SCRANTON – The Diocese of Scranton is joining forces with Notre Dame University this summer to help develop the next generation of young adult leaders in the Catholic Church.

In August, three students from the McGrath Institute’s Echo Program at the University of Notre Dame will travel to northeastern Pennsylvania to begin serving in various parishes locally.

Kylie Ballinger, a 2020 graduate of Arizona State University; Cecilia Dietzler, a 2020 graduate of Marquette University; and Deirdre Drinkall, a 2021 graduation of Saint Mary’s College, will each begin working full-time in parishes focusing on a variety of catechetical ministries.

Each student has committed to two years of service. They will initially spend nine months in the Diocese of Scranton working directly in parishes. Next summer, the three will return to Notre Dame for more coursework, after which they will return for one more year at their assigned location.

Shannon Kowalski, Director for Service and Mission in the Diocesan Office for Parish Life, helped coordinate the Diocesan partnership with Notre Dame University. She is looking forward to its launch.

“This program is a win-win in many different ways,” Kowalski explained. “The apprentices who are coming to work in our Diocese have a passion for ministry and want to dive head-first into strengthening our parish communities. While we will benefit from their energy and enthusiasm, they will be working toward their Master of Arts in Theology.”

When they arrive locally, the apprentices may work with RCIA, religious education, youth ministry, adult faith formation, social justice ministry or other parish programs.

Kylie Ballinger, who is from Flower Mount, Texas, will be working at Saint Jude Parish in Mountain Top and Our Lady of Help of Christians Parish in Dorrance.

“I am excited to work in a parish and want to learn more about what mission and evangelization, especially to families and children, can look like in a parish setting,” she said. “I want to learn how to make a parish a place in which parishioners can serve the Lord and one another and find a strong sense of community that pushes them in their faith and service.”

Ballinger is hoping this upcoming experience will help her grow deeper in her own faith journey. Saint Jude pastor, Father Joseph Evanko, will mentor her.

“I am excited for my parish ministry experience and faith journey and am thankful to have a mentor to turn to with new ideas I am unsure about, any problems I may face in ministry and to seek advice,” she added.

Cecilia Dietzler, who hails from the Archdiocese of Denver, is also looking forward to learning from her mentor in her parish placement at Saint Catherine of Siena Parish in Moscow.

“I applied to Echo because I want to strengthen my ministerial skills by being exposed to new settings in ministry and learning from those experiences,” Dietzler explained. “The ministers who have shaped me have had a strong intuition that allowed them to offer the support, knowledge and encouragement I needed to grow closer to Christ.”

Having previously served as a sacristan and retreat director at her home parish, the Littleton, Colo. native wants to share the power of her faith with people in the Diocese of Scranton.

“I bring a passion for the faith and gratitude for what God has blessed me with, as well as strong leadership skills and a desire to grow.”

The final Echo apprentice, Deirdre Drinkall, is also excited to get started. She will be serving the faithful of Saint Ignatius Loyola Parish in Kingston.

“I look forward to learning the tried-and-true methods in leading and ministering, with the Holy Spirit as the guide,” she said. “I hope to learn how to create a merciful, personal, and welcoming parish environment where each member is known and loved.”

Drinkall said she is passionate about sharing God’s true light in the Church and the world.

“My experience in youth ministry, children’s catechesis, and young women’s ministry has prepared me to dive head-first into a community with creativity, energy and warmth,” Drinkall added.

The three students who will arrive in the Diocese of Scranton as part of the Echo Program at the University of Notre Dame are among 31 students nationwide who have made the commitment to serve the Church for the next two years.

In addition to Scranton, Echo apprentices will also serve in the Arch/Dioceses of Atlanta, Camden, Fall River, Galveston-Houston, Kalamazoo, Knoxville, Milwaukee, Newark and Saint Petersburg.

 

On Friday, July 16, 2021, Pope Francis issued the Apostolic Letter, Traditionis Custodes, concerning the use of the Roman Liturgy prior to the reform of 1970. On the same day, Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles, President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, encouraged the Bishops of our country to “work with care, patience, justice and charity” as the new norms are implemented.

Presently in the Diocese of Scranton, the Traditional Latin Mass is celebrated at Saint Michael the Archangel Church in Scranton under the stewardship of the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter. That arrangement will continue until further study and guidance can inform the appropriate implementation of the motu proprio in accord with the directives of the Holy Father.  Diocesan priests who, in the past, have celebrated Mass according to the Missale Romanum of 1962 are to explicitly request from the diocesan Bishop authorization to continue to do so.

I ask all of you to join me in continuing to foster the unity among all Catholics throughout the world that Pope Francis desires in his latest teaching.

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

 

Cardinal Walter Brandmuller elevates the Eucharist during a Tridentine Mass at the Altar of the Chair in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican May 15, 2011. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Saying he was acting for the good of the unity of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis has restored limits on the celebration of the Mass according to the Roman Missal in use before the Second Vatican Council, overturning or severely restricting permissions St. John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI had given to celebrate the so-called Tridentine-rite Mass.

“An opportunity offered by St. John Paul II and, with even greater magnanimity by Benedict XVI, intended to recover the unity of an ecclesial body with diverse liturgical sensibilities, was exploited to widen the gaps, reinforce the divergences and encourage disagreements that injure the church, block her path and expose her to the peril of division,” Pope Francis wrote in a letter to bishops July 16.

The text accompanies his apostolic letter “Traditionis Custodes” (Guardians of the Tradition), declaring the liturgical books promulgated after the Second Vatican Council to be “the unique expression of the ‘lex orandi’ (law of worship) of the Roman Rite,” restoring the obligation of priests to have their bishops’ permission to celebrate according to the “extraordinary” or pre-Vatican II Mass and ordering bishops not to establish any new groups or parishes in their dioceses devoted to the old liturgy.

Priests currently celebrating Mass according to the old missal must request authorization from their bishop to continue doing so, Pope Francis ordered, and for any priest ordained after the document’s publication July 16, the bishop must consult with the Vatican before granting authorization.

Pope Francis also transferred to the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments responsibility for overseeing the implementation of the new rules.

In 2007, Pope Benedict XVI issued “Summorum Pontificum” on the use of the pre-Vatican II Roman liturgy. It said any priest of the Latin-rite church may, without any further permission from the Vatican or from his bishop, celebrate the “extraordinary form” of the Mass according to the rite published in 1962. The Roman Missal based on the revisions of the Second Vatican Council was published in 1969.

The conditions Pope Benedict set out for use of the old rite were that there was a desire for it, that the priest knows the rite and Latin well enough to celebrate in a worthy manner and that he ensures that the good of parishioners desiring the extraordinary form “is harmonized with the ordinary pastoral care of the parish, under the governance of the bishop in accordance with Canon 392, avoiding discord and favoring the unity of the whole church.”

The now-retired pope also insisted that Catholics celebrating predominantly according to the old rite acknowledge the validity of the new Mass and accept the teachings of the Second Vatican Council.

In his letter to bishops, Pope Francis said that responses to a survey of the world’s bishops carried out last year by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith “reveal a situation that preoccupies and saddens me and persuades me of the need to intervene. Regrettably, the pastoral objective of my predecessors, who had intended ‘to do everything possible to ensure that all those who truly possessed the desire for unity would find it possible to remain in this unity or to rediscover it anew,’ has often been seriously disregarded.”

“Ever more plain in the words and attitudes of many is the close connection between the choice of celebrations according to the liturgical books prior to Vatican Council II and the rejection of the church and her institutions in the name of what is called the ‘true church,'” Pope Francis wrote.

To promote the unity of the church, Pope Francis said, bishops should care for those Catholics “who are rooted in the previous form of celebration” while helping them “return in due time” to the celebration of Mass according to the new Missal.

The pope also indicated he believed that sometimes parishes and communities devoted to the older liturgy were the idea of the priests involved and not the result of a group of Catholic faithful desiring to celebrate that Mass.

Pope Francis asked bishops “to discontinue the erection of new personal parishes tied more to the desire and wishes of individual priests than to the real need of the ‘holy people of God.'”

However, he also said that many people find nourishment in more solemn celebrations of Mass, so he asked bishops “to be vigilant in ensuring that every liturgy be celebrated with decorum and fidelity to the liturgical books promulgated after Vatican Council II, without the eccentricities that can easily degenerate into abuses.”

The liturgical life of the church has changed and developed over the centuries, the pope noted.

“St. Paul VI, recalling that the work of adaptation of the Roman Missal had already been initiated by Pius XII, declared that the revision of the Roman Missal, carried out in the light of ancient liturgical sources, had the goal of permitting the church to raise up, in the variety of languages, ‘a single and identical prayer’ that expressed her unity,” Pope Francis said. “This unity I intend to re-establish throughout the church of the Roman Rite.”

 

An elderly woman becomes emotional as Pope Francis greets her as he arrives for a May 2014 weekly audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican. Pope Francis wanted the first World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly on July 25 to be inaugurated as the world seeks to recover from a deadly pandemic, calling for the faithful to be “angels,” who care, console and caress. (CNS photo/Tony Gentile, Reuters)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Highlighting the importance and gifts of older people has been a constant refrain throughout Pope Francis’ ministry.

So it seemed only a matter of time before the pope would establish the World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly, which was to be July 25. It comes after he created the World Day of the Poor several years ago, showing how the pope considers these world days to be a powerful and universal reminder to the faithful to rediscover or strengthen their service to and relationships with the forgotten or discarded members of the human family.

But he had a reason for inaugurating the day for elders in 2021: After more than a year of a global pandemic, which left a huge number of older people isolated, hospitalized or dead, there are finally signs in some parts of the world of a new horizon.

“Even at the darkest moments, as in these months of pandemic, the Lord continues to send angels to console our loneliness and to remind us: ‘I am with you always,'” the pope said in his message for the world day.

“That is the meaning of this day, which I wanted to celebrate for the first time in this particular year, as a long period of isolation ends, and social life slowly resumes. May every grandfather, every grandmother, every older person, especially those among us who are most alone, receive the visit of an angel!” he wrote.

The World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly is a call for the faithful to flex their wings and be those “angels,” who care, console and caress.

Respecting, honoring and reaching out to one’s elders is not just for do-gooders checking off their compliance with the Fourth Commandment. According to Pope Francis, it is the only way a society can thrive, and the church can remain faithful.

“In a civilization in which there is no room for the elderly or where they are thrown away because they create problems, this society carries with it the virus of death,” he said in a March 2015 general audience talk dedicated to the elderly.

As with everything Pope Francis highlights, it is a two-way street. Not only must people reach out to and serve their elders, older people have to step up and do their part in living out their vocation in whatever ways they can, adapting to the unexpected limitations and challenges they may face.

It’s a message that dovetails perfectly with the pope’s recent encyclical, “Fratelli Tutti,” which calls everyone to wipe away a tired and cynical view of the world and instead be driven by compassion to take action.

Because “we are all indebted to one another, we are all brothers and sisters,” and no one can be saved or improve the world alone, he said in his world day message, the elderly “are needed in order to help build, in fraternity and social friendship, the world of tomorrow: the world in which we, together with our children and grandchildren, will live once the storm has subsided.”

“You need to show that it is possible to emerge renewed from an experience of hardship” and to “use those experiences to learn how to pull through now,” he told his older peers. In essence, who better to give the world hope than those who have already lived through and endured decades of joys and sorrows.

The pope brought together thousands of older people in September of 2014 for a meeting and Mass in their honor in St. Peter’s Square. Even retired Pope Benedict XVI was in attendance.

There, as elsewhere, he used the metaphor of a tree to describe their role — the elderly are the roots that nourish the tree, helping it bear new fruit.

A connection — dialogue — is essential.

This encounter between the elderly and the young is “for the construction of a society that is more just, more beautiful, more supportive, more Christian,” he said in a talk with members of two Italian associations of seniors in October 2019.

“If grandparents do not dialogue with grandchildren, there will be no future. We are all called upon to counter this poisonous throwaway culture,” he said.

But those conversations must be filled with patience, tenderness and understanding, he said. “Do not berate them. No. Listen to them, and then sow something.”

Or, as he said at an intergenerational meeting presenting the book, “Sharing the Wisdom of Time,” in 2018, even silent witness to one’s faith is enough.

He recalled how his grandmother Rosa wasn’t a big talker, but her deep faith and example still left a huge impression on him.

At that meeting an older couple asked the pope what they should do when, despite all their efforts, their children and grandchildren have not embraced their Catholic faith.

“Faith is shared in dialect,” the pope said, meaning, not with the standardized words of dogma and the catechism, but with the language of love, friendship and encouragement, because faith does not come just from content.

He said they did not fail in their duty, it’s that sometimes life just unfolds that way, with children either unconsciously following current trends or losing their faith because of “terrible witnesses” and scandal by church members.

They must be at peace, he said at that meeting, and they must never argue or debate with their children or grandchildren about the faith but instead listen, show love, understanding, patience, be good witnesses and pray.

He said it gives him strength to remember “when Joseph and Mary took the baby Jesus to the temple where they met the two grandparents, who were the wisdom of the people; they praised God because this wisdom was able to continue with this child. Jesus was received in the temple not by the priest, but by grandparents.”

 

Two religious statues displayed outside Our Lady of Mercy Catholic Church in the Queens borough of New York City are seen destroyed July 17, 2021. The church is in the Diocese of Brooklyn. (CNS photo/courtesy Diocese of Brooklyn)

QUEENS, N.Y. (CNS) – Two religious statues displayed outside Our Lady of Mercy Catholic Church in the New York borough of Queens were destroyed in an act of vandalism in the early morning hours of July 17.

The damaged statues included one of Mary and one of St. Therese Lisieux, known as “the Little Flower.” A news release from the Diocese of Brooklyn said the statues were dragged 180 feet from the church across 70th Avenue, where they were smashed with a hammer.

Earlier in the week, on the evening of July 14, the statues “were toppled over but were not damaged,” the diocese said. “The individual involved in both acts of vandalism is believed to be the same person.”

“Both of these statues have stood in front of the church since it was built” in 1937, said Father Frank Schwarz, pastor.

“It is heartbreaking, but sadly it is becoming more and more common these days,” he said in a statement. “I pray that this recent rash of attacks against Catholic churches and all houses of worship will end, and religious tolerance may become more a part of our society.”

The Brooklyn Diocese said the vandalism was being investigated by the New York City Police Department Hate Crimes Unit and the department’s 112th Precinct.

According to Spectrum News NY1, which covers New York’s five boroughs, police released surveillance video of a woman they said they were looking for. She was described as being in her mid-20s and was dressed all in black. According to police, she used a hammer to break the statues and then dragged them across the street from the church.

Father Schwarz told the news outlet that these attacks seem “to be targeted” not just at Catholic churches but also synagogues and mosques. He attributed the vandalism to “general anti-religious sentiment.”

He also said he urged the faithful at his parish to “pray for this person,” who “clearly” had “rage.” “She deliberately went and destroyed these things. It wasn’t enough to just topple them over, she stomped on them and spit on it,” he said.

Other church property in the Brooklyn Diocese has been the target of vandals, including the grounds of the diocesan administrative offices in the Windsor Terrace section of Brooklyn.

Over the weekend of May 15 and 16, a statue depicting Mary holding the child Jesus was vandalized on the grounds of the diocesan administrative offices in the Windsor Terrace section of Brooklyn. The child Jesus was decapitated.

Before that, in the early hours of May 14, a crucifix on the property of St. Athanasius Catholic Church in Bensonhurst section of Brooklyn, was toppled and damaged. Msgr. David Cassato, the pastor, found it. He called it “truly an act of hatred” and said discovering it was “the saddest day of my 20 years here at this parish.”

With regard to the vandalism at St. Athanasius, New York police May 22 arrested a 29-year-old Brooklyn man, Ali Alaheri, in connection with that crime and an arson the week before. He has been charged with one federal count of criminal mischief as a hate crime.

 

A vandal spray painted the ground in front of St. Patrick Church in Northwest Portland, Ore., lit a fire and performed a dance sometime in June 2021. Parish staff are discussing ways to beef up security measures. (CNS photo/St. Patrick Parish, courtesy Catholic Sentinel)

PORTLAND, Ore. (CNS) – Four Portland Catholic churches have been vandalized in the span of about six weeks.

At least one incident involved a group protesting the recent discovery of unmarked graves at primarily Catholic-run schools in Canada, while other instances appear to be the work of disgruntled teens and individuals with general anger toward the church.

In June, vandals lit fires and wrote graffiti on the grounds at St. Patrick Church in Northwest Portland; a month later additional graffiti appeared on the historic church’s wooden front doors.

On June 26, a stained-glass window was broken at Northeast Portland’s St. Andrew Church and less than a week later, at St. Francis of Assisi Church in Southeast Portland, a group of protesters, including families with children, left red handprints on the church door, columns and steps.

Then late July 11 or early July 12, Holy Redeemer in North Portland had its doors spray-painted with an anarchist symbol and an obscene critique of colonialism.

Throughout the United States this year, there’s been increased vandalism, much of it protesting colonialism and white supremacy. Churches and religious statues have been among the targets.

In Portland, city officials reported complaints about graffiti at various locations were up nearly 400% since the pandemic began in March 2020.

In Canada, dozens of churches have been torched or vandalized this summer following the discovery of more than 1,000 unmarked graves at former residential schools for Indigenous children. Most of the schools were operated by the Catholic Church.

On Canada Day, July 1, when many Canadians opted to replace celebrations with large vigils, one of the vandalism cases in Portland occurred amid an evening protest in the city.

An estimated 200 people gathered to watch a movie, hear speeches and walk through the neighborhood that includes St. Francis at St. Francis of Assisi — a parish that long has ministered to area homeless through its dining hall.

The poster advertising the event described it as a “silent march and vigil to honor the Indigenous children and survivors of the U.S. and Canadian residential/boarding schools.”

At the church, protesters stopped and children were encouraged to dip their hands in red paint and place them on the doors, columns and steps.

Protesters left a sign on the church steps that read: “Your schools had playgrounds, ours had cemeteries.”

Father George Kuforiji, pastor of St. Francis, said he sympathizes with the anguish and sadness the protesters’ expressed but was distressed at their need to vandalize.

“Have your protest, yes, but to vandalize the church, a community that has nothing to do with the graves, that bothered me,” he told the Catholic Sentinel, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Portland. Members of the parish cleaned off most of the paint but some remains.

“Protests are a constitutional right,” but vandalizing property is a crime, said Lt. Greg Pashley, a spokesman with the Portland Police Bureau.

There was no police report for the vandalism at St. Francis, so Pashley could not say if it potentially could be considered a bias crime, also known as a hate crime. In Oregon law such a crime is defined as one motivated by bias against another person’s religion, race, color, disability, national origin, sexual orientation or gender identity.

Early July 12, parish staff of Holy Redeemer discovered painted symbols and messages on their church’s front doors. Phrases included “F— colonizers and their gods” and “land back.”

“It’s disappointing and sad,” said Holy Cross Father Michael Belinsky, parochial vicar. “If someone has an issue, whatever it is, they made the choice not to talk to people face to face but act in the cover of darkness.”

Pashley said the police report for the incident indicates the graffiti at the church possibly could be deemed a bias crime. Yet to charge someone with a bias crime a suspect’s intent must be certain, “and that can be tricky to determine,” said Pashley. “Just words or symbols are not enough for us to know someone’s intent.”

Parishioners and the maintenance staff were able to remove the graffiti hours after it was discovered, and Father Belinsky was quick to say he did not want the incident “blown out of proportion.”

“We are not being persecuted,” he said. “It’s a crime and the police are looking into it,” but it’s not the persistent vandalism that’s occurred nationwide and locally. “We have not been subject to that,” he said, nor to the relentless, violent persecution Christians face in other parts of the globe.

Across the Willamette River from Holy Redeemer, St. Patrick Church near downtown Portland regularly is tagged with minor graffiti due to its urban location.

The recent incidents, however, were more significant and distressing for the parish community, said Samantha Barker, parish business manager. All were recorded on the parish’s security camera.

In early June an individual doused the base of the 132-year-old church’s steps with gasoline and lit the gas on fire. Portland Fire and Rescue was called out to help.

Later in June, a teen or young adult sprayed illegible graffiti on the ground near the front doors of the church and on a concrete column. He also performed an odd dance and started a smaller fire. On July 15, another vandal painted graffiti on the parish’s wooden doors.

“The dance and small fire may have been something satanic,” Barker said, noting the motive for the three incidents have not been officially determined.

St. Patrick staff attempted to remove the paint on the ground using a power washer but the lettering has proved difficult to eradicate. They hesitated to clean the doors for fear of damaging them. The parish now is considering what additional security measures to adopt.

At St. Andrew in late June, an individual or individuals knocked over a ceramic planter on the church’s steps and used a piece of the broken pot to smash in a stained-glass window at the front of the church.

Father Dave Zegar, pastor, estimates the broken window will cost more than $2,000 to repair. The church’s stained glass was installed in 1929, when the church was built.

Father Zegar believes the vandalism likely is the work of a small group of high schoolers who’ve been hanging around parish grounds throwing trash and turning over tables.

 

People in Washington demonstrate near the White House July 19, 2021, following July 11 protests in Cuba against the government and a deteriorating economy. (CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn)

WASHINGTON (CNS) – The president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the chairman of the USCCB’s international policy committee expressed their solidarity and that of all the U.S. bishops “with our brothers in the Cuban episcopate, and with all men and women of goodwill in Cuba.”

Released late July 19, the statement acknowledged “the ongoing protests in Cuba and among the diaspora in the United States.”

It was jointly issued by Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles, USCCB president, and Bishop David J. Malloy of Rockford, chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on International Justice and Peace.

“As the Cuban bishops declared in their July 12 statement, ‘A favorable solution will not be reached by impositions, nor by calling for confrontation, but through mutual listening, where common agreements are sought and concrete and tangible steps are taken that contribute, with the contribution of all Cubans without exception, to the building-up of the Fatherland,'” the two U.S. prelates said.

“In the same spirit as the Cuban bishops, we urge the United States to seek the peace that comes from reconciliation and concord between our countries,” Archbishop Gomez and Bishop Malloy said.

Thousands of Cubans in Havana and in 14 other Cuban cities took to the streets July 11 to protest economic hardships, lack of basic freedoms and the Cuban government’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak, making for what some have described as the most significant unrest in decades.

They were mirrored by a vocal street protest in Miami’s Little Havana neighborhood late afternoon July 11. Protests are ongoing in Cuba and in the U.S.

Since July 11, the Cuban government reportedly has responded by arresting people, including clergy, not only on the streets but also in their homes. There was at least one confirmed death after police shot a man taking part in the anti-government protest. The government also has restricted internet and phone services.

Archbishop Gomez and Bishop Malloy said that for decades the USCCB, “in conjunction with the Holy See and the Cuban bishops, has called for robust cultural and commercial engagement between the United States and Cuba as the means to assist the island in achieving greater prosperity and social transformation.”

“We pray that Our Lady of Charity, our mother, watches over her children in Cuba, and that, together, our countries can grow in friendship in the interests of justice and peace,” they said.

On July 20, The Wall Street Journal reported: “The whereabouts of hundreds of arrested demonstrators is unknown and others are being held incommunicado without charges nine days after nationwide demonstrations rocked the Caribbean nation.”

“More than a week after the unprecedented demonstrations, hundreds of people are lining up outside police stations across the island asking about missing relatives,” the newspaper said.

 

Msgr. Jeffrey D. Burrill, a priest of the Diocese of La Crosse, Wis., is pictured at the USCCB headquarters in Washington Nov. 17, 2020, during the bishops’ virtual fall meeting. Msgr. Burrill resigned as USCCB general secretary July 20, 2021, amid “impending media reports alleging possible improper behavior.” In announcing the resignation, Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles, USCCB president, said the claim “did not include allegations of misconduct with minors.” (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

WASHINGTON (CNS) – Msgr. Jeffrey D. Burrill, the general secretary of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops since November, has resigned from the post after the USCCB “became aware of impending media reports alleging possible improper behavior by Msgr. Burrill,” said Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles, USCCB president.

In a July 20 memo to bishops, Archbishop Gomez said he had accepted Msgr. Burrill’s resignation, effective immediately.

“What was shared with us did not include allegations of misconduct with minors. However, in order to avoid becoming a distraction to the operations and ongoing work of the conference, Monsignor has resigned,” the archbishop said.

“The conference takes all allegations of misconduct seriously and will pursue all appropriate steps to address them,” he said.

In a lengthy story posted midday, The Pillar, an online outlet that covers the Catholic Church and provides news and analysis, said Archbishop Gomez’s memo came after it had contacted the USCCB and Msgr. Burrill regarding evidence the news outlet claimed to have “of a pattern of sexual misconduct on Burrill’s part.”

The Pillar claimed it had “found evidence the priest engaged in serial sexual misconduct, while he held a critical oversight role in the Catholic Church’s response to the recent spate of sexual abuse and misconduct scandals.”

“An analysis of app data signals correlated to Burrill’s mobile device shows the priest also visited gay bars and private residences while using a location-based hookup app in numerous cities from 2018 to 2020, even while traveling on assignment for the U.S. bishops’ conference,” it reported.

Commercially available app signal data, The Pillar said, “does not identify the names of app users, but instead correlates a unique numerical identifier to each mobile device using particular apps.”

“Signal data, collected by apps after users consent to data collection, is aggregated and sold by data vendors. It can be analyzed to provide timestamped location data and usage information for each numbered device,” The Pillar added.

In a brief statement released later in the day by its Office of Public Affairs, the USCCB, like Archbishop Gomez in his memo, said it had received “impending media reports alleging possible improper behavior” by Msgr. Burrill and that the priest had resigned, effective immediately, “to avoid becoming a distraction” to the conference’s operations and ongoing work.

“The conference takes all allegations of misconduct seriously and will pursue all appropriate steps to address them,” the statement said.

Archbishop Gomez said in his memo that in consultation with the bishops’ Executive Committee, he was appointing Father Michael J.K. Fuller, associate general secretary, to serve as interim general secretary “until the election of a new general secretary by the body of bishops.”

Father Fuller, a priest of the Diocese of Rockford, Illinois, was named to the associate post Nov. 19. The priest had worked as the executive director of the USCCB’s Secretariat of Doctrine and Canonical Affairs since August 2016.

“I ask for your prayers for Monsignor, and for the conference staff during this difficult time,” Archbishop Gomez said. “We also pray that all those affected might find strength and comfort in our merciful Lord.”

A priest of the Diocese of La Crosse, Wisconsin, Msgr. Burrill was named general secretary after the result of voting by the bishops that was announced Nov. 16, the first day of the USCCB’s annual fall general assembly. He had been the conference’s associate general secretary since March 1, 2016.

The Diocese of La Crosse issued a statement saying Bishop William P. Callahan and diocesan representatives “are saddened to hear the media reports related to Msgr. Burrill. The Diocese of La Crosse pledges its full cooperation with the conference of Catholic bishops to pursue all appropriate steps in investigating and addressing the situation.”

“Please remember Msgr. Burrill and all affected in your prayers so they may find refuge and strength in God’s unfailing love,” it added.

Prior to his USCCB appointment, Msgr. Burrill was pastor of St. Bronislava Church in Plover in central Wisconsin for three years. He was at the Pontifical North American College in Rome from 2009 to 2013, serving originally as director of apostolic formation and subsequently as the Carl J. Peter chair of homiletics, formation adviser and director of media relations.

He was ordained in 1998 for the Diocese of La Crosse. He was pastor of the parishes of St. Mary, in Duran, Holy Rosary in Lima, and Sacred of Jesus in Mondovi, Wisconsin, from 2001 to 2009. He also taught and was chaplain at Regis High School and Middle School in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, for two years prior to his parish assignments.

In addition, he was a regional vicar for six years, served two terms on the diocesan priests’ council and also was the diocese’s ecumenical officer and a member of the seminary admissions board.

A native of Marshfield, Wisconsin, Msgr. Burrill has a bachelor of arts degree from Immaculate Heart of Mary Seminary, adjacent to the campus of St. Mary’s University of Minnesota, in Winona, and a bachelor of sacred theology from Rome’s Pontifical Gregorian University. In 1999, he earned a licentiate in ecumenical theology from the Angelicum, or Pontifical University of St Thomas Aquinas, which also is in Rome.

 

Dozens of people pray outside on the grounds of the Basilica of the National Shrine to Saint Ann in West on Wednesday, July 21, 2021.

SCRANTON – After watching the Solemn Novena to Saint Ann on television last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Carol Nowacki of Taylor was thrilled to return to the Basilica of the National Shrine to Saint Ann for in-person Masses and devotions this year.

“I can’t be without it. It is so special,” she said. “The first day back, I sat down and I said, ‘This is good!’”

Nowacki plans to attend the Novena each day from July 17-26. She jokes she has been coming to the Novena since before she was born since her mother attended the religious pilgrimage in West Scranton while pregnant.

“When you come here, there’s a feeling. I can’t describe it other than to say, I just have a feeling in my heart, in my chest, of having arms wrapped around me,” she explained.

Nearly 50 years ago, Nowacki convinced her husband, Jack, to attend the Novena with her and they have been going together ever since.

“It’s relaxing. It is a nice, quiet time. You can reflect,” Jack Nowacki said about attending the revered summertime devotion, which is now marking its 97th year.

The theme for this year’s Novena is “Lift High the Cross.” The guest preachers for this year’s event are Passionist Fathers Robert Joerger and Robert Carbonneau.

“Everybody needs a little bit of help and sometimes you don’t even realize it,” Jack Nowacki said of the spiritual rejuvenation he feels after attending the Novena. “Just hearing the different speakers, they bring something up where you just look at things differently.”

For many, attending the Novena to Saint Ann, the mother of the Blessed Virgin Mary and grandmother of Jesus, is a family affair.

Diane Helbing of Archbald attended the 11:45 a.m. Daily Mass on Wednesday, July 21, with her husband, two grandchildren and sister-in-law. Sitting on lawn chairs outside the Basilica, they were thankful to avoid passing rain showers that threatened to soak the faithful outside.

When asked why she makes the pilgrimage to West Scranton, Helbing responded, “It’s a feeling deep within that I don’t find in many places. It’s a feeling of peace, a feeling of love and acceptance.”

Helbing says she has brought numerous intentions to Saint Ann over the years.

“Any question that I’ve had, I’ve had answered. It’s amazing,” she said. “It’s very uplifting. I had a question a couple years ago that I was really struggling with and while here at Saint Ann’s saying prayers, without even thinking of the intention at the time, I heard the answer. It was as clear as if you spoke it and that has happened over and over.”

While acknowledging the pandemic is still a reality, Helbing is glad this year’s Novena is 90-percent back to normal.

“We still follow the mandates but it’s a feeling of relief, a feeling of freedom to be able to come back here and be with other people that feel the same way,” she added.

Barbara Werts of West Pittston has been attending the Novena for the last decade with her sister and feels the same way.

“I enjoy it very much. I feel it is very calming, very enlightening and rewarding. It gives you a good feeling,” Werts said.

 

His Excellency, Bishop Joseph C. Bambera, announces the following appointments, effective as follows:

Clergy Assignments:

Bryant, Rev. Michael M., from Pastor, St. John Neumann Parish, Scranton, effective July 20, 2021, to Pastor, Nativity of Our Lord Parish, Duryea, effective August 2, 2021.

Mosley, Rev. Joseph J., from Assistant Pastor, St. Ignatius Loyola Parish, Kingston, to Pastor, St. Peter’s Parish, Wellsboro, effective August 11, 2021.

Sterowski, Rev. Scott P., from Pastor, St. Paul of the Cross, Scranton, to Pastor, Holy Cross Parish, Olyphant, and Blessed Sacrament Parish, Throop, effective July 20, 2021.

Toomey, Rev. Daniel A., from Pastor, Gate of Heaven Parish, Dallas, and Our Lady of Victory Parish, Harvey’s Lake, to Pastor, Epiphany Parish, Sayre, effective August 11, 2021.