying for the intentions of the pope.

The indulgence also is available to “the elderly sick and all those who, unable to leave their homes for a serious reason, will unite themselves spiritually to the sacred functions of the world day, offering to the merciful God their prayers, pains or sufferings of their lives,” the Vatican said.

Pope Francis’ message, which was distributed in writing and on video, acknowledged how much many older people around the world suffered and continue to suffer physically, emotionally and spiritually because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

But he also insisted that the Christian call to share the Gospel is as pertinent now for all of them as it ever was.

“Think about it: what is our vocation today, at our age? To preserve our roots, to pass on the faith to the young and to care for the little ones,” he wrote. “Never forget this.”

“It makes no difference how old you are, whether you still work or not, whether you are alone or have a family, whether you became a grandmother or grandfather at a young age or later, whether you are still independent or need assistance,” he said. “There is no retirement age from the work of proclaiming the Gospel and handing down traditions to your grandchildren. You just need to set out and undertake something new.”

Pope Francis said he knew many older people might wonder how they could be called to something new when their “energy is running out” or they cannot even leave the residence where they live. They may even ask, “Isn’t my solitude already a sufficiently heavy burden?”

“You are needed in order to help build, in fraternity and social friendship, the world of tomorrow: the world in which we, together with our children and grandchildren, will live once the storm has subsided,” the pope insisted.

A better future, he said, must be built on the pillars of “dreams, memory and prayer,” pillars that “even the frailest among us” can help erect with God’s help.

While it is true that the energy and enthusiasm of the young is needed to help set the global society on a new path, “our dreams of justice, of peace, of solidarity can make it possible for our young people to have new visions,” the pope wrote. “You need to show that it is possible to emerge renewed from an experience of hardship. I am sure that you have had more than one such experience: in your life you have faced any number of troubles and yet were able to pull through. Use those experiences to learn how to pull through now.”

While many people, young and old, act as if the reminiscences of the elderly are boring, Pope Francis said that “without memory, however, we will never be able to build; without a foundation, we can never build a house. Never. And the foundation of life is memory.”

As examples, the pope cited the experience many older people have had of war or of needing to emigrate.

Sharing “the painful memory of war,” he said, is important “for helping the young to learn the value of peace.”

“I also think of my own grandparents, and those among you who had to emigrate and know how hard it is to leave everything behind, as so many people continue to do today, in hope of a future,” he said. “Some of those people may even now be at our side, caring for us. These kinds of memory can help to build a more humane and welcoming world.”

Turning to the importance of prayer, Pope Francis cited “my predecessor, Pope Benedict, himself a saintly elderly person who continues to pray and work for the church” at the age of 94.

“The prayer of the elderly can protect the world, helping it perhaps more effectively than the frenetic activity of many others,” the pope quoted his predecessor as saying. “He spoke those words in 2012, toward the end of his pontificate. There is something beautiful here.”

“Your prayer is a very precious resource: a deep breath that the church and the world urgently need,” Pope Francis told the elderly. “Especially in these difficult times for our human family, as we continue to sail in the same boat across the stormy sea of the pandemic, your intercession for the world and for the church has great value: it inspires in everyone the serene trust that we will soon come to shore.”

The text of the pope’s message in English is at: https://www.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/messages/nonni/documents/20210531-messaggio-nonni-anziani.html

The text of the message in Spanish: https://www.vatican.va/content/francesco/es/messages/nonni/documents/20210531-messaggio-nonni-anziani.html

 

 

The Sisters of Saints Cyril and Methodius will have a special Memorial Mass on Saturday, July 10, 2021 at 2:00 in the Basilica of Saints Cyril and Methodius in Danville, PA for our 10 SSCM Sisters who died during the Covid-19 pandemic.  All family and friends of the Sisters are invited to attend the Mass. Bishop William Waltersheid, from the Diocese of Pittsburgh, will be the principal celebrant. There will be light refreshments after Mass. If you plan to attend in person, please call 570-275-3581 x 101. If you cannot attend in person, we will livestream the Mass and will have the link posted on our website:  http://www.sscm.org for that event.

The Sisters, whose lives we will celebrate are: Sr. Margaret Mary Fest, Sr. Cynthia Marie Gazdo, Sr. Noel Stasko, Sr. Zoe Zollar, Sr. Gilbert Dluhy, Sr. Virginia Zapotocky, Sr. Rosanne Kmetz, Sr. Cyrilline Biel, Sr. John Vianney Vranek and Sister Mary Paul Kurator.

May they rest in peace.

 

June 18, 2021

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) concluded its Spring General Assembly on Friday, June 18, 2021.

During the three-day virtual meeting, there was an emphasis on the Eucharist in several areas.

First, the USCCB Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis detailed plans for a three-year National Eucharistic Revival, which would aim to share the love of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist with the world.

This revival has the opportunity to have a tremendous impact – as it would be designed to affect every level of the church, from the home and parish to the national stage.

In addition, the full body of bishops voted to task the Committee on Doctrine to move forward with the drafting of a formal statement on the meaning of the Eucharist in the life of the Church.

Significant attention has been on this document and the possibility of whether public officials who support abortion will be prevented from receiving Holy Communion.

As discussed in the USCCB meeting, the document, which has yet to be written in draft form, would be much broader, focusing on the real presence of the body and blood of Christ in Communion and the beauty of the Eucharist. Of particular note, Bishop Kevin Rhodes, Chairman of the Doctrine Committee, indicated that the draft would not include a national policy regarding limiting access to Holy Communion for certain individuals. The document would consist of three parts:

  • “The Eucharist, A Mystery to be Believed”
  • “The Eucharist, A Mystery to be Celebrated”
  • “The Eucharist, A Mystery to be Lived”

During the virtual meeting, Bishop Joseph C. Bambera addressed his brother bishops saying in light of the USCCB’s current strategic plan, it would be opportune for the conference to consider the development of a document on the Eucharist – but highlighting several concerns regarding process.

The bishop noted significant concerns regarding how the development of the proposed document would adhere to the parameters established by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, outlined in a May 7, 2021, letter sent from Cardinal Luis Ladaria, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Bishop Bambera stressed the need to follow the guidance of the Cardinal prior to the creation of a draft document. As the Bishop expressed in his remarks, that guidance would include the need for two-stage dialogue (dialogue among the bishops themselves and dialogue between the bishops and politicians within their own jurisdiction), the assurance that the document would not target only one category of Catholics and the need to consult with other episcopal conferences.

 

SCRANTON – Years ago, Deacon Mark DeCelles’ grandfather made a solemn pronouncement.

“He told me, ‘you will become a priest,’” DeCelles recalled.

On Saturday, June 26, that prediction will become a reality as Reverend Mr. Mark Joshua DeCelles, 39, will be ordained to the Order of the Priesthood for service in the Diocese of Scranton.

The Most Reverend Joseph C. Bambera, Bishop of Scranton, will serve as ordaining prelate for the Mass which will be celebrated at 10:00 a.m. in the Cathedral of Saint Peter.

The public is invited to attend the Ordination Mass. CTV: Catholic Television of the Diocese of Scranton will broadcast the Mass live and provide livestreaming on the Diocese of Scranton’s website and social media platforms.

DeCelles, a native son of the Diocese, was ordained a transitional deacon last year. He is now ready to take his final steps toward priestly ordination.

“I’m very excited,” the Dunmore native said. “I didn’t picture myself here and now it is happening and it’s thrilling what God is doing in my life and what God is doing in the life of the Church at this moment.”

At DeCelles’ ordination to the diaconate last year, only 12 people attended due to COVID-19 precautions. This year, with many pandemic restrictions lifted, the ordination is open to family and friends and anyone from the Diocese who would like to attend.

“It’s very, very exciting to invite friends and family,” DeCelles explained. “It’s going to be a beautiful celebration. I can’t wait to see family and friends and I can’t wait to just celebrate what God is doing here in the Church of Scranton.”

FAMILY ROOTED IN FAITH

DeCelles freely admits that he never really saw himself becoming a priest.

“I always saw myself becoming a professor of theology, just like my dad. I wanted to follow right in his footsteps,” he said.

Faith was incredibly important and formative in DeCelles’ upbringing however.

“I was very fortunate to have two very faithful parents. My mom has been a nurse all her life so she spends a life of service and helping people in need. She always had a profound devotion to the Blessed Mother. She would always pray the rosary with us,” DeCelles explained. “My dad was a professor of religious studies at Marywood University for 43 years.”

DeCelles said his father helped him see and understand that his faith was credible – moreover – it was a thoughtful and deliberate way of being.

“The thoughtfulness and the intellectual precision of my father helped me to see that faith and reason went together, that there was no conflict between faith and reason, between science and religion, between philosophy and theology,” he said.

The influence of his father certainly rubbed off on Mark. Teaching has set the agenda for much of his adult life.

“I see teaching as a very important part of what I do,” he said. “Teaching is my comfort zone. I love it. I love to preach. I owe so much of that to my parents and particularly my dad.”

Even after DeCelles’ grandfather made that bold prediction one random day that Mark would become a priest, DeCelles wasn’t completely sold.

“My dad said, you want to consider your own talents, your own gifts and also the needs of the Church and that criteria never left me and I was certainly thinking about that after I finished my PhD,” DeCelles said. “I was just thinking, maybe I have some unfinished business with this question – because I see the needs in the Church and I see that I have something to offer and I wonder what would happen if I actually took this question seriously in a way that I didn’t when I was in high school or college.”

 

AN “INCURABLE ACADEMIC”

Deacon DeCelles completed his preparatory studies for the priesthood at Saint Mary’s Seminary and University in Baltimore, Md.

“There were just so many powerful and beautiful experiences in seminary,” he reflected.

From his very first day visiting, DeCelles said the staff, faculty and other seminarians surrounded him with hospitality.

“I’ve never had quite that experience of hospitality,” he admitted. “I remember thinking; these guys have something that I want.”

Describing himself as an “incurable academic,” DeCelles said he met Father Jonathan Kuhar, who was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Scranton last year, while taking his first tour of the seminary. Father Kuhar actually lent him a flash drive so that DeCelles could scan items from the seminary library.

“Everywhere I went, people wanted to hear my story and answer any question that I had,” the future priest said.

DeCelles also reflected on another experience during his first year in the seminary during an interview with The Catholic Light. He said he was assigned to hospital ministry at Mercy Hospital and spent five hours a week there for 20 weeks.

“I was a graduate student, I have a PhD in theology but I didn’t do ministry in that way until that point,” DeCelles reflected. “Going there – visiting patients, just talking to people, just listening to people and watching what was happening, watching what God was doing in those moments – made me realize that

there was something there that God had given me some gifts for pastoral ministry. The joy was really what caught me, the joy in being with people, just being present, not only with people who were suffering a lot and to be a comforting presence there but also with people who inexplicably were filled with the joy of the Lord.”

As all servant leaders often find, they receive much more than they ever give while helping others.

“What an incredible privilege to be there, to be on the front lines, to be where the action is, where God is working in the lives of people,” DeCelles noted.

DeCelles would be the first to admit his experience in hospital ministry took him out of his comfort zone – but he said it was all worth it.

“One of the things that I’m learning about ministry…is being outside of the comfort zone is where God wants to surprise me, that’s where God wants to surprise us – that is where He is present,” DeCelles said.

 

PANDEMIC INTERUPTS PASTORAL YEAR

The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted many lives and activities – and the pastoral year of Mark DeCelles at Saint Matthew Parish in East Stroudsburg was one of those things.

“I was involved in the RCIA program, I had the opportunity to do a reflection series for Advent and a reflection series for Lent that got cut short by the pandemic,” he explained.

By the time DeCelles was able to return to the Pocono parish in June 2020, he had already been ordained a deacon.

“I got exposed to people’s questions and the concerns of the faithful and that was stimulating. It helped me to see where I could put the academics to use in a way that could actually help people and actually change people’s lives,” he said.

While ministering to the faithful in East Stroudsburg, even in the midst of a pandemic, DeCelles said he saw a “hunger of people for the Eucharist,” especially at a time when the pandemic made it challenging for people to attend Mass in person.

“When you see the Ordination Mass, I had the opportunity to pick out the readings. The Gospel is going to be that scene from John’s Gospel where Jesus says to Peter, ‘Peter, do you love me more than these?’ Peter says, ‘Yes Lord’ and Jesus says ‘feed my lambs,’” DeCelles said.

“I guess deaconing during the pandemic was my ‘lambs’ experience,’” he explained.

 

THANKING THE COMMUNITY

Prior to the Ordination Mass, the young church of the Diocese of Scranton is excited to pray with – and for Mark – at an Ordination Prayer Vigil on Friday, June 25, at 6:30 p.m. at Saint Matthew Parish. The public is cordially invited to attend.

DeCelles is thankful to all those who have prayed for him and supported the Diocese of Scranton’s seminarians with financial support.

“Thank you seems a little bit too easy and obvious but it has to be said,” DeCelles said.

Besides his mentors in the seminary and Diocese, DeCelles wanted to specifically thank the parish communities who have helped in his formation.

“To the people who have welcomed me into their lives over the course of my formation, in the parishes, certainly Immaculate Conception Parish, my home parish in Scranton where I received the faith, but also Blessed Sacrament Parish and Holy Cross Parish in Throop and Olyphant and Saint Matthew Parish – you have no idea how much it meant to be welcomed into those communities in the way that I was and to be welcomed into people’s lives,” he said. “That is an incredible privilege, to have the opportunity to be a minister, to learn to minister alongside you.”

Following the Ordination Mass for Reverend Mr. Mark DeCelles on Saturday, June 26, he plans to hold a Mass of Thanksgiving at Immaculate Conception Parish in Scranton on Sunday, June 27.

“That promises to be a very joyous occasion,” DeCelles remarked.

The Catholic Light will provide complete coverage of the Ordination Mass in its July 15, 2021 edition.

 

Bishop McCormick places a golden scroll in a repository to commemorate the generosity of donors to “Project: Expansion,” whose gifts made possible the erection of Villa Saint Joseph, Residence for Retired Priests, as Father Siconolfi looks on.

Golden Jubilee for residence of Diocesan priests in their golden years
Villa Saint Joseph opened its doors 50 years ago as retirement home for clergy

DUNMORE – An anonymous writer at the time penned that it was a “combination of Seville Baroque and California Mission.  It doesn’t exactly belong where you see it stand. It might look better in a low valley in California or on a high hill in Spain. Yet, it is far from out of place in its present location.”

The writer was referring to one of the jewels of this local Church — Villa Saint Joseph — the residential abode for retired priests, who, it was written “prefer to live among the people” they have served “in full tide of human existence.”

Bishop Joseph C. Bambera will serve as principal celebrant of a concelebrated Golden Jubilee Mass of Thanksgiving on Tuesday, June 22, at 4 p.m. in the chapel of Villa Saint Joseph, commemorating — to the day — the 50th anniversary of the opening of the home for retired priests in the Diocese of Scranton, located in the idyllic Green Ridge section of Dunmore Borough.

A rare and enviable amenity to this day — one which most (arch)dioceses around the country would treasure — “The Villa” was seen as even more of a unique idea when it first opened its doors in late June 1971 to welcome those Scranton Diocesan priests at the time who had labored in the Vineyard of the Lord for so many years.

The concept for such a residence was the brainchild of Bishop Bambera’s predecessor, Most Reverend J. Carroll McCormick, sixth bishop of Scranton, who envisioned a comfortable place of rest and retirement for his older confreres. Not surprisingly, Villa Saint Joseph would become an integral goal and accomplishment of the Bishop’s history-making “Project: Expansion” campaign — a monumental diocesan-wide fundraising campaign launched in the late 1960s that provided the funds for the establishment of an independent living facility for retired clergy.

In announcing the ambitious plans for the historic project in the final weeks of 1968, Bishop McCormick indicated the Diocese gained acquisition of the Saint Gabriel’s Retreat House, on the corner of Monroe Avenue and Green Ridge Street, from the Passionist community of religious sisters as the site for the future home for retired priests. After acquiring full control of the property the following summer, the Passionist nuns would relocate to their new retreat center in Clarks Summit.

Bishop McCormick hosted the Passionist Sisters in a pre-dedication tour of Villa Saint Joseph just days prior to its opening 50 years ago. Shown above, the Bishop and Father Siconolfi unveil a portrait of Pope Paul VI, the Supreme Pontiff at the time, as Passionist Sister Helen Gallagher, local superior, looks on with members of the women religious community.

Fittingly, in conjunction with the Solemnity of Saint Joseph, Holy Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary and patron of the Universal Church, it was announced the priests’ retirement home would be named Villa Saint Joseph.

“These retired priests will continue to render valuable service to the Diocese by their Masses, prayers and sacrifices offered for our spiritual welfare,” Bishop McCormick said at the time.

Renovations and a repurposing of the convent of the cloistered Passionist Sisters, originally built on the site of the well-populated, residential area in 1926, had begun in earnest. The newly remodeled structure provided individual living quarters for more than 20 retired priests, with each resident’s suite consisting of a bedroom area, with an adjoining sitting room and bathroom facilities.

Special care was taken during the planning stages to provide each priest with the enjoyment of both privacy and the social and practical advantages the facility would offer.

The intimate chapel of worship affording an ideal setting for prayer and meditation would remain, as would the cloistered walks and serene garden area.

An oval marble altar of sacrifice provided the centerpiece of the newly renovated Villa Saint Joseph Chapel, which also offers four smaller altars for private Mass celebration. Today, a bronze tabernacle situated below the imposing mosaic depicting the Risen Christ behind the main altar is the focal point of the welcoming “small church,” complete with individual chairs and kneelers.

The Villa Saint Joseph Chapel as it appears today, adorned with an imposing mosaic of the Risen Lord and the original stained glass windows, featuring old-world artistry, that were imported for the Passionist nuns’ retreat house in 1926.

Preserved and still adorning the chapel walls are the ornate, imported European-style stained glass windows, now illuminated by indirect sunlight and recessed fixtures in the arched ceiling.

Thus, it will be exactly 50 years ago, on June 22, 1971, when Bishop McCormick blessed and dedicated the new Villa Saint Joseph, which has since been home to dozens of retired priests of the Diocese, including two bishops.

Ten years later, the Scranton prelate presided over ground-breaking ceremonies heralding a new addition for the retired-priest facility that today is home to 23 residents and can accommodate up to 31.

Having performed the duties of rector of Villa Saint Joseph for the past ten-plus years, Monsignor David Bohr is considered the longest serving in the position.

“For fifty years Villa Saint Joseph, which was an early dream of Bishop McCormick, has provided a welcoming home for more than 100 priests,” Monsignor Bohr said. “Here their daily needs are met as they live out their remaining years and continue to help out local parishes and nursing homes, as long as they physically can.”

The rector commented that resident priests are expected “to get around by themselves,” since the Villa is a retirement home — not a nursing home. Monsignor Bohr was quick to praise the lay staff who tend to the cooking, housekeeping and administrative chores.

“A half dozen of our residents are in their nineties, having celebrated their sixtieth and seventieth anniversaries while here,” Monsignor noted. “The priests of the Diocese of Scranton are truly blessed; many dioceses across the country do not have such a place as Villa Saint Joseph.”

At 90 years of age, Monsignor William Ward has called the Villa home since his retirement from pastoral ministry 15 years ago. He is especially fond of the kinship and camaraderie the residence has to offer.

“What I like best is the friendship between the residents and how we help each other out when the need arises,” Monsignor Ward noted, adding that the “social hour” that takes place each afternoon in the spacious lounge area before mealtime is always a highlight of his day.

“I am happy that I chose to retire to Villa Saint Joseph,” he continued. “It has been a good experience and I am pleased to tell the story of the Villa. It is a wholesome place to live in retirement.” Monsignor also quipped, “And the rent is reasonable.”

Monsignor John Bendik was not only one of Monsignor Ward’s successors as pastor of Saint John the Evangelist Parish in Pittston, but he also followed him to Villa Saint Joseph.

“First of all, a sincere word of gratitude to our Diocese and our wonderful people who support the Diocesan Annual Appeal,” Monsignor Bendik commented. “For fifty years they have made it possible for us to have such a marvelous place in which to retire.”

Extolling the home-like atmosphere the residence has to offer, he indicated it did not take long before he would refer to “going home” to the Villa after being away from the place.

“It truly is beautiful,” the jovial Monsignor noted. “Our staff treat us like family. It is like living in a five-star hotel with gourmet meals provided every day.”

Having been ordained 54 years ago, Monsignor Bendik took up residence at the Villa in 2018. He is continually inspired by his fellow retirees, who range in age from 75 to 97.

“Many spend quiet hours of prayer in our beautiful chapel,” he remarked. “If there is someone in need of a ride to go to a doctor’s appointment or for medications, a fraternal response is quickly given.”

Monsignor continued, “We often speak lovingly about our former parishioners and have cherished memories of our pastoral ministry. We miss parish life, so it is a great joy to see the smiles on the faces of our priests when mail arrives and there is a card or letter from a former parishioner, especially around holidays, ordination anniversaries or birthdays.”

The retired pastor and chaplain concluded by noting how appropriate it is that the Villa is named after Saint Joseph, who provided a home for Jesus and Mary. “Now, our patron watches over us as we grow ‘in wisdom and age and grace before God,’” he said, referring to the Gospel of Saint Luke.

Monsignor Vince Grimalia deemed it a privilege to have served as rector of the Villa Saint Joseph community during the mid-1990s.

“It was a period of my life that truly helped me grow in my own vocation, as I interacted with priests who had such diversity of experience,” Monsignor Grimalia noted. “During my time at the Villa, they generously shared their gifts of joy and faith.”

He referred to residing at Saint Joseph’s as another type of ministry and an opportunity to grow in friendship and practice the works of mercy.

“The Villa truly houses a priestly fraternity, a place where the history of the Diocese is still alive and continues to be told by the inspiring lives of the men who served so well,” Monsignor said. “This home is a wonderful gift for all concerned.”

 

Sharonell Fulton, a foster parent in Philadelphia, is pictured with a young woman and children in a May 23, 2018, photo. In a unanimous decision June 17, 2021, the Supreme Court said that a Catholic social service agency should not have been excluded from Philadelphia’s foster care program because it did not accept same-sex couples as foster parents. (CNS photo/courtesy Becket Religious Liberty for All)

 

PHILADELPHIA (CNS) – As a consequence of the U.S. Supreme Court’s unanimous ruling June 17 in Fulton v. Philadelphia, faith-based and other agencies across the country may not be forced by a government agency to violate their deeply held beliefs against placing children in households led by same-sex or cohabitating adults.

In a decision seen as a victory for religious freedom in the United States, the court ruled the city of Philadelphia acted improperly and violated the church’s First Amendment rights when it ceased referring foster children to Catholic Social Services of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia three years ago because of the agency’s practice of not placing children in same-sex households.

Philadelphia Archbishop Nelson J. Pérez said the ruling was a victory for at-risk children and he noted the contributions of “foster parents who give of themselves freely.”

He also said the work of Catholic social ministry would continue beyond that of foster care as it has in the archdiocese through “pioneering programs” for more than 200 years.

“The Catholic Church in Philadelphia is steadfast in its commitment to continue serving the temporal and spiritual needs of all — now and for the long term,” Archbishop Pérez said. “We have partnered successfully with city government to serve the people of Philadelphia many times, and we look forward to continuing a fruitful partnership in the future.”

Because of the court’s ruling the archdiocese can continue serving those in need, and it protects “our enshrined right to religious freedom and celebrates the rich diversity of religious beliefs in the United States,” he said.

“Religious ministries,” he concluded, “cannot be forced to abandon their beliefs as the price for ministering to those in need. We can all live and work peacefully, side-by-side, to create a better and brighter future for all of our children.”

CSS traditionally had chosen not to refer at-risk foster children identified by the city of Philadelphia to same-sex households, and instead passed the referrals to another approved agency, which could place children in such homes.

The practice of deferring the city’s placements if the households were deemed contrary to Catholic teaching on marriage had been standard practice between CSS and Philadelphia’s Department of Human Services for decades.

But in 2018, that department, after calling on the public to open more homes to meet an acute need for loving homes for children, ceased all referrals to CSS, effectively shutting it out of foster care.

CSS and three women caregivers, supported by legal counsel the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, sued the city over that decision. They lost in a U.S. District Court ruling that year, as well as a federal appeals court ruling one year later.

The agency then appealed to the high court, resulting in the decision the morning of June 17.

Soon after the 9-0 ruling was announced, Archbishop Pérez in a conference call with media called the court’s decision “a profound one that rings loudly in Philadelphia and reverberates throughout the country.”

“It brings light and relief for children in need of loving homes and for the heroic foster parents who open their hearts and doors to care for them,” he said.

He added that the ruling is “a crystal clear affirmation of First Amendment rights for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and all charitable ministries in the United States who are inspired by their faith to serve the most vulnerable among us.”

One of the plaintiffs in the suit, CSS foster mother Toni Simms-Busch, said the Supreme Court justices understood that “foster parents like me share in the common, noble task of providing children with loving homes.”

She said there was a “foster care crisis” in Philadelphia and Catholic Social Services “is a cornerstone of that ministry.

“The Supreme Court’s decision ensures the most vulnerable children in the City of Brotherly Love have every opportunity to find loving homes,” Simms-Busch said.

“I am overjoyed that the Supreme Court recognized the important work of Catholic Social Services and has allowed me to continue fostering children most in need of a loving home,” said foster mom Sharonell Fulton, the named plaintiff.

“My faith is what drives me to care for foster children here in Philadelphia,” she said, “nd I thank God the Supreme Court believes that’s a good thing, worthy of protection.”

The work of CSS to place at-risk children in foster homes ceased three years ago, and will not resume immediately with the city because of a 90-day “cooling off” period following the Supreme Court’s ruling, according to James Amato, secretary for the Philadelphia Archdiocese’s Catholic Human Services.

At the time the city excluded CSS, it was serving on average 127 foster children a day in over 100 homes in Philadelphia. Now three years later, 12 foster children remain in the care of CSS care through a maintenance provision of the contract with the city.

A number of foster parents remain available to accept placements from CSS when referrals resume from the city, according to Amato.

Lori Windham, senior counsel at Becket who argued the case in Fulton, called it “a beautiful day when the highest court in the land protects foster moms and the 200-year-old religious ministry that supports them.”

“Taking care of children, especially children who have been neglected and abused, is a universal value that spans all ideological divides,” she said in a statement.

“Today, I am grateful that the Supreme Court protected heroes of the foster care system like Sharonell and Toni, who give of themselves daily to care for children in need,” she added.

In other reaction, Catholic Charities USA also welcomed the ruling to protect the Philadelphia Catholic agency’s “ability to serve people in need in a manner consistent with the church’s faith and values.”

“In their history, Catholic Charities agencies have enjoyed a cooperative partnership with government to work for the common good,” said a statement issued by the national network of Catholic Charities agencies. “Such cooperation has been predicated on valuing diverse perspectives and mutual respect. Hopefully, we will continue to work together to serve all people with dignity and respect.”

 

A Community of cloistered Discalced Carmelite Nuns, who pray for the Church and for the world, have announced intentions to build a new Carmelite Monastery within the territory of the Diocese of Scranton. A family in the Pleasant Mount area has donated 13 acres of their property to the nuns. These photographs show the future site of the new Carmel in Pleasant Mount.

PLEASANT MOUNT— After recently experiencing disruption to their prayerful life in Brooklyn, N.Y., a Community of cloistered Discalced Carmelite Nuns is announcing intentions to build a new Carmelite Monastery in Wayne County and relocate to the Diocese of Scranton.

The Discalced Carmelite Nuns recently launched fundraising efforts to pay for the new Monastery. It would be located on 13 acres of land in Pleasant Mount donated by a local family who was willing and eager to assist in the effort.

“They have already consecrated their property to our Blessed Mother, and we really felt that this was an indication of her guidance, since we are daughters of Our Lady, and clothed in her Holy Scapular,” the Nuns wrote in their fundraising brochure announcing their vision. “We went to visit the property…and found that it was beautiful, abounding in silence! It is an ideal site for a Contemplative Monastery.”

The Discalced Carmelite Nuns are a cloistered, contemplative community serving the Church and the world through prayer and self-sacrifice. They serve Christ and the world by interceding for the sanctification of priests and the salvation of souls.

The Most Reverend Joseph C. Bambera, Bishop of Scranton, has been in communication with members of the Religious Community and approved their relocation to the Diocese of Scranton.

“I enthusiastically welcome the announcement of the Discalced Carmelite Nuns who intend to build a Carmelite Monastery in the Pleasant Mount area. Their presence will be a gift to all of us in the Diocese of Scranton. While they have forsaken the world for the solitude of the Monastery, they are fully committed to offering their prayers for the world and its needs. Their prayers for us are so very important and I encourage all faithful in the Diocese of Scranton to pray for and support the Carmelite Nuns in their endeavor,” Bishop Bambera said.

The life of a Carmelite Nun is characterized by separation from the world, solitude and silence, manual labor, poverty, penance, detachment from all created things, love for her sisters, and true humility.

VISION FOR PLEASANT MOUNT

An architect is currently drawing plans for the Discalced Carmelite Nuns to build an authentic Spanish Carmel, like those in which Saint Teresa of Jesus and her daughters lived in, following the Carmelite architecture that has characterized so many Monasteries throughout the centuries in Catholic Spain.

The nuns have been given a rough estimate that building this particular kind of Monastery, and moving everything from Brooklyn to Pleasant Mount, will cost around $15 million.

However, the nuns say, due to the problems they are facing in their current community of drinking, drugs and satanic rituals just feet away from their home, it is important for them to leave Brooklyn as soon as possible.

Therefore, the Discalced Carmelite Nuns plan to begin by building one wing of the cloister, where the Nuns could reside and begin living their religious life, while the rest of the Monastery is being constructed. The initial phase is estimated to cost about $2 million.

“Within the simplicity and poverty of our Carmelite charism, we hope to eventually build a Chapel and cloister worthy of the majesty of God and which will be a place set apart as consecrated ground, but even to be able to move by the end of this year to an initial structure of the new Monastery would be a great blessing for our Community,” the nuns said.

 

FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE NEEDED

When they arrived in the Diocese of Brooklyn 16 years ago, the Discalced Carmelite Nuns were given a property that had a former Franciscan Monastery on it. There was an understanding that if they ever left, the property would return to the Diocese without any revenue given to the Community.

That is why the Community is now appealing to the faithful for financial assistance.

The Nuns say there could be “no better way to make an investment toward eternal life than helping to build a Monastery where God might be glorified … and where you will be perpetually remembered in the Masses, prayers and sacrifices.”

“Considering the generous gift of property which we have already received and with our plans for the future Carmel already in the making, will you help us take the next step of building a Monastery which will contribute so much to God’s glory, the greater good of the Church and the salvation of souls? We hope to hear a resounding yes! If the Holy Spirit touches your heart, and you think that Our Lord may be moving you to help us, we hope to hear from you! Our Community, with grateful hearts, offer perpetual prayers and Masses for our benefactors, living and deceased. Be assured that Our Lord is never outdone in generosity; He always repays us a hundred-fold for all that we give in this life to build His Kingdom,” the Discalced Carmelite Nuns wrote in their fundraising brochure.

 

 

 

The Most Reverend Joseph C. Bambera, Bishop of Scranton, will celebrate a Mass for priests who are observing their 60th, 50th and 25th years of ordination.

The Mass will be held at 12:10 p.m.  on Thursday, June 24, at the Cathedral of Saint Peter in Scranton.

The public is invited to attend the Mass. The Mass will also be broadcast live on CTV: Catholic Television of the Diocese of Scranton.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Priest Jubilarians from both 2020 and 2021 will be recognized.

 

 

The Annual Solemn Novena to Saint Ann will be held from July 17-26 at Saint Ann’s Basilica, which is located on Saint Ann Street in Scranton. The Most Reverend Joseph C. Bambera, Bishop of Scranton, will celebrate the Solemn Closing Mass of this year’s Novena on July 26, 2021, at 7:30 p.m. (Photos/Eric Deabill)

SCRANTON – As pandemic restrictions continue to loosen, organizers of the Solemn Novena to Saint Ann are remaining cautious – but stress they will be ready to host the 97th annual spiritual pilgrimage in a much more traditional fashion this year.

“We’re going to be pretty close to 90-percent back to normal,” Very Rev. Passionist Father Richard Burke, rector of the Saint Ann Passionist Monastery and director of the Basilica of the National Shrine of Saint Ann, told The Catholic Light earlier this month.

Every mid-July for nearly a century, faithful followers of the venerated Saint are drawn by the thousands to the Catholic Church’s only national shrine and basilica church dedicated to the mother of the Blessed Virgin Mary and grandmother of Jesus – located high atop the hill on Saint Ann Street in Scranton’s West Side.

Devotees of “Good Saint Ann” will once again pilgrimage to their favorite destination next month beginning on Saturday, July 17, and continuing each day until the devotion’s faith-filled conclusion on the Feast of Saint Ann on Monday, July 26.

While planning for this year’s Novena has been – and continues to be – fluid, Father Burke says the traditional slate of daily Masses and Devotions will occur this year.

“We will have five services through the day in the traditional format that we’ve had,” Father Burke said. “We are reinstating the 7:30 p.m. Mass and Novena. Last year, because of sanitizing efforts, we weren’t able to do both a 5:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Mass because they were too close together.”

One change that will remain this year is that the large tents in the upper parking lot will not be used again.

“Most people are still hesitant about being in big crowds. To have 200 people under one tent is going to be a little bit too challenging,” Father Burke explained. “We’ll still have drive-in parking. They can bring a lawn chair with them and get out of the car and sit.”

Last year, all of the Novena Masses and devotions were held indoors. This year, the 8:00 a.m. Mass and Devotions, along with the 5:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Masses and Devotions will be held outdoors once again.

“We have many benches under the portico and along the walkway and people can feel free to sit in all those places or bring a blanket and sit on the lawn if they want,” Father Burke added.

For services that will be held indoors, mainly at 11:45 a.m. and 3:30 p.m., there should be plenty of seating.

“The church is big enough that I encourage people to use common sense and not sit too close to one another. It’s big enough that you can have 600 or 700 people that are spaced out pretty well,” Father Burke said. “People are coming back in larger numbers on the weekends now and they’ve been spreading out and being careful.”

Confessions will be available before all Masses each day. The basilica is planning to have additional confessors this year and will offer the Sacrament for an hour before each Mass begins in the Lower Basilica.

“The Lower Basilica confessionals are large enough to have a decent distance between the penitent and the priest. The Upper Confessionals are a little boxy,” Father Burke admitted.

The Passionist superior is still working out some final details of how this year’s Solemn Novena will run – most notably how the blessing with the relic of Saint Ann will take place. He is hoping to return to individual blessings again this year, after only offering a general blessing last year, out of an abundance of caution. Further information will be forthcoming in the following weeks.

The Most Reverend Joseph C. Bambera, Bishop of Scranton, will celebrate the Solemn Closing of the Novena on the Feast Day of Saint Ann, July 26, at 7:30 p.m.

The Most Reverend Kurt Burnette, Bishop of the Byzantine Ruthenian Catholic Eparchy of Passaic, will also celebrate the Divine Liturgy on Tuesday, July 20, at 5:30 p.m. On that evening there will be no 7:30 p.m. Mass.

Sure to be appreciated by many, the traditional Saint Ann Novena food stand will be back open this year on Basilica grounds.

“The food stand will help especially with the kids,” Father Burke emphasized. “They enjoy being able to pray and then go down and get something to eat.”

Planning for the Solemn Novena requires a great deal of conversation, discussions and decisions.

“About two and a half, three months ago, we thought we were going to have to be limited the way we were last year. But then things developed over the last three months with vaccinations and the diminishment of the presence of the virus, illnesses and infections – to the point where we’re able to plan a little bit more vigorously for the traditional welcoming and traditional presence,” Father Burke said.

Father Burke recognizes that the Solemn Novena might be the first time some members of the faithful return to Mass since the pandemic started. As a result, he stresses this year’s pilgrimage is being planned with caution. For the last 15 months, he has personally stressed that anyone who is not comfortable returning to Mass can continue to pray at home.

For those who wish to participate remotely, livestreaming will occur on the Basilica of the National Shrine of Saint Ann’s website and broadcasts will be made available on CTV: Catholic Television of the Diocese of Scranton.

 

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