SCRANTON – The U.S. Surgeon General has called it an epidemic and local experts agree, highlighting the importance of parents understanding and taking action regarding youth e-cigarette use.

“Statistics show that in 2018, more than 3.6 million youth, including one in five high school students and one in 20 middle school students were e-cigarette users,” Trooper Robert Urban with the Pennsylvania State Police said during an “Evening with the Experts” on Dec. 5, 2019.

Recognizing the health risks associated with vaping, the Diocese of Scranton Catholic School System put together a program featuring panelists from the fields of law enforcement, health and education. More than 30 parents and educators attended the session which was held at the Diocesan Pastoral Center.

“Less than a decade ago, the e-cigarette was an obscure product marketed as a safe, tobacco-free alternative to conventional cigarettes by a single company in China,” Trooper Urban explained. “Now it is a $3 billion global industry with over 600 brands and 8,000 flavors and liquids.”

The panel began by explaining exactly what e-cigarettes are — battery-powered devices that deliver nicotine, flavorings and other ingredients to the user. The panelists then explained that they do not create harmless “water vapor,” instead they create an aerosol that can contain harmful chemicals.

Benjamin Tolerico, principal, Holy Cross High School, highlighted that every school district is confronting problems associated with vaping and e-cigarette usage.

Tolerico highlighted the difference between the current use of e-cigarettes by students and the cigarette-smoking generation decades ago.

“Years ago, if a kid was smoking the bathroom, you could certainly smell it…now it’s not these giant plumes of smoke or vape. You really can’t see anything and they’re odorless,” Tolerico explained.

As of Dec. 4, 2019, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 2,291 cases of lung injury linked to vaping. It also reported 48 deaths have been confirmed in 25 states and the District of Columbia.

Dr. Sreelatha Naik, a specialist in pulmonary, critical care and sleep medicine with Geisinger, explained many of the health dangers associated with vaping.

“There is so much inflammation in the lungs that it is hard for the lungs to take oxygen from the air,” Dr. Naik said as she showed photographs of lungs damaged by vaping and described her experiences in treating patients locally.

The panel explained that e-cigarettes come in many shapes and sizes. Some look like regular cigarettes, cigars or pipes while larger e-cigarettes such as tank systems – or “mods” – do not look like other tobacco products.

Parents also learned that some e-cigarettes look like other items commonly used by young people, such as pens and USB flash drives.

Judy Price, First Assistant District Attorney for Lackawanna County, ended the panel discussion by discussing ways that local, state and federal officials are working to tackle the vaping problem.

“Right now, it’s not illegal to buy or sell to minors, vaping products, under our (Pennsylvania) laws as they exist. It’s illegal to sell tobacco so we are trying to broaden our tobacco laws to include vaping products,” Price said.

Price also emphasized that all Lackawanna County school districts, including the Diocesan School System, participate in the Safe Schools Coalition where information on topics like vaping is discussed on a regular basis.

This was the second “Evening with the Experts” hosted by the Diocese of Scranton Catholic School System. The first program, held earlier this year, focused on the potential dangers associated with social media usage.



WILKES-BARRE, PA — After months of planning and construction, the opening of the new CYC Annex Child Care Center will help to meet the growing needs of child care in the Wyoming Valley.

A ribbon cutting ceremony for the new facility located on South Washington Street was held on Wednesday, December 4, at 1:00 p.m.

The new facility includes two infant rooms, a pre-school classroom, kitchen area and laundry room.

“We are elated to be able to convert this vacant space into something valuable for our community,” Mark Soprano, Executive Director of the Catholic Youth Center, said. “We are excited to be able to provide more families in Luzerne County with quality child care!”

Within the last year, the Catholic Youth Center has seen a tremendous increase in need for its child care services. During the months of December 2018 through February 2019, the center went from an average enrollment of 227 children per day to more than 300 per day.

The new CYC Annex Child Care Center will provide additional space to increase enrollment by 45 children and will also create six new full-time positions at the agency.

“Since opening our doors in 1948, the CYC has been a backbone of our community. This year marks the 20th year that the CYC has provided child care 24 hours a day. Over the years, our facility has become much more than just a place of recreational opportunities as we have also focused on educational programs and social development,” Soprano said.

Funding for the project was made possible by a grant provided by the Moses Taylor Foundation. Work on the Annex began this summer. In addition to the grant money, more than 300 hours of volunteer time has helped prepare the facility for its grand opening.


“So many people hear about the CYC and see the front of our building but once they come inside, they really are in awe of what is taking place on a daily basis. We invite and welcome members of our community to come and see the new CYC Annex Child Care Center and learn more about our activities and programs,” Soprano added.

The annex location that has been renovated has a long history in the community. The space, which had been vacant since August 2018, was most recently occupied by Coordinated Child Care which offered subsidized care for working families.

The annex was also previously home to the Catholic Guild Studios and Catholic Social Services office until the early 1990’s at which time the Guild closed at Catholic Social Services moved to Northampton Street. Luzerne County also previously rented the space for its Single Point of Contact (SPOC) program which provided job training/placement for young parents. While the parent was attending training, submitting applications or attending job interviews, their children were cared for by CYC staff on site.

Even with the opening of the new facility, the planning is not compete. An outdoor courtyard with picnic tables, play space and greenery is expected to be added in the spring.


Left to right: Deacon John Musyt, Deacon Matt Lorent, Society President Adam Nosak, Toastmaster Anthony ‘Zaz’ Zelazny, Msgr Michael J. Delaney, and Throop Mayor Joe Tropiak. Throop Herbert Clark American Legion Post 180-Peter Puhalla, Commander led the gathering which included ages 4 to 93, in the Pledge of Allegiance.

Blessed Sacrament Parish is celebrating ten years (established December 13 2009) and looking back at 125 years since Roman Catholics first organized in the town of Throop.

The Joseph C. Karolewicz Chapter of Blessed Sacrament Parish Holy Name celebrated by inviting parishioners 75 years and older, all altar servers and their parents/guardians, free as guest to their annual communion breakfast.

The focus additionally was a recognition of the permanent diaconate with short talks by two deacons with ties to the history of Blessed Sacrament Parish. Deacon John Musyt of Blessed Sacrament and Holy Cross Parishes in Throop and Olyphant, and Deacon Matt Lorent of the Parish of B.V.M./Queen of Peace-St.Veronica, Hawley and Lake Wallenpaupack Area addressed the gathering, and Nicholas Rocco who is on the path to becoming a deacon, and who also has ties to the parish, were recognized.



SCRANTON – The line started forming hours before the doors of the Scranton Cultural Center even opened. Wearing jackets and hats to stay warm, seniors, parents and individuals looking for a helping hand all waited for the Family to Family Food Basket Program to kick off.

For more than 30 years, the Family to Family program has provided families in need with a food basket to prepare a complete Thanksgiving dinner at home for their friends and family.

For the last five years, the Robeson family has helped lead the program.

“We are prepared to serve 2,800 people today,” Linda Robeson said.

Before the first recipients began filing into the Scranton Cultural Center, Father Jeffrey J. Walsh, V.E., Episcopal Vicar for Clergy, led organizers and volunteers in prayer.

Many of those who volunteer for the annual program are from Diocesan schools or parishes.

“I just like to help out and I just love seeing everyone’s face. It is really nice,” Kara Judge said.

Judge is an eighth grade student at Saint Clare/Saint Paul School in Scranton. She volunteered at the Family to Family program last year.

“There are certain stations and you just bag up the food and then the families take the food and the older kids will help bring it out to their cars,” Judge said.

Judge and her friend Caroline Kennedy, also an eighth grade student at Saint Clare/Saint Paul School, were in charge of the apple juice and cranberry station.

“It makes me feel good, refreshing in a way, to just help everybody out!” Caroline Kennedy said.

“It just makes me feel so good knowing that I’m helping other people,” Judge added.

While it takes months to prepare for the annual Family to Family program, Linda Robeson says the event would not be able to take place without all the volunteers and students who help out.

“The kids are so wonderful because they’re so willing to do whatever you ask them to do so that makes it just as nice,” Robeson said. “It is really organized chaos because people have been coming for so long and it’s such a family experience and they know their jobs. They come in and start bagging turkeys and the yams and everything else!”

Even as the program hands out food baskets, organizers say they are still in need of donations to pay the food bill.

“Things are a little bit short this year and unfortunately the price of turkeys went up so our bill is about $5,000 or $6,000 higher than it was last year. Everybody is trying to do so much for everybody but money is a little slow this year. I’m sure with the Grace of God everything will come through!” Robeson said.

If you’d like to make a donation, you can make an online donation at or you can send a payment to:
Family to Family Food Basket Program
PO Box 13
Scranton, PA 18501


No one should die alone.


That is why dozens of Notre Dame High School students traveled to Saint Matthew’s Church in East Stroudsburg on Tuesday, Nov. 19, to celebrate a funeral Mass for Edwin Carl Hughes, 68, of Stroudsburg.

Hughes passed away from pneumonia at Lehigh Valley Hospital-Pocono on October 17, but his body went unclaimed.

Notre Dame senior Heidi Martens wanted to honor Hughes and organized the funeral service for him.

“I felt that nobody should die alone. I feel like, as a Catholic, we have to mourn. The Corporal Works of Mercy is bury the dead respectfully so nobody should have to die alone,” Martens said.

As her senior service project, Martens created the Saint Joseph Arimathea Ministry at Notre Dame High School. The ministry will provide volunteer pallbearers, readers and altar servers along with choir services to small families, indigent people or those who die alone.

Through her work, Martens learned as much as she could about Edwin Hughes.

“Edwin was in the Air Force for about two years and then he resided in Tennessee and was in the National Guard for about seven years and then he came back to live in Stroudsburg. There wasn’t a lot on him. I only had his papers from the Air Force to make the obituary,” Martens said.

Martens got some help from her classmates at Notre Dame to put together the funeral service.

“My grandfather was in the service, World War II and my father’s great uncle also died in France during World War II and just imagining this man as my uncle in France and honoring him with this service was just a right cause and the right thing to do,” fellow Notre Dame senior Patrick Carney said.

After hearing about Martens effort, the Monroe County Honor Guard attended the service to properly honor Hughes for his service. Fellow students served as readers, altar servers and choir members.

Father Jerry W. Shantillo celebrated the funeral Mass and was touched by the students’ compassion.

“They’re getting what our mission is all about,” Father Shantillo said following the Mass. “I think it reinforces our teaching that we believe that every human being is born and they’re created in the likeness and image of God and they have a great dignity because of that.”

Father Shantillo said he was pleased to see the efforts of Martens and her classmates.

“I saw the future of the Church. I see our young people who are really in love with the Church and their faith. Sometimes, maybe, some of their peers aren’t as interested in the faith but what I think I saw was that when they realize that they’re all together in this and they make up the body of Christ and they’re all on fire about their faith, it just gives us a lot of hope for our future,” Father Shantillo added.

Following the service, Martens felt satisfied she was able to honor someone she never even met.

“I just feel good. I feel veterans have done so much for us, it was our time to give back and I couldn’t have done it without the support of my community and school,” Martens said.


The Diocese of Scranton has once again been found in compliance with the U.S. Bishops’ “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.”

The Diocese has passed independent audits of its child protection procedures every year since the policy was adopted by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in 2002.

For the audit, the Diocese submitted data to Stonebridge Business Partners, a Rochester, N.Y. firm that is tasked with conducting compliance audits of the nation’s 195 dioceses.

The audit evaluates each diocese’s efforts to ensure the protection of children, including criminal background checks and educational awareness programs on recognizing and preventing abuse.

Among the information the Diocese of Scranton reported to the auditors: 13,120 students currently enrolled in Catholic schools in the Diocese or in parish religious education programs have received Safe Environment training.

A total of 237 priests who are in active ministry, along with 77 permanent deacons and 20 seminarians and candidates for the Diaconate have also received that training.

More than 420 educators and administrators in Diocesan schools, more than 1,750 employees of the Diocese or its parishes across 11 counties and 3,740 volunteers at schools, parishes and Diocesan facilities have also received valuable information to keep children safe.

Between July 1, 2018 and June 30, 2019, the audit period, a total of 83 in-person training sessions of the VIRTUS Protecting God’s Children Program were held across the Diocese of Scranton.

More than 3,300 individuals also completed training on Recognizing and Reporting Child Abuse in Pennsylvania.

The Diocese of Scranton’s Safe Environment Office ensures that Charter standards are continually met.

For more information on the Diocese of Scranton’s Safe Environment Program, visit



SCRANTON, PA – The 8th annual Run Against Hunger, which benefits the St. Francis of Assisi Kitchen, will take place on Saturday, November 9 at 9 a.m. The 5k/10k run and two-mile walk will take place at the LHVA River Trail, Olive Street trailhead, in Scranton. (Near the Ice Box Sports Complex)

Cost to pre-register is $25 for the 5k run or 2-mile walk and $30 for the 10k run. Registration for all events the day of run/walk is $35. It is free for children under the age of 10. Race day registration will take place from 7:30 a.m. to 8:45 a.m.

The Scranton Running Company and AllOne Charities are hosting the event.  The presenting sponsor is Electric City Dental. Matthew Byrne, the founder and director of Run Against Hunger and co-founder of the Scranton Running Company will be available for questions. Rob Williams, director, St. Francis of Assisi Kitchen, will also be available.

The St. Francis of Assisi Kitchen, located at 500 Penn Ave in Scranton, is open seven days per week, 365 days per year, and serves more than 100,000 hot meals per year.


Father Philip Rayappan, pastor, Holy Name of Mary Parish, Montrose, far left, and Joan and John Schoonover of Sayre, accept Bishop Joseph C. Bambera’s invitation to serve as regional chairs for the 2019 Diocesan Annual Appeal.

SAYRE, PA (November 7, 2019) – John and Joan Schoonover, Sayre, are serving the Diocese of Scranton as regional chairpersons for the 2019 Diocesan Annual Appeal, representing Bradford, Sullivan and Susquehanna Counties while Father Philip Rayappan, Pastor of Holy Name of Mary, Montrose, is serving as clergy chair for the region.

Mr. and Mrs. Schoonover are parishioners of Epiphany Parish and members of the Pastoral Council, the Stewardship Implementation Team and the choir. The couple have three children and four grandsons.

“When we are truly grateful for all God’s blessings, then we know that we must share them with others. God gives us gifts of time, treasure and talent and we, in turn, use them to serve others in His name,” Joan Schoonover said.

The Diocese established the Appeal in 1987 to support vital religious and social service ministries which now include: Catholic Social Services; Catholic schools; clergy education and care; parish life, social justice and faith formation programs; and Catholic media and communications. The goal of this year’s Appeal is $5 million.

“Giving to the Appeal is a great statement about where we should be and what we should be doing,” John Schoonover said. “Please continue your support of your parishes and the Appeal and please encourage your friends and fellow parishioners to do the same!”

More than 4,500 students are receiving a quality, faith-based education in our 20 Catholic schools. Catholic education is at the center of our commitment to pass on the faith to our children and is supported by the Appeal.

Feeding the hungry and providing clothing and shelter to the poor are at the heart of the mission of the Diocese of Scranton. Gifts to the Appeal help Catholic Social Services serve more than 300,000 people each year and fund grants to parishes to provide programs in support of those in need throughout the Diocese.

Father Rayappan added, “Individuals who depend on the Diocesan ministries and services need our monetary support. We have a responsibility for this work to continue…We have to shine as Christ’s light. We have to share our blessings through the Appeal and do our share, my share, because we love our Church!”

For more information on all of the Diocesan programs supported by the Annual Appeal, to view the Annual Appeal video in English and Spanish or to make a donation online, visit Gifts may also be made by calling the Diocesan Development Office at (570) 207-2250 or by sending a donation to: Diocesan Annual Appeal, 300 Wyoming Ave., Scranton, PA, 18503-1279.


As he looked around the Cathedral of Saint Peter and saw hundreds of other young adults, Jonathan Mengoni, 22, was glad he decided to attend his first #LeaveaMark Mass in the Diocese of Scranton.

“It’s very nice seeing all the young people in the Diocese come together and worship together because I feel in the Catholic Church a lot of young people are leaving,” Mengoni said.

Mengoni, a parishioner of Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish in Peckville, is part of a parish that has seen a lot of growth in recent years.

“We’ve had over 300 families join in just the last year and a-half to two years, we have a lot of kids coming to church. We have 210 kids, grades 1-8, in our faith formation classes now so there is an interest!” Mengoni said.

Mengoni said he recognized some of the people at the #LeaveaMark Mass but was excited to meet new friends.

“I’m running into a few friends here and there but there’s a lot of unfamiliar faces too with these Masses and retreats, I get to know more and more people throughout the Diocese,” he added.

The Diocese of Scranton’s fourth annual #LeaveaMark Mass was held on Sunday, November 3, 2019. The event brings together young adults, including public and Catholic high school students, college students, women and men religious, priests and youth ministers from throughout the 11 counties of the Diocese.

“It’s a fantastic experience getting to see everyone! You really get a sense of how alive the young Church is in our Diocese and it’s just a great experience to see everyone and is a lot of fun,” Tyler Osipower, 17, a parishioner of Saint Therese Parish in Shavertown said.

Osipower served as one of the lectors at the Mass. He has enjoyed getting involved in his parish and Diocese.

“I’m very involved with retreats throughout the Diocese but I’m also meeting a lot of new people. I’m seeing a lot of people that I’ve met before here, a lot of my friends, but am getting a chance to meet a lot of new people as well,” Osipower said.

The first #LeaveaMark Mass was initially inspired by Pope Francis’ words at World Youth Day 2016 in Krakow, Poland. The Holy Father said, “Dear young people, we didn’t come into this world to ‘vegetate,’ to take it easy, to make our lives a comfortable sofa to fall asleep on. No, we came for another reason: to leave a mark. It is very sad to pass through life without leaving a mark!”

The event has now become a popular tradition in the Diocese and some people travel quite a distance to attend the #LeaveaMark Mass.

Becky Goonan, Assistant Director of Religious Education & Youth Ministry at Saint Ann Parish in Williamsport, helped lead a group of eight students and chaperones nearly two hours to the Mass.

“It’s great for them to see and come and be excited for Church!” Goonan said.

This year’s #LeaveaMark Mass was the second Goonan has attended. She participated herself by signing in the choir.

“I like that it’s a Mass. Especially being a youth minister, that my students can come to and feel like it’s for them!” she added.

Goonan, 31, loves seeing so many young adults involved in their faith.

“The one thing that we always heard is they’re the Church of the future, but now they’re the young Church, they’re the Church now and they’re being called to leave a mark now. I think that message is really important for them to hear,” Goonan added.

Bishop Joseph C. Bambera was the principal celebrant of the #LeaveaMark Mass.

During his welcome, the bishop told the young people, “God is indeed here in our midst and God beckons every one of us to leave a mark for goodness in the world, to embrace the invitation given to us at our baptism, to live as his daughters and his sons and to indeed infect the world with the power, the presence, the love and the mercy of God.”

Father Ryan Glenn, Assistant Pastor at Saint John Neumann Parish in South Scranton and Assistant Vocation Director for the Diocese, delivered the homily.

“The good news today is that God will always love us as we are, broken and fractured, disjointed, with our gifts and talents, with our failures, God will always love us,” Father Glenn said.

Father Glenn was ordained to the Priesthood in June 2018. Since his ordination, he has been very involved in vocation, youth and young adult ministry. He encouraged the young adults in the crowd to have an intimate relationship with Jesus.

“Pray. Pray in the morning. Pray in the evening. Pray when you’re on the commute to school or work. Pray with the scriptures. Journal if you like. Go to Eucharistic adoration or daily Mass but whatever you do, deepen that relationship with Jesus. See yourself as Jesus sees you,” Father Glenn said.

Father Glenn also encouraged the young adults at the #LeaveaMark Mass to look at the examples of young Saints that have gone before us.

“Today, let us be emboldened to go back to our parishes and to our schools and to our universities. Let us jump right in to minister and serve wherever we are today. Let us challenge our professors and pastors, teachers and youth ministers, to listen to us, to get to know us, to know our needs, our struggles and our hopes,” Father Glenn added.

Father Glenn ended his homily by encouraging the young adults to support each other and to see goodness inside each other.

“My friends, this is our time, today is our day, today is a time for us to make bold choices and heroic decisions, today is our time to respond in love to this invitation that has been given to us through Jesus,” Father Glenn said.

Following Mass, a reception was held in the Diocesan Pastoral Center.

“Tonight is a great celebration of faith and action that affirms the readiness of young people to leave a mark here in our diocese,” Shannon Kowalski, Coordinator for Youth/Young Adult Ministry in the Diocese of Scranton said.

“The energy and enthusiasm of all who attended was joy-filled and promising for the future of our Diocese,” Father Don Williams, Diocesan Director of Vocations and Seminarians, said. “We wanted to kickoff National Vocation Awareness Week with this event once again this year as we encourage the young church to live as intentional and missionary disciples in our world today.”

During the reception, young adults could enjoy food and fellowship, play games, get information about various Diocesan programs and events and even take photos with Bishop Bambera in the #LeaveaMark photo area.

On one of the walls in the Diocesan Pastoral Center, students could write notes indicating how they plan to #LeaveaMark going forward.

“Volunteering at soup kitchen,” “continuing to be the best person I can and share the light of Christ with others,” and “live in the likeness of God” were just three of the notes taped to the wall.

Three ways, of many, that students can listen to the Lord, act upon His word and #LeaveaMark for good in our world!



Photo Caption: Frank and Sandra Orlando, center, and Father Richard Cirba, right, accept Bishop Joseph C. Bambera’s invitation to serve as regional chairs for the 2019 Diocesan Annual Appeal.

WILKES-BARRE, PA (November 5, 2019) — Frank and Sandra Orlando, Sugarloaf, and Father Richard Cirba, pastor of Saint Robert Bellarmine, Wilkes-Barre, and Exaltation of the Holy Cross, Hanover Township, have agreed to serve as the regional lay and clergy chairs for the 2019 Diocesan Annual Appeal in Luzerne County.

Mr. and Mrs. Orlando are parishioners of Saint John Bosco Parish, Conyngham, where they serve as Eucharistic Ministers.

“We strongly support the Diocesan Appeal because we know that the funds will bring financial support to the ministries of our Diocese. The need for support continues to grow, especially among our poor,” Mr. Orlando said.

The Diocese established the Appeal in 1987 to support vital religious and social service ministries which now include: Catholic Social Services; Catholic schools; clergy education and care; parish life, social justice and faith formation programs; and Catholic media and communications. The goal of this year’s Appeal is $5 million.

“Our son attended Holy Trinity School in Hazleton. We see the benefits in how he is progressing through life,” Mrs. Orlando said. “We absolutely need to help of the Appeal to continue Catholic education in northeastern Pennsylvania!”

More than 4,500 students are receiving a quality, faith-based education in our 20 Catholic schools. Catholic education is at the center of our commitment to pass on the faith to our children and is supported by the Appeal.

Feeding the hungry and providing clothing and shelter to the poor are at the heart of the mission of the Diocese of Scranton. Gifts to the Appeal help Catholic Social Services help more than 300,000 people each year.

Father Cirba added, “As a priest, I benefited from the Appeal in my vocation and our parishioners benefited. The Appeal supports so many ministries. It enables us to care for our retired and infirmed priests. It assists in educating our youth in the faith and serving the poor and needy through Catholic Social Services.”

For more information on all of the Diocesan programs supported by the Annual Appeal, to view the Annual Appeal video in English and Spanish or to make a donation online, visit Gifts may also be made by calling the Diocesan Development Office at (570) 207-2250 or by sending a donation to: Diocesan Annual Appeal, 300 Wyoming Ave., Scranton, PA, 18503-1279.