Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

A year ago, as we prepared to celebrate Ash Wednesday and our annual observance of Lent, we were just beginning to come to terms with the COVID-19 pandemic that was quickly enveloping our world. By the end of the Third Sunday of Lent – barely mid-way through this season of conversion and hope – life seemed to come to a standstill. We were forced to embrace traditional Lenten observances in unique ways from our homes instead of in our churches. We struggled to find a way forward in the midst of global suffering, pain and uncertainty.

For me, one of the first glimmers of hope that we experienced during those initial days of the pandemic emerged from a unique and singular moment in the life of our Church that you may recall. On the evening of Friday, March 27, 2020, on the threshold of the Fifth Sunday of Lent, Pope Francis walked alone into an empty, rain-slicked Saint Peter’s Square for an extraordinary Urbi et Orbi Eucharistic Blessing of the people of the City of Rome and of the entire world.

Reflecting upon the passage from Saint Mark’s gospel that found the disciples in a boat that was being tossed about by an intense storm and Jesus, asleep, with them in the boat, Pope Francis recounted the words of our Savior, “‘Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?’”

The Holy Father continued, “Lord, you are calling us to faith. Which is not so much believing that you exist, but coming to you and trusting in you. Your call reverberates urgently: ‘Be converted!’ Return to me with all your heart.’”

Brothers and sisters, this Lent the Lord extends the same invitation to us: “Be converted! Return to me with all your heart! Do not be afraid!”

This invitation is even more compelling, given what we have experienced during the past year. While countless numbers of us have known untold physical and emotional pain, loneliness and, in some instances, the grief that comes from the loss of those we love, our very ability to reflect upon the past twelve months is a powerful sign of God’s presence in our lives. Jesus has been and continues to be with us in the midst of the storm, consoling, sustaining and assuring us of his abiding love and mercy.

How vital it is that we use these sacred days of Lent to deepen our relationship with Jesus, who first called us to journey with him through faith! In his 2021 Lenten message to the Church, Pope Francis reflects upon this unique moment in human history, “In these times of trouble, when everything seems fragile and uncertain, it may appear challenging to speak of hope. Yet, Lent is precisely the season of hope, when we turn back to the God who patiently continues to care for his creation.”

Our hope is strengthened and our relationship with Jesus is deepened in a particular way through our embrace of the traditional disciplines of Lent, as noted in the sixth chapter of Saint Matthew’s gospel, proclaimed each year on Ash Wednesday. The simple practices of fasting, prayer and almsgiving become profound reflections of our efforts to embrace the example of Jesus’ selfless love in our own lives.

On the First Sunday of Lent, we will once again welcome catechumens into the ranks of the elect; those from our midst who have begun the journey of conversion and who will soon experience the saving power of Jesus in the Easter mysteries of Baptism, Confirmation and the Eucharist. Their “yes” to the Lord’s call gives us hope and should encourage us to recommit ourselves to the vows that were made at our own baptism. Their “yes” reminds us that we too are called to look beyond ourselves to something more in life.

Finally, one of the great gifts given to us by the Church to assist us in our response to the Lord’s invitation to conversion and renewal is found in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. To provide for the celebration of this Sacrament in a generous manner, once again, all of the parishes of the Diocese of Scranton will participate in The Light Is On For You. While ensuring that every effort is made to continue to keep our people safe, on every Monday evening during the Lenten season, beginning on the first Monday of Lent, February 22, and continuing through Monday of the last full week of Lent, March 22, confessions will be heard in every parish from 5:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. – or at a time that best suits the needs of a particular parish community.

My friends, Lent calls us during these challenging times to recognize that God is ever faithful and present, particularly amid the storms that envelop our fragile world and broken lives. May we be humble enough to open our lives to God’s merciful presence and walk with him on a life-giving journey of conversion and renewal.

Please know of my prayers for a fruitful observance of Lent.

Faithfully yours in Christ,

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

 

February 9, 2021

“I take this opportunity to congratulate Rev. Joseph G. Marina, S.J., Ph.D., on being selected to serve as the 28th president of The University of Scranton. As we welcome him to northeastern Pennsylvania, I also ask everyone to join me in praying for God’s continued grace and health for Rev. Scott R. Pilarz, S.J., who will conclude his remarkable second tenure as president.

“Father Marina brings a vast array of experience that will affirm the Catholic and Jesuit values upon which The University of Scranton has already been built. We are blessed that he has chosen to share his unique gifts and experiences with the students, faculty and staff of The University of Scranton.

“With a proven track record of being a knowledgeable and respected voice in higher education, Father Marina’s presence will serve The University of Scranton well as it continues to distinguish itself as an academically rigorous, socially responsible learning community where students become men and women for others.

“Rooted in Our Lord’s love and mercy, we ask God’s blessing on Father Marina, that he be filled with the strength, wisdom and courage needed to take on this new role.”

The chair of The University of Scranton’s Board of Trustees announced Rev. Joseph G. Marina, S.J., provost and vice president for academic affairs at Le Moyne College, will serve as Scranton’s 28th president beginning this summer.

The University of Scranton Names 28th President

Rev. Joseph G. Marina, S.J., provost and vice president for academic affairs at Le Moyne College, Syracuse, N.Y., will serve as the 28th president of The University of Scranton. James M. Slattery ’86, chair of the University’s Board of Trustees, made the announcement to the University community today. Father Marina, who will take office in the summer, will succeed Rev. Scott R. Pilarz, S.J., ’H15, whose second term as president ends at the close of the 2020-2021 academic year.

“Father Marina brings to Scranton his unique experience as teacher, pastor, scholar and school administrator with more than 20 years of experience in higher education,” said Slattery. “On behalf of the Board of Trustees, I want to thank the members of the presidential search committee for their careful work in leading us through the search process to its successful conclusion.”

“Father Marina has a special dedication to Catholic and Jesuit higher education, and a pastoral approach to leadership that is grounded in his faith, in Ignatian spirituality and in a call for justice. He will further Scranton’s commitment to provide a transformative education, rooted in the liberal arts, and will guide our students to become ‘men and women for and with others,’” said Father Pilarz.

“I am humbled and honored to be chosen as The University of Scranton’s next president and to succeed Father Pilarz who has with his colleagues on campus fostered such a strong foundation on which to build Scranton’s future success,” said Father Marina. “From day one as a Jesuit I have heard time and again how seriously Scranton takes its mission and identity. What strikes me most is how students excel with the help of the authentic commitment of faculty and staff. As we take this journey together beginning this summer, the wonderful truth remains that anything and everything we do at Scranton should be and will be done for our students first. Our shared focus is precisely where it belongs, on our students and their success.”

Father Marina was selected following a national search, which began in August with the appointment of a broadly representative search committee that included trustees and representatives from the faculty, staff, student body, alumni and administration. University Trustee Kathleen Sprows Cummings, Ph.D. ‘93, G’93, H’19, served as chair of the search committee.

“On behalf of the search committee, I want to say how pleased and excited we are that Father Marina has agreed to lead our beloved University,” said Dr. Sprows Cummings. “I am so very grateful to my colleagues on the committee for their thoughtfulness and dedication throughout the search process. Father Marina has our full and enthusiastic support as he prepares to begin his service this summer.”

Since 2016, Father Marina has served as provost and vice president for academic affairs and professor of education at Le Moyne College, where he oversees the Jesuit college’s three academic schools, honors program, library, campus life, student housing, conduct and Title IX compliance, diversity and inclusion programming, global education, student success and support services, disability services, and several other areas. Previously at Le Moyne, he held positions as associate provost, interim chair of the education department and special assistant to the president.

On Feb. 12, he will conclude just over two months serving as acting president at Le Moyne while Linda M. LeMura, Ph.D., president, is a Chancellor’s Distinguished Visiting Fellow at Syracuse University.

“I commend The University of Scranton for selecting Father Marina as its next president,” said Dr. LeMura. “Joe has been a vital part of Le Moyne’s success over the past five years. Among his accomplishments as provost are the continued growth of graduate programs, including the launch of our first doctoral program in Educational Leadership, his work on our strategic plan Sempre Avanti, and the establishment of the Quantitative Reasoning Center and the Writing Center. On a personal level, he has been a confidant, friend and wonderful colleague. I wish him nothing but the best in his new role.”

His prior experience includes serving as the dean of the School of Continuing Education at Providence College, assistant dean for the College of Science and Mathematics at Montclair State University, and assistant dean for Metropolitan College at St. John’s University. In addition, he taught religious studies at Providence College and mathematics at St. John’s University. He served as pastor of the Church of St. Francis Xavier in New York City and as associate pastor of the Church of St. Ignatius Loyola, also in New York City.

Father Marina is currently a trustee at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Syracuse, New York, and Canisius High School in Buffalo, New York, where he is chair of the board’s governance committee. He previously served on the boards of St. Thomas Aquinas College, Regis University, Canisius College, Xavier High School and Le Moyne College.

His research interests include leadership and organizational change, and, in the area of theology, scripture and the question of non-belief. His presentations include “Inner-city Healthcare and Higher Education: A Partnership in Catholic Social Teaching,” “Graduate and Continuing Education in the Jesuit Tradition” and “Educational Delivery System Options: Programs to Attract and Retain and Educate Adult Students.”

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

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

Rev. Joseph M. O’Keefe, S.J., Provincial of the East Coast Province of the Society of Jesus remarked, “I will be delighted to mission Fr. Marina to Scranton. He will bring a wealth of experience as an academic administrator and a pastor. He has a tremendous ability to articulate the Jesuit education vision, and he has the requisite management skills to make that vision a reality.”

Founded in 1888, The University of Scranton is a Catholic and Jesuit institution located in Pennsylvania’s Pocono Northeast with an enrollment of nearly 5,500 undergraduate and graduate students. Scranton consistently ranks among the nation’s best colleges and universities in publications such as U.S. News & World Report, Forbes, The Princeton Review and others. Scranton is known for the outstanding success of its graduates.

 

 

Saint Vincent de Paul Kitchen in Wilkes-Barre received a $25,306 grant from the AllOne Charities Collaborative Philanthropy Fund. The John and Josephine Thomas Foundation contributed $12,653 that was matched by AllOne Charities to help meet the continuing need for food during the COVID-19 pandemic. Participating in the check presentation, left to right: John W. Cosgrove, Executive Director, AllOne Charities; Mike Cianciotta, Director, Saint Vincent de Paul Kitchen and John Graham, Saint Vincent de Paul Kitchen Advisory Board Member.

February 4, 2021

Saint Vincent de Paul Kitchen in Wilkes-Barre has been awarded a $25,306 grant from the AllOne Charities Collaborative Philanthropy Fund. The John and Josephine Thomas Foundation contributed$12,653 that was matched by AllOne Charities to help meet the continuing need for food during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The grant will be used to continue offering hot, nutritious meals to individuals and families in need in the greater Wilkes-Barre area on a daily basis. Throughout the pandemic, Saint Vincent de Paul Kitchen has continued to meet the needs of its community, transitioning its traditional sit-down meals to meals served to-go in order to adhere to physical distancing and safety protocols.

“The Saint Vincent de Paul Kitchen is on the front-lines of providing consistent and nutritious meals to those of our neighbors who find themselves most in need. As importantly, the kitchen and their volunteers directly represent the compassionate concern of our entire community in service to others. AllOne Charities is pleased to support their invaluable work,” John Cosgrove, Executive Director, AllOne Charities, said.

During the 2020 calendar year, Saint Vincent de Paul Kitchen served more than 56,000 meals to the less fortunate of the Wyoming Valley. In addition to providing warm meals daily, kitchen staff has also provided extra food, vegetables and desserts for clients to take home as well. In addition, the Saint Vincent de Paul Food Pantry assisted more than 4,100 households during the pandemic.

“The grant from AllOne Charities and the John and Josephine Thomas Foundation will have a tremendous impact on making sure all of our neighbors and friends continue to receive a nutritious meal each day,” Mike Cianciotta, Director of Saint Vincent de Paul Kitchen, said. “During the pandemic, we have seen many new people looking for help, whether they lost jobs, had their hours reduced or have struggled to get unemployment assistance.”

Saint Vincent de Paul Kitchen is a part of Catholic Social Services of the Diocese of Scranton. Saint Vincent de Paul Kitchen operates every day of the year and is traditionally staffed almost entirely by volunteers. During the pandemic, dedicated staff members have filled all the necessary roles to make sure all meals are prepared and served with dignity and respect.

“Saint Vincent de Paul Kitchen is one of the cornerstones of the mission of Catholic Social Services. The kitchen responds compassionately to the needs of our community on a daily basis. Most importantly in the midst of the pandemic, we have been able to replace despair with hope for many people,” Mary Theresa Malandro, Diocesan Secretary for Catholic Human Services & Chief Executive Officer of Catholic Social Services, said.

 

Lazarus is depicted in stained-glass at the Cathedral Basilica of St. James in Brooklyn, N.Y., Nov. 30, 2006. In a decree published Feb. 2, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments said Pope Francis has approved adding the memorial of Martha, Mary and Lazarus to the General Roman Calendar. (CNS photo/Nancy Wiechec)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Recognizing their welcome of and witness to Christ, Pope Francis has approved changing the liturgical feast of St. Martha to include her sister and brother, Mary and Lazarus, on the church’s universal calendar of feast days.

The names of Mary and Lazarus will be added to the July 29 feast on the General Roman Calendar, the universal schedule of holy days and feast days for the Latin rite of the Catholic Church.

The Vatican Feb. 2 published the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments’ decree ordering the change in calendars.

Signed by Cardinal Robert Sarah, the congregation’s prefect, the decree said Pope Francis approved the memorial for Martha, Mary and Lazarus after “considering the important evangelical witness they offered in welcoming the Lord Jesus into their home, in listening to him attentively, (and) in believing that he is the resurrection and the life.”

“In the household of Bethany, the Lord Jesus experienced the family spirit and friendship of Martha, Mary and Lazarus, and for this reason the Gospel of John states that he loved them,” it said. “Martha generously offered him hospitality, Mary listened attentively to his words and Lazarus promptly emerged from the tomb at the command of the one who humiliated death.”

The decree explained that “the traditional uncertainty of the Latin church about the identity of Mary — the Magdalene to whom Christ appeared after his resurrection, the sister of Martha, the sinner whose sins the Lord had forgiven — which resulted in the inclusion of Martha alone on 29 July in the Roman Calendar, has been resolved in recent studies and times,” thus paving the way for celebrating the siblings in one memorial.

A separate congregation decree, also published Feb. 2, said the pope also approved the optional memorial of three doctors of the church: Sts. Gregory of Narek, a 10th-century Armenian monk; John of Avila, the famed 16th-century preacher, confessor and spiritual writer; and 12th-century German abbess Hildegard of Bingen.

Mary Magdalene is pictured in a stained-glass window in the Church of St. Waudru in Mons, Belgium. In a decree published Feb. 2, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments said Pope Francis approved adding the memorial of Martha, Mary and Lazarus to General Roman Calendar, the universal schedule of holy days and feast days for the Latin rite of the Catholic Church. (CNS photo)

The saints, who hail from both the Eastern and Western church traditions, were declared doctors of the church for their important contributions to theology and spirituality.

In its decree, the congregation explained that those given the title of “doctor of the church” exemplify the “link between holiness and understanding things divine and also human.

“Indeed, the wisdom that characterizes these men and women is not solely theirs, since by becoming disciples of divine wisdom, they have themselves become teachers of wisdom for the entire ecclesial community,” it said. “It is in this light that the holy ‘doctors’ are inscribed in the General Roman Calendar.”

The optional memorial for St. Gregory of Narek will be celebrated Feb. 27, while those for Sts. John of Avila and Hildegard of Bingen will be celebrated May 10 and Sept. 17, respectively.

There are currently 36 doctors of the church, including Sts. John Chrysostom, Augustine, Catherine of Siena and Therese of Lisieux.

 

A screen capture shows Pope Francis speaking during a Feb. 4, 2021, virtual meeting marking the International Day of Human Fraternity, a new effort to promote dialogue between cultures and religions. The pope was among several world and religious leaders who participated in the meeting. (CNS photo)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – The world must begin to realize its shared humanity in order to live peacefully, otherwise it risks falling apart in endless conflicts, Pope Francis said.

“Today, there is no time for indifference,” the pope said Feb. 4 at a virtual event commemorating the first International Day of Human Fraternity.

“We cannot wash our hands of it, with distance, with disregard, with contempt. Either we are brothers and sisters or everything falls apart. It is the frontier, the frontier on which we have to build; it is the challenge of our century, it is the challenge of our time,” he said.

The pope was among several world and religious leaders who took part in the Feb. 4 virtual event, which was hosted in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, by Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the crown prince.

Among those taking part in the online global meeting were Sheikh Ahmad el-Tayeb, grand imam of al-Azhar University, and António Guterres, secretary-general of the United Nations.

This is a promotional image for the Feb. 4 International Day of Human Fraternity. Pope Francis was among several world and religious leaders who participated in a virtual meeting Feb. 4 to mark the celebration, which has been established by the United Nations. (CNS photo/Vatican Newsm handout)

The date chosen for the event marks the day in 2019 that Pope Francis and Sheikh el-Tayeb signed a document on promoting dialogue and “human fraternity” during his apostolic visit to the United Arab Emirates.

The Higher Committee of Human Fraternity was established after the pope’s visit to implement concrete proposals toward fraternity, solidarity and mutual understanding proposed in the document.

The event also included a presentation of the committee’s Zayed Award for Human Fraternity to Guterres and to Moroccan-born Latifa Ibn Ziaten.

Accepting the award, Guterres thanked Sheikh el-Tayeb and Pope Francis for “pushing humankind to come together in unity, in dialogue to promote peace, to promote fraternity, to promote the unity that is necessary to address all the challenges to defeat hate and to make sure that human solidarity wins the battles we are facing.”

Ziaten was honored for her work in France in promoting peace and dialogue to young people who often fall prey to extremist ideology. Ziaten established the Imad Association for Youth and Peace, which she founded after her son, a French soldier, was murdered in 2012 by a Muslim extremist in Toulouse.

Congratulating her for the award, the pope said that despite the pain of losing a child, Ziaten risked her life to “dare to say, ‘We are brothers and

This is the logo for the Feb. 4 International Day of Human Fraternity, a new effort to promote dialogue between cultures and religions. Pope Francis was among several world and religious leaders who participated in a virtual meeting Feb. 4 to mark the celebration, which has been established by the United Nations. (CNS photo/Vatican News, handout)

sisters’ and to sow words of love.”

“Thank you being the mother of your son, of so many boys and girls; for being a mother of this humanity that is listening to you, learning from you the path of fraternity,” he said.

Thanking the pope and Sheikh el-Tayeb for the award, Ziaten said the recognition “will really help me in my fight, my work today.

“I lost a son, but today I reach out to many children. Today I’m a second mother to many children I saved in detention centers, in homes, in schools so they don’t fall into hatred,” she said.

In his address, the pope began by greeting participants as “sisters and brothers” and affectionately greeted Sheikh el-Tayeb as “my brother, my friend, my companion in challenges and risks in the struggle for fraternity.”

The pope thanked the grand imam “for his company on the path of reflection and the drafting” of the document on human fraternity.

“Your testimony helped me a lot because it was a courageous testimony. I know it was not an easy task. But with you we could do it together and help each other. The most beautiful thing of all is that first desire of fraternity turned into true fraternity. Thank you, brother; thank you,” he said.

The pope also thanked Judge Mohamed Mahmoud Abdel Salam, secretary-general of the Higher Committee of Human Fraternity, calling him “l’enfant terrible” of the project, a French expression meaning a successful person who uses unorthodox or innovative methods to achieve their goals.

The pope thanked Salam for his efforts and lauded him as “hard-working, full of ideas” and one “who helped us to move forward.”

Fraternity, he continued, not only means respecting and listening to others “with an open heart,” it also means remaining firm in one’s own convictions; otherwise “there is no true fraternity if one’s own convictions are negotiated.”

“We are brothers and sisters, born of the same father; with different cultures and traditions, but all brothers and sisters. And while respecting our different cultures and traditions, our different citizenships, we must build this fraternity, not negotiate it,” the pope said.

Pope Francis said the International Day of Human Fraternity was a moment of listening, of sincere acceptance and “of certainty that a world without brothers and sisters is a world of enemies.”

“It not only takes a war to make enemies,” the pope said. “It is enough with that technique — it has become a technique — that attitude of looking the other way, of getting rid of the other as if he or she didn’t exist.”

A Vatican stamp commemorates Pope Francis’ meeting with Rabbi Riccardo Di Segni, chief rabbi of Rome, at the main synagogue in Rome Jan. 17, 2016. (CNS photo/Vatican stamp and coin office)

 

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Pope Francis’ ongoing efforts to promote interreligious dialogue will be highlighted in a new series of Vatican stamps.

The series, which will be released in late February, feature photographs of some of the pope’s meetings over the past six years with leaders of other world religions.

At the end of his weekly general audience Feb. 3, Pope Francis praised the decision of the United Nations to mark an International Day of Human Fraternity Feb. 4.

“I am very pleased that the nations of the entire world are joining in this celebration aimed at promoting interreligious and intercultural dialogue,” the pope said. The U.N. resolution establishing the day “recognizes ‘the contribution that dialogue among all religious groups can make toward an improved awareness and understanding of the common values shared by all humankind.’ May this be our prayer today and our commitment every day of the year.”

The Vatican Philatelic Office said the stamp series illustrates Pope Francis’ teaching in his encyclical “Fratelli Tutti” that, as the encyclical said, “the different religions, based on their respect for each human person as a creature called to be a child of God, contribute significantly to building fraternity and defending justice in society.”

A Vatican stamp commemorates Pope Francis’ meeting with Somdej Phra Maha Muneewong, supreme patriarch of Thailand’s Buddhist community, in Bangkok Nov. 21, 2019. (CNS photo/Vatican stamp and coin office)

“Dialogue between the followers of different religions does not take place simply for the sake of diplomacy, consideration or tolerance. In the words of the bishops of India, ‘the goal of dialogue is to establish friendship, peace and harmony, and to share spiritual and moral values and experiences in a spirit of truth and love,'” the pope wrote in the encyclical.

The stamp series marks the beginning of the ninth year of Pope Francis’ pontificate, which begins March 13.

The four designs in the series show: The pope’s January 2016 meeting with Rabbi Riccardo Di Segni, chief rabbi of Rome; his February 2019 meeting with Sheikh Ahmad el-Tayeb, grand imam of Egypt’s al-Azhar mosque and university; Pope Francis’ November 2019 meeting with Somdej Phra Maha Muneewong, supreme patriarch of Thailand’s Buddhist community; and his January 2015 meeting with Ndu-Kurukkal SivaSri T. Mahadeva, a Hindu leader, in Sri Lanka.

 

While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect our community, one of the realities that hasn’t changed is the fact that many people don’t have the resources to feed themselves or their families.

Fortunately the Saint Francis of Assisi Kitchen in Scranton remains able to alleviate this need. Since 1978, the Kitchen has been serving a free, hot, nutritious meal to approximately 250 men, women and children each day. In addition to the traditional daily midday meal, the Kitchen has also provided an evening meal on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 5‑6 p.m.

In recent years the Mid-Valley Outreach Program was launched in conjunction with several parishes to offer weekly meals in Carbondale, Archbald and Olyphant. The Kitchen also operates the Saint Francis Client-Choice Food Pantry and the Saint Francis Free Clothing Store.

Volunteers prepare the meals in take-out containers.

The Kitchen has been able to do all of this via the dedicated service of staff and volunteers, and with financial support from the community – primarily through the annual Host‑for‑a‑Day campaign. The 2021 campaign is now underway.

The Host‑for‑a‑Day campaign seeks contributions of $100 or more. This helps the Kitchen provide the daily meal.

In effect, each contributor becomes a “host” for a day. Contributors may then select a date on which they, or someone they designate, will be recognized as the provider for that meal.

During the pandemic, the Kitchen has modified its program by providing the daily midday meal in Scranton in take-out containers. The evening meals were suspended for a time but resumed at the end of July, also as take-outs. The Mid-Valley Outreach Program also had to be suspended, but meals in Carbondale resumed in December. The food pantry and clothing store are open, with safety precautions in place.

Saint Francis of Assisi Kitchen has launched its 2021 Host‑for‑a‑Day campaign, which is the primary means of financial support for the Kitchen’s mission to provide a free daily meal to area needy. Pictured are Kitchen Advisory Board member Michele Bannon, campaign chair; and Kitchen Executive Director Rob Williams.

“Naturally this has been a challenging time and we have made changes to ensure the safety of our guests, staff and volunteers,” said Rob Williams, the Kitchen’s executive director. “Throughout this period, however, we have provided a meal in some fashion every single day. We are truly blessed!”

Michele Bannon, a member of the Kitchen’s Advisory Board, is chairing the campaign and leading the effort with her fellow board members.

“The community has always supported this campaign in a wonderful way,” she said. “This year the need is greater than ever, and we are hopeful that our supporters will again join with us to sustain the mission of the Kitchen.”

This year’s Host‑for‑a‑Day campaign is being conducted with safety precautions in place. Traditionally the members of the Kitchen’s Advisory Board contact supporters they have sold tickets to over the years. This year the majority of the past contributors to the campaign are receiving an appeal directly from the Kitchen through the mail.

Throughout the pandemic the Kitchen has continued to feed its guests. They receive their daily meals in take-out containers outside the building.

Also, out of concern for the health and safety of benefactors and board members, the typical Appreciation Reception that concludes the campaign will not be held in a gathered way. Instead, the culmination of the campaign will be marked with a Virtual Celebration consisting of a pre-recorded program. The release date will be Wednesday, April 28, at 6 p.m. Information on how to view the program will be announced as details are finalized.

Anyone who does not receive an appeal through the mail can make a Host‑for‑a‑Day gift by calling the Kitchen at 570-342‑5556, or sending a check to Saint Francis of Assisi Kitchen, 500 Penn Avenue, Scranton PA 18509. Donations can also be made online at: www.stfranciskitchen.org or facebook.com/stfranciskitchen

Those who would like to sponsor the Virtual Reception are asked to call the Kitchen at 570-342‑5556.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pope Francis greets people during an encounter with the elderly in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican in this Sept. 28, 2014, file photo. During his Jan. 31 Sunday Angelus, the pope announced the establishment of a World Day of Grandparents and the Elderly. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Francis announced the establishment of a World Day of Grandparents and the Elderly as a reminder of the important role they play as a link between generations.

During his Sunday Angelus address Jan. 31, the pope said the day will be celebrated every year on the fourth Sunday of July to coincide with the feast of Sts. Joachim and Anne, Jesus’ grandparents. The first celebration of this day will be July 25.

“It is important for grandparents to meet their grandchildren and for grandchildren to meet their grandparents because — as the prophet Joel says — grandparents, before their grandchildren, will dream and have great desires, and young people — taking strength from their grandparents — will go forward and prophesy,” he said.

Highlighting the Feb. 2 feast of the Presentation of the Lord, the pope said the recognition of Christ as the Messiah by the elderly Simeon and Anna is a reminder that “the Holy Spirit still stirs up thoughts and words of wisdom in the elderly today.”

“Their voice is precious because it sings the praises of God and safeguards the roots of peoples,” he said. “They remind us that old age is a gift and that grandparents are the link between generations, passing on the experience of life and faith to the young.”

“Grandparents are often forgotten and we forget this wealth of preserving roots and passing on,” he added.

In a statement published shortly after the pope’s announcement, Cardinal Kevin J. Farrell, prefect of the Dicastery for Laity, the Family and Life, said the yearly event was “a gift to the whole church” that emphasizes the pastoral care of the elderly as “a priority that can no longer be postponed by any Christian community.”

“In the encyclical, ‘Fratelli Tutti,’ the Holy Father reminds us that no one is saved alone. With this in mind, we must treasure the spiritual and human wealth that has been handed down from generation to generation,” he said.

Cardinal Farrell added that “today, more than ever, we are committed to making every effort to dismantle the throwaway culture and to enhance the charisms of grandparents and the elderly.”

The dicastery said Pope Francis will mark the first World Day of Grandparents and the Elderly July 25 with an evening Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica. However, the Mass will be “subject to sanitary regulations in place at the time.”

“Closer to the world day, the Dicastery for Laity, the Family and Life will announce any further initiatives that will mark the event,” the statement said. “As of now, the dicastery is inviting parishes and dioceses around the world to celebrate this world day at the local level in ways that are suited to their pastoral context.”

 

January 26, 2021

WASHINGTON – The on-site evening program for the January 28 National Prayer Vigil for Life will take place at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, DC, is closed to the public and will be taking place virtually. There will be several broadcast and livestreaming options for the various Vigil prayer events occurring during January 28-29, which are listed in this announcement.

2021 National Prayer Vigil for Life (All times are in Eastern Time.)

Thursday, January 28: 

8:00 PM          National Rosary for Life

8:30 PM          Opening Mass with Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City in Kansas

9:45 PM          Holy Hour for Life

11:00 PM ~     Live-stream of bishop-led holy hours throughout the night

 

Friday, January 29: 

~ 8:00 AM      Closing Mass with Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore

The live television broadcasts on January 28 from 8:00-11:00 PM and on January 29 from 8:00-9:00 AM will be provided by the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN) and will also be available via live-stream on the Basilica’s website.

The overnight bishop-led holy hours will take place during January 28-29 from 11:00 PM – 8:00 AM. Live-streaming information is available on the USCCB’s website.

A plenary indulgence is available this year for those participating in the Opening or Closing Mass and/or the Prayer Vigil, whether virtually or in person (the other usual conditions for a plenary indulgence apply).

 

A hand-sanitizer dispenser is seen at St. James Church in Setauket, N.Y., Sept. 3, 2020. Many parishes have found creative ways to remind worshippers to follow COVID-19 health guidelines during the ongoing pandemic. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz)

WASHINGTON (CNS) — According to a new poll by the Pew Research Center, more Americans say the coronavirus pandemic has strengthened their religious faith than those in 13 other nations that possess what Pew called “advanced economies.”

On the other side of the coin, though, a majority in every country, the United States included, said the pandemic has made no difference in the level of their faith.

With the exception of Australia, Canada, Japan and South Korea, the other nations surveyed were all European: Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

The survey, released Jan. 27, showed that 28% of Americans said the pandemic had strengthened their own religious faith, and 28% said it had strengthened the faith of people in their country.

The countries closest to the United States were Spain, where 16% of respondents said the pandemic had strengthened their faith, with 17% saying it had strengthened the faith of other Spaniards, and Italy, where 15% said it had strengthened their own faith and 19% said it had strengthened the faith of other Italians.

Across all 14 countries surveyed, the median was 10% saying the pandemic had strengthened their own faith, while 15% said it had strengthened the faith of people in their country.

The only country of those surveyed that registered single digit increases to each question was Japan, where 5% said it had strengthened their own faith and 5% said it had strengthened the faith of people in their country.

Nine percent of South Koreans said the pandemic had actually weakened people’s faith. Compared to 10% who said it had strengthened their faith, it was a net positive of just 1%. The only country with as small a net gain was Sweden, where 3% said it had strengthened their faith and 2% said it had weakened it.

In the United States, 68% of those surveyed said their own faith had not changed much, and 47% said the faith of other Americans had stayed about the same.

The survey was conducted June 10-Aug. 3 last year, as people in the affected countries had been under social distancing rules, national lockdown orders, or both. Pew did phone surveys of 14,276 adults total in all 14 countries.

More favorable responses were given when asked whether the pandemic had strengthened family bonds. Spain topped out at 42%, with the United States, the United Kingdom and Italy each registering 41%. Yet even in those countries, a higher percentage of respondents said that had not changed much, either.

For those who say their faith is very important to them, Spain led, as 49% said the pandemic had strengthened their faith, compared to 6% of Spaniards who said their faith is either somewhat, not too important, or not at all important, a net difference of 43, which also led all 14 nations surveyed.

Among Americans, 45% of those who say their faith is very important to them said the COVID crisis had strengthened their faith, compared to 11% who held faith less important or unimportant, a difference of 34 points. Overall, 49% of Americans said religion is very important in their lives, as do 24% of Spaniards.

While focus is usually given to white evangelicals in the United States for their religiosity, there was one area where U.S. Catholics outshone their evangelical counterparts.

According to Pew, 48% of Catholics surveyed said the pandemic “strengthened bonds with their immediate family members, which is higher than the share of white evangelical Protestants (34%) who say their family relationships are stronger as a result of the pandemic.”

However, 49% of white evangelicals said the pandemic had strengthened their faith, compared to 35% of Catholics, and 43% of evangelicals said the crisis had strengthened their fellow Americans’ faith, compared to 30% of Catholics.

Regardless of nation, people with lower incomes reported stronger faith than those with higher incomes. In the United States, 34% of respondents with lower incomes said their faith had been strengthened because of COVID. The 22% recorded by Americans with higher incomes, though, is higher than the highest percentage of lower-income people from any other country with enough respondents to make the response statistically significant.

Asked whether Americans’ responses represented a pause in the nation’s continuing slide toward secularization, Neha Sahgal, associate director of research for Pew, replied: “I wouldn’t go that far. One thing is pretty clear, that in the last few years in the United States, there is a secularization trend — more people saying they have no religion, and a fall in the faith of the people who say they are observant.”

Sahgal added, “The greater proclivity” of Americans saying their faith or that of the nation is stronger as a result of COVID “is largely being driven by this groups who is already religious.”