In Europe, Ukraine is second in geographic size to Russia. With a population of about 43 million, it is the seventh-most populous European country. (CNS graphic/Todd Habiger, The Leaven)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – As the threat of war loomed over the world, Pope Francis called on people to pray and fast for peace in Ukraine on Ash Wednesday.

Before concluding his general audience Feb. 23, the pope called on believers and nonbelievers to combat the “diabolical insistence, the diabolical senselessness of violence” with prayer and fasting.

“I invite everyone to make March 2, Ash Wednesday, a day of fasting for peace,” he said. “I encourage believers in a special way to devote themselves intensely to prayer and fasting on that day. May the Queen of Peace protect the world from the folly of war.”

In his appeal, the pope said he, like many around the world, felt “anguish and concern” after Russian President Vladimir Putin recognized the independence of the eastern Ukrainian regions of Donetsk and Luhansk.

The pope said that due to the “alarming” developments in the region, “once again, the peace of all is threatened by partisan interests.”

“I would like to appeal to those with political responsibilities to do a serious examination of conscience before God, who is the God of peace and not of war, who is the father of all and not only of some, who wants us to be brothers and sisters and not enemies,” he said.

He also urged world leaders to “refrain from any action that would cause even more suffering to the people, destabilizing the coexistence between nations and discrediting international law.”

Putin’s recognition of the two breakaway regions’ independence was seen by Western leaders as a violation of international law protecting Ukraine’s territorial integrity and as a move that could pave the way for a Russian invasion of eastern Ukraine.

In the wake of the Russian president’s actions, the United States, the United Kingdom and the European Union announced sanctions against several Russian banks and institutions.

In a statement released Feb. 22, Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kyiv-Halych, head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, said Putin’s recognition of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions has caused “irreparable damage” to the “logic of international relations.”

He also said the Russian president “destroyed foundational principles for a long-term process of restoring peace in Ukraine” and “created the path for a new wave of military aggression against our state.”

“Today, all of humanity has been placed in danger,” he said, because Putin’s action asserts that “the powerful have a right to impose themselves on whomever they wish, with no regard for the rule of law.”

Archbishop Shevchuk reminded world leaders of their duty and responsibility “to actively work to avert war and protect a just peace.”

“I call upon all people of good will to not ignore the suffering of the Ukrainian people brought on by Russian military aggression,” he said. “We are a people who love peace. And precisely for that reason we are ready to defend it and fight for it.”

Metropolitan Archbishop Borys Gudziak of the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia prays during his enthronement at the Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception June 4, 2019. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

PHILADELPHIA (CNS) – Ukraine is “being crucified before the eyes of the world,” said the head of the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia.

Speaking by telephone from Paris to Feb. 24 – the day Russian armed forces invaded Ukraine – Metropolitan Archbishop Borys Gudziak said the invasion is designed to “destroy Ukrainian statehood and install an authoritarian system in a country of 44 million people.”

After months of amassing up to 190,000 troops at the Ukrainian borders with Russia and Belarus, the invasion from the east, north and south began what Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak called “a full-scale war in Europe.”

Airstrikes and explosions near several major cities in Ukraine, including its capital, Kyiv, have caused civilians to flee in panic. The Ukrainian military reports losing at least 40 members so far, with an unspecified number of civilian casualties.

Archbishop Gudziak — who spent several days in Ukraine before traveling to the Vatican and to Paris – met with staff at the Ukrainian Embassy to France early Feb. 24, by which time there had been “an advance across the Ukrainian border in eight places,” he said.

The advance continues what the archbishop and Ukrainian Catholic bishops in the U.S. earlier called “an eight-year Kremlin-led war” since Russia’s 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula.

That same year, Russian-backed separatists proclaimed “people’s republics” in the eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, together known as the Donbas. The move came just 23 years after Ukraine gained independence following the collapse of the Soviet Union, of which it had been a part.

Since 2014, clashes, shelling and sniper attacks have become common in eastern Ukraine.

The United Nations reported almost 1.5 million internally displaced persons in the country as of 2021, and more than 3,300 civilian deaths and more than 7,000 civilian injuries between April 2014 and March 2020. Between 14,000 and 15,000 people are estimated to have been killed in the conflict to date.

Russia’s latest aggression indicates a clear “intention to occupy the capital and overthrow the government,” said Archbishop Gudziak.

Without mentioning his country’s nuclear arsenal, Russian President Vladimir Putin has stated countries attempting to intervene would face “consequences you have never seen.”

This “escalated, comprehensive invasion … will lead to the deaths of thousands and the suffering of millions,” said Archbishop Gudziak.

The Ukrainian “resistance is valiant,” he said, but “according to various parameters, whether budgets, military, hardware or soldiers, the Russian armed forces are between five to 10 times as big as those in Ukraine. Their weapons are more sophisticated, and all of that is backed up by a nuclear arsenal.”

Having spoken with “people in different parts of the country” Feb. 24, Archbishop Gudziak said Ukrainians are “trying to hold strong … but the flood of refugees is beginning at this point. The highways are bumper to bumper.”

The “enormous scale” of the unfolding “humanitarian crisis … was all predicted, all something Ukrainian officials have been speaking about for months and years,” said Archbishop Gudziak.

Despite frantic diplomacy and sanctions from Western officials, “over the last eight years” Russia has “had its hand slapped and not much more,” he said.

He noted that Ukraine had voluntarily forfeited its nuclear arsenal – the third-largest in the world at the time – as part of the 1994 Budapest Memorandum, through which the U.S., Russia and Britain pledged “to respect the independence and sovereignty and the existing borders of Ukraine” and “to refrain from the threat or use of force” against Ukraine.

Now, said Archbishop Gudziak, “one of the signatories (Russia) is the violator of it.”

Western nations need “an examination of conscience,” he said. “How did (they) stand by and watch what was occurring in Ukraine over the past eight years? Did (they) believe the voices coming from the country? Was (the West) swayed by the propaganda, the assurance and the lies of a cynical neo-imperialist leader?”

“(An) attachment to comfort (and) a loss of understanding of human nature and the deep consequences of sin” have all factored into the West’s hesitation to intervene more fully over the years, he added.

The Ukrainian Catholic Church, a Byzantine rite, has historically suffered “every time any Russian regime, whether czarist, communist or Putinish, has occupied Ukrainian territory,” Archbishop Gudziak said. “From 1946 to 1989, under Russian communist rule, the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church was the biggest illegal church in the world.”

While he does not currently anticipate “any kind of systematic execution of bishops and priests,” Archbishop Gudziak cautioned that “there should be no naivete. There are no rules here; there’s just raw greed and lust for power.”

At the same time, “the power of the truth, the power of the Gospel and the strength of authentic Christian witness prevail,” he said, although it “often entails a way of the cross (since) the resurrection is preceded by a death.”

Ukraine itself attests to that reality, he said.

Although the nation “endured despotic rule in the 20th century,” with some “50 million killed … new life came, and new life will come again,” said Archbishop Gudziak.

“We trust that history is in God’s hands,” he said. “Yesterday … I prayed for President Putin and for Russia, for the conversion of hearts of those who wage war and use violence to subjugate and denigrate others. Blessed are the poor, the suffering, those who are invaded, those who are violated, who in Christ’s name endure this.”


Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In his 2022 Lenten message to the Church, Pope Francis invites us to reflect upon Saint Paul’s words in his letter to the Galatians: “Let us not grow tired of doing good, for in due time we shall reap our harvest, if we do not give up. So then, while we have the opportunity, let us do good to all” (Galatians 6:9-10).

The Holy Father challenges us to reflect upon the urgency of using the time that God has given to us in a productive manner by sowing goodness in our world with a view to a future harvest. And Lent, Pope Francis continues, is the opportune time for us to recollect our thoughts and to move forward with resolve, seeking to fulfill our baptismal promises by making the pattern of Jesus’ life our own through our authentic response to his call to discipleship.

Through his invitation to place our trust in the Lord as the surest means of responding to the apostle Paul’s appeal, Pope Francis provides us with some practical reminders of how we might achieve this noble end:

“Let us not grow tired of praying” … We need to pray because we need God.

“Let us not grow tired of uprooting evil from our lives or of asking for forgiveness in the Sacrament of Penance,” knowing that God never tires of forgiving us.

And “Let us not grow tired of doing good in active charity towards our neighbors,” the surest means of reflecting the life of Jesus in our own lives.

This year during our Lenten journey, we have all been given a unique opportunity to sow seeds of goodness in our Church to reap a bountiful harvest. The entire People of God, including our own local Church, have been invited to participate in the preparatory phase of the Synod of Bishops that is being convened by Pope Francis in October 2023, entitled a Synod on Synodality.

A “synodal” Church implies a way of being and of working that engages a more grassroots, collaborative effort among the members of the Christian faithful as we all seek to grow in awareness of the presence of God and engage the mission of evangelization. A “synodal” Church takes the time to discern the path forward that the Holy Spirit is calling us to embrace as together we seek to build a Church where all are welcome, valued and sent forth as ambassadors of Christ. A “synodal” Church highlights the fact that each member of the Body of Christ has been entrusted with gifts for the building up of the Church – “good” that we ought never tire of doing on behalf of one another.

I encourage you to participate in the synodal process through listening sessions in your parishes and through online opportunities that have been generously provided to all of you who desire to share your thoughts, your dreams and where you believe the Holy Spirit is calling the Church at this time in its history. The Diocese of Scranton’s online survey can be found on the “Synod on Synodality” page on the Diocese of Scranton website at

As Pope Francis has reminded us, a “synodal Church” is above all a Church that listens: “It is a mutual listening in which everyone has something to learn. The lay faithful, the bishops, the pope: all listening to each other, all listening to the Holy Spirit, the “Spirit of truth” (John 14:17), in order to know what He is saying to the Church” and how best to move forward in faith.

Finally, one of the great gifts given to us by the Church to assist in our response to the Lord’s invitation to do “good” is found in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. As we have done for many years, all of the parishes of the Diocese of Scranton will participate in The Light Is On For You. Every Monday evening during the Lenten season, beginning on the first Monday of Lent, March 7, and continuing through Monday of the last full week of Lent, April 4, confessions will be heard in every parish from 5:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.

My friends, our resolve to deepen our faith and to do good on behalf of our brothers and sisters is needed today more than ever. May we open our hearts to this blessed season of Lent and all of the opportunities that we are given to deepen our trust in the ever-present grace of God, that alone can sustain us in our journey of faith as his disciples.

Faithfully yours in Christ,

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

People use smartphones in New York City Feb. 11, 2022. (CNS photo/Andrew Kelly, Reuters)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Christians must persevere in generously doing good in the world, bolstered by prayer and by fighting evil in their own lives, including an addiction to digital media, Pope Francis said.

“Lent is a propitious time to resist these temptations and to cultivate instead a more integral form of human communication made up of ‘authentic encounters’ – face-to-face and in person,” the pope said in his message for Lent, which begins March 2 for Latin-rite Catholics.

“Let us ask God to give us the patient perseverance of the farmer and to persevere in doing good, one step at a time,” and to know that “the soil is prepared by fasting, watered by prayer and enriched by charity,” the pope wrote.

Released by the Vatican Feb. 24, the pope’s Lenten message was titled, “Let us not grow tired of doing good, for in due time we shall reap our harvest if we do not give up. So then, while we have the opportunity, let us do good to all,” which is from St. Paul’s Letter to the Galatians.

Christians are called to sow goodness their entire lives, but even more so during Lent, he wrote.

The first fruit “appears in ourselves and our daily lives,” radiating the light of Christ to the world, he wrote. And sowing goodness “for the benefit of others frees us from narrow self-interest, infuses our actions with gratuitousness and makes us part of the magnificent horizon of God’s benevolent plan.”

Christians must not grow tired of praying, he wrote. “We need to pray because we need God. Thinking that we need nothing other than ourselves is a dangerous illusion.”

“Let us not grow tired of uprooting evil from our lives,” he added, underlining the importance of fasting and asking for forgiveness in the sacrament of penance and reconciliation.

Christians must resist “concupiscence,” the tendency to sin, which is a weakness that leads to “selfishness and all evil, and finds in the course of history a variety of ways to lure men and women into sin,” he wrote.

One sign of such weakness, he said, is an addiction to “digital media, which impoverishes human relationships.” Lent is an opportune time to cultivate healthy communication and face-to-face encounters.

“Let us not grow tired of doing good in active charity toward our neighbors” and of giving joyfully, he wrote.

“Lent is a favorable time to seek out — and not to avoid — those in need; to reach out — and not to ignore — those who need a sympathetic ear and a good word; to visit – and not to abandon – those who are lonely,” he wrote.

“Let us put into practice our call to do good to all,” he wrote, “and take time to love the poor and needy, those abandoned and rejected, those discriminated against and marginalized.”

And, Pope Francis said, doing good “with love, justice and solidarity are not achieved once and for all; they have to be realized each day” and require patience, prayer and hope.

Salesian Sister Alessandra Smerilli, interim secretary of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, was among the speakers presenting the Lenten message at a Vatican news conference.

Around the world, she said, one sees the “winds of war, after decades of reckless rearmament,” a deadly pandemic, increasing inequalities and fundamental problems with economic and social systems.

But, she said, “God believes in the Earth and cares for it in the same way that a farmer does not abandon his land,” so in his message, Pope Francis is inviting people “to be that fertile soil that creates the conditions for the seeds to grow” and create something “different from the present.”

Italian Cardinal Francesco Montenegro, a dicastery member and retired archbishop of Agrigento, said bringing about these changes requires a different way of facing problems.

People must not turn their back and believe someone else will take care of things but must know “each one of us can do something” and must look for where there is a need and see others as brothers and sisters, he said.

Communities break down without this kind of loving concern and action, he said, and if everyone were to contribute, creating a “network of love, acceptance and mutual integration, then we will discover a more human world will be possible.”

Cardinal Angelo Comastri, archpriest of St. Peter’s Basilica, sprinkles ashes on the head of Pope Francis during Ash Wednesday Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican Feb. 17, 2021. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

SCRANTON – The Diocese of Scranton and all of its parishes invite the faithful to receive ashes on Ash Wednesday, March 2, 2022.

The reception of ashes is not mandatory nor required. The faithful should know it is their own internal disposition and intention to repent and start over that is the best fruit of Ash Wednesday and the ashes are an external sign of that internal reality.

Individuals may enter into Lent with a repentant heart even if they decide that receiving ashes is not the right thing for them this year because of the continuing COVID-19 pandemic.

Due to continued concerns over health and safety, Bishop Joseph C. Bambera has directed that parishes do not impose ashes by thumb for the second year in a row. Ashes can still be distributed to the faithful through two options. All parishes have been given the ability to choose which method works best.

The first option involves tracing a Cross on an individual’s forehead using a cotton swab or Q-tip. With the cotton tip, the Cross would be traced on the recipient’s forehead. The minister must wear masks during the distribution of ashes and recipients are strongly encouraged to wear masks as well. A new Q-tip or cotton ball must be used for each person. After the use, each swab would be placed in a receptacle for burning.

The second option to distribute ashes is to sprinkle the ashes on the top of an individual’s head, with no contact, rather than imposing them on the forehead. In this method of distribution, the priest says the prayer for blessing the ashes. He sprinkles the ashes with holy water, without saying anything. Then he addresses all those present and only once says the formula as it appears in the Roman Missal, applying it to all in general: “Repent, and believe in the Gospel,” or “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

The priest would then cleanse his hands, put on a mask and distribute the ashes to those who come to him, or if appropriate, go to those who are standing in their places. The priest takes the ashes and sprinkles them on the head of each one without saying anything.

The blessing and distribution of ashes on Ash Wednesday normally takes place during the celebration of Mass, following the homily and general intercessions. When circumstances require, the blessing and distribution of ashes may take place apart from Mass, during a celebration of the Word of God. (Book of Blessings #1656)

To read all of the Diocese of Scranton’s COVID-19 safety guidelines for Lent 2022, visit the “Welcome Home” section tile on this website.

The Diocese of Scranton website ( also has a full Ash Wednesday schedule for parishes in all 11 counties in the coming days.


The replica icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa will be brought to the Catholic Church of St. Luke in Stroudsburg and venerated at all the parish’s liturgies on Saturday and Sunday, February 26th and 27th. The original icon has a legendary past that led in the 14th century to its housing at the Jasna Góra monastery near the town of Czestochowa. Under this title, the Blessed Mother has been considered the protector of Poland through centuries of invasions and wars. Devotion to the Madonna has flourished among Polish-American Catholics and efforts to build a shrine in her honor began in the 1950s. Finally, in 1966, a new and spacious church was erected in Doylestown, Pennsylvania to service the growing numbers of pilgrims.

The replica icon will be brought to the Poconos from that Doylestown National Shrine at the request of the Catholics who celebrate Sunday Mass in the Polish language at St. Luke’s. As explained by Deacon Phil Zimich, himself of Polish ancestry, “This veneration will be in two languages to join our Polish worshippers with the rest of our parish in a testimony to our one faith.” The visit has special meaning this February when the threat of invasion and war are growing near the Polish homeland. St. Luke’s Church is located at the corner of 9th and Main Streets in Stroudsburg.

Call 570.421-9097 for more information.


Father Joseph J. Pisaneschi, pastor, Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish, and parishioner Maria Englot prepare Pesce al sugo, a traditional Italian dish originating from Sicily. (Photos/Eric Deabill)
Father John C. Lambert, pastor, Saints Peter & Paul Parish, cooks up a Guinness Irish stew recipe.

Update: The Rectory, Set, Cook! fundraiser is underway. To view all of the “pastor chef” videos and vote for your favorite – visit


SCRANTON – Did you know Bishop Bambera, a seafood fan, also makes a mean meatloaf? Or that Father Seth Wasnock puts cinnamon in his pasta sauce? Did you also know Father David Cappelloni makes his own pasta – and Italian doughnuts for dessert?

You can learn many more such tasty tidbits by supporting the Diocese of Scranton’s first-ever, all-virtual, cook-off-style fundraiser, which will be a friendly online showdown among more than 25 priests, most of whom know their way around a kitchen.

Rectory, Set, Cook! is scheduled for launch on Fat Tuesday (March 1), and we are inviting Catholics across the Diocese to help turn up the heat and get out the vote for their favorite videos, pastors and recipes.

Participating parish priests are starring in individual videos showcasing a favorite recipe or recipes and counting on their flocks and friends far and near to show their support by making monetary donations as small as $10. Each $10 donation will represent one vote for a pastor chef or team.

Participants can vote as many times as they would like and for as many priests as they would like. The website will be live for nearly six weeks, with winners – those who raise the most dollars – announced in mid-April. Printed cookbooks with all showcased recipes also will be available for purchase online.

Rectory, Set, Cook! will acquaint Catholics with some of the Diocese’s finest priests on a more personal level, but the best part is all voting dollars will support the anti-hunger efforts of Catholic Social Services – Saint Vincent de Paul Kitchen as well as food pantries and programs across the CSS footprint – and the parishes that signed up a chef. Voting dollars will be shared 50-50 between Catholic Social Services and the participating parishes.

All sponsorship dollars will go directly to Catholic Social Services’ anti-hunger efforts. Presenting sponsor – The Executive Chef Sponsor – for this new Diocesan initiative is the Hawk Family Foundation. Other committed sponsors include McCarthy Tire and Automotive, Metz Culinary Management and Damage Control, Inc.

We are still seeking additional corporate and individual or family sponsors. For more information about sponsorships and the range of sponsorship benefits, please contact Rectory, Set, Cook! event director Sandra Snyder in the Diocesan Development Office at (570) 591-5004 or

The event website will debut March 1, and will be linked through Diocesan social media and in the next edition of The Catholic Light. Sponsorship deadline is Feb. 23.

SCRANTON — Most Reverend Joseph C. Bambera, Bishop of Scranton, served as principal celebrant of the Mass of Thanksgiving and Sending Forth for Bishop-elect Jeffery J. Walsh on Tuesday, Feb. 15, at 12:10 p.m. in the Cathedral of Saint Peter.

Dozens of the future bishop’s brother priests from the Diocese of Scranton concelebrated the joy-filled Eucharistic liturgy, which saw the venerable cathedral filled with family, friends, religious and lay faithful who were in attendance to offer prayerful best wishes for Bishop-elect Walsh prior to his embarking on a new chapter in his life of service to the People of God — as the new bishop of the Diocese of Gaylord, Mich.

The episcopal ordination and installation of Bishop Walsh as the sixth prelate to serve the faithful of Gaylord will take place on Friday, March 4, at 2 p.m. in the diocesan Cathedral of Saint Mary.

In welcoming the throng for the Mass of Sending Forth, Bishop Bambera began by stating the crowd was by far the largest gathering in Saint Peter’s Cathedral since the onset of the global pandemic nearly two years ago.

“We owe it all to the grace of God and to our dear brother, Father Jeff Walsh,” the Bishop remarked, leading to a rousing applause.

Noting that the special noontime gathering was being offered in thanksgiving for the blessing and gift of the Bishop-elect to his home diocese, Bishop Bambera said, “We give thanks for his ministry, that has obviously touched so many of us and in so many and different ways. And we send him forth with our love and most especially our prayers as he assumes a new role of service in the Church of Jesus Christ and in ministry to the faithful to the Diocese of Gaylord.”

Serving as homilist for the Mass, Bishop-elect Walsh quipped that he felt sorry for anyone who came to the Cathedral that day expecting a brief, midday Mass.

“I am so grateful for everyone who is here,” the future Gaylord Bishop expressed, stating he believed such a liturgical celebration on his behalf would never occur, as he expected to live out the rest of his priesthood serving the Scranton Diocese.

“Let me begin my offering my gratitude to everyone, especially Bishop Bambera and all in the Diocese of Scranton who invited me to come and celebrate this Mass,” Bishop-elect Walsh remarked. “This is a helpful way for me to have closure, to see so many familiar faces and to give thanks to God for the blessings I’ve had as a priest here over the last 27 years.”

The Bishop-elect graciously thanked the numerous faithful in attendance who traveled from within the diocese and beyond, indicating the many parishioners and laity he had come to know through his many parochial assignments.

In an emotional expression of gratitude to women and men religious he ministered with over the years, Bishop-elect Walsh said, “I thank especially my brother priests and deacons I have had the joy and privilege of serving with. I am most grateful for your witness.”

The future bishop stated, “I am filled with a heart of gratitude,” referring to the Gospel of Saint John proclaimed earlier that emphasizes the gift of Jesus’ love for all. “That has been such a comfort to me.”

He shared with the congregation how he was naturally overwhelmed with emotions upon first learning of the tremendous responsibility that comes with shepherding a diocese. “I was just praying and it came to me that God was saying, ‘I’m giving you this assignment out of love; receive it in love and exercise it in love.’”

“That brought me some peace and consolation that it’s all about love,” Bishop-elect Walsh shared. “Love casts out fear. I came to understand the true meaning of those words in Scripture.”

The Mass of Thanksgiving and Sending Forth concluded with closing remarks and a final farewell by Bishop Bambera.

“Father Jeff has always been willing to set out in faith into the unknown,” the Bishop said, adding that the 56-year-old priest’s latest and most challenging of journeys in well underway. “This is one more opportunity for him to do what he has done throughout his priestly ministry: to place his hand in the hand of God and to follow the Lord Jesus who calls him to serve His Church as a bishop.”

Bishop Bambera extolled the Bishop-elect’s unwavering willingness to always trust in God, as reflected in the motto he has chosen for his new episcopacy — “Divine Providence.”

“Father Jeff, we send you forth with great pride and we thank you not only for your faithful service to this local Church, but also for reminding all of us that whatever our state in life may be, by your example and your resolve, we know what we are called to do and be disciples of Jesus Christ.”

CARBONDALE – Having travelled all over the world to help the less fortunate on mission trips, Father Jeffrey J. Walsh is now preparing to travel to Michigan for what is arguably his biggest mission yet.

On Friday, March 4, 2022, Bishop-elect Walsh will be ordained and installed as the Sixth Bishop of the Diocese of Gaylord. The Most Reverend Allen H. Vigneron, Archbishop of Detroit, will serve as the principal consecrator. The Most Reverend Joseph C. Bambera, Bishop of Scranton, and the Most Reverend Walter A. Hurley, Apostolic Administrator of Gaylord, will serve as co-consecrators.

The Episcopal Ordination and Installation will take place at 2 p.m. at Saint Mary, Our Lady of Mount Carmel Cathedral, Gaylord.

Even though it has been nearly two months since the appointment was announced, Bishop-elect Walsh still feels a sense of amazement.

“I understand it as something that is necessary for my salvation, that God must see it as a way I need to follow in order to get to heaven but I also see it as a great challenge,” Bishop-elect Walsh said in a recent interview with The Catholic Light.

Ordained as a priest for the Diocese of Scranton in 1994, Bishop-elect has spent 27 years serving the faithful of northeastern Pennsylvania with a humble heart and deep devotion to God.

“I love northeast Pennsylvania. I grew up here. I know every nook and cranny and have been through every aspect of its natural beauty and all the other aspects of Church life,” he added. “I’ve loved every minute of it, even in the difficult times.”


When he was a teenager, Bishop-elect Walsh freely admits he wanted to become a truck driver, not a diocesan priest. It wasn’t until attending a weekend retreat while attending The University of Scranton that he began delving deeper into his faith.

“I found myself at a place where I wanted to learn more and I saw my peers interacting with faith at a deeper level,” Bishop-elect Walsh said.

Walsh grew up in an Irish Catholic household in Scranton. The church played an important role in his life.

“I understood the proper place that the Church played in our lives, going to Mass every Sunday, going to CCD during the weekdays, serving as an altar boy and then just trying to be a good person, knowing that my parents and grandparents were good role models. They were involved in civic organizations, they worked hard. They had disciple in the home,” he said.

After graduating from college, Bishop-elect Walsh said three things came together in an unexpected way which led to him joining the seminary. He admits he wasn’t happy in the job that he had, a relationship he was in during college ended and the death of his grandmother showed him that a priest does a lot more than just celebrate Mass.

“When my grandmother died unexpectedly, a young priest came to visit her in the hospital and when I saw what he did there, that fleshed out for me what a priest does … he brings comfort and peace and prays with people and (he) brought us a great sense of relief during that very difficult time,” he explained. “As I started praying about it and thinking ‘What is God saying to me through these things,’ the option of entering into the seminary became one of those realities.”


During his 27 years as a priest, Bishop-elect Walsh has held many administrative and pastoral responsibilities, but he says spending time with young adults has been among the most important.

“I looked at those experiences of being with young people as a way to, first of all, draw them into a faith that I saw myself lacking and then finding, and I wanted to be a part of them finding it too because I thought it was exciting to experience that,” he explained.

Bishop-elect Walsh has been involved with more than 20 mission trips – some as far away as Thailand – and has traveled to multiple World Youth Days.

“I draw energy and strength and joy and love from being around young people,” Bishop-elect Walsh explained, emphasizing the love that many young adults show for Mass, adoration, confession and faith sharing groups. “I hope until the day I die I enjoy the company of young people just because of the mutual benefit I think it has.”


When he is not fulfilling his priestly responsibilities, Bishop-elect Walsh can often be found outdoors. He has often used his love of nature to help whatever parish he has been assigned to.

“It started with running the Steamtown Marathon. I was at Saint Mary of the Lake in Lake Winola and we needed a new rug. I thought, myself I could get people to sponsor me by the mile. I would run the race and see what happens. We called it the ‘Run for the Rug,’” he explained.

That began multiple opportunities to tie together physical exercise and parish fundraising. He subsequently biked from Maryland to Tunkhannock to raise money for windows in a parish hall, and swam the four mile perimeter of Lake Winola to raise money for a new entranceway for his church.

During his most recent pastoral assignment, Bishop-elect Walsh raised $20,000 to renovate the steeple at Saint Rose of Lima Parish in Carbondale by walking the route of the Steamtown Marathon.

“I’ve always loved exercise and I love being active and I thought if I can marry that with opportunities for fundraising for a parish, it’s been successful so I’m grateful for that,” Bishop-elect Walsh said.


Nearly everywhere Father Walsh has gone for more than a decade, his beloved dog, Sam, has been by his side. Sam will, of course, move to Gaylord as part of the episcopal transition.

“I can read his mind. He can read my mind,” Bishop-elect Walsh admits.

Sam came into Father Walsh’s life on Sept. 11, 2010.

“I was looking for a dog and I found a rescue organization that was bringing puppies up from Tuscaloosa, Ala., from a kill shelter and it was a match made in heaven,” he added. “I named him Sam because it was the anniversary of 9/11 and I wanted to think of something patriotic to call him so I thought of Uncle Sam and that’s how he got the name Sam.”

With every assignment, Sam has been an ambassador for the church in his own rite. Immediately after learning of his episcopal appointment, when Bishop-elect Walsh couldn’t tell anyone, Sam also became his owner’s trusted confidant.

“Sam was my great comfort for those days when my mind was reeling over all the changes and responsibilities that were coming,” he said.


As he prepares to assume responsibility for the 21 most northern counties of Michigan’s lower peninsula, and the 44,000 Catholics in the Diocese of Gaylord, Bishop-elect feels confident in his abilities because of his priestly experiences in the Diocese of Scranton.

“They’ve given me a good, broad vision of Church and what typically happens in the life of a local church, at the parish level and diocesan level. I’ve been tremendously inspired and edified by so many in the Diocese of Scranton,” the future bishop said.

When asked about his vision for the future, he answers simply, that it is the “vision of the Gospel.”

“To be Church in a way that we see and read about in the Scriptures,” he explained. “To me, what I keep going back to in prayer, is a sense of the early Church and needing to be able to live the life of the Church with that original sense of excitement and challenge of the Gospel.”

While admitting there is sadness in saying goodbye, Bishop-elect Walsh gives gratitude to God for each person he has gotten to know, home he has gotten to visit and parish he has gotten to serve.

“I am very, very blessed,” he said.

Bishop-elect Jeffrey J. Walsh and his parents, Jerome and Nancy Walsh, reflect on his 27 years as a Diocese of Scranton priest on Jan. 25, 2022, inside his parents home in Scranton. (Photo/Ed Koons)


SCRANTON – Both Jerome and Nancy Walsh had the same reaction when their son, Bishop-elect Jeffrey J. Walsh, broke the news over a tray of pizza that Pope Francis had appointed him to be the Sixth Bishop of the Diocese of Gaylord.

“I was shocked that night. We’re still in shock. I just can’t believe it’s real but it is. We’re sort of adjusting to it. The more it sinks in, the more it is real,” Jerome Walsh said.

“It is just overwhelming and very humbling,” Nancy Walsh added. “We’re very thankful.”

The road to the episcopacy emanates from the path to the priesthood. Since his appointment became public in late December, Bishop-elect Walsh has consistently cited his parents and grandparents as the most significant formators in his life.

“I never thought he’d become a bishop,” his mother said with a laugh and a smile. “I was very happy to be the mother of a priest.”

The closeness between Bishop-elect Walsh and his parents is easy to see as The Catholic Light recently joined them around the kitchen table inside Walsh’s childhood home in Scranton. It is a home filled with love, faith and plenty of family photographs.

Childhood memories flow as easy as water.

Father Walsh and his parents celebrate one of his many priestly milestones together, his tenth anniversary to the priesthood, in 2004.

“Growing up, he was a very adventurous boy. He was a typical boy with sports. Whatever ‘ball’ was in season was in that corner. We’re only a block away from the park so he’d be bouncing the basketball all the way from the park. You’d know he was coming. He loved baseball. He was a very good pitcher for the little league. He was a racquetball player, baseball, football, whatever was in season,” his mother recalled.

With his maternal grandparents living only a block away, the church was a big part of this Irish Catholic family’s life. Growing up, Bishop-elect Walsh served as an altar server and always helped at the parish picnic.

“Jeff served up until the time he was a teenager at North Scranton. I think it was sixth grade and he served so many funerals. He’d be a little late for school, about a half hour, and Monsignor would always give him a little excuse. One day the teacher said, ‘I don’t know, isn’t there anybody else, he’s late so much because he’s serving so many funerals,’” his mother added. “Monsignor saw something in him and he told me later on, when Jeff did go into the seminary. He said, ‘I think he has a vocation.’”

Since becoming a priest 27 years ago, Bishop-elect Walsh’s parents have watched their son take on numerous responsibilities in the Diocese of Scranton. They believe God has given him the gifts and talents needed to succeed in any assignment he was given.

“I think he understands people more than a regular person. He can almost feel what they’re feeling. He’s very sincere. He’s always been like that. He’s interested in you and I think it really shows,” his father said.

“I was always amazed that no matter where he was assigned, he fit right in,” his mother added. “We’ve had a wonderful 27 years of his priesthood. We’ve been to every parish. We loved going to his Masses. We’ve met wonderful people, different parishioners from every parish, going to fundraisers and dinners. We have really had a wonderful 27 years.”

With their strong foundation of faith, Bishop-elect Walsh’s parents say it is an honor that their son is becoming a bishop.

“People say to me, he’s always smiling even though he doesn’t even know he’s smiling. That is the truth. He always has a little smile on his face when he’s saying Mass, even though he’s serious, there is a little smile there. He’s just happy doing what he is doing. Different people will say he’s really found his niche and I think he did,” Nancy explained.

During all of his priestly assignments, Bishop-elect has never been more than an hour away from his parents. On his days off, he could often be seen shoveling their driveway or mowing their grass. With his new appointment taking him more than 12 hours away from his childhood home, his parents are preparing to adjust.

“He will be missed here…we’re going to have to adjust,” his father said. “I think he’ll do a good job. He’s got the background now and hopefully, God willing, he’ll do a good job. It’s a big challenge for him. He’s very adventurous so I think he’ll be anxious to see what is out there!”