2020 Voter Guide
State Legislative Races
Scranton Diocese

The Pennsylvania Catholic Conference is the public affairs arm of the Catholic bishops across the state. We monitor hundreds of pieces of legislation throughout the year and determine whether or not to take a position for or against what we feel are the ones most important to our faith.

This Voter Guide includes a cross-section of seven bills spanning seven categories to show how incumbent legislators have voted. We have also invited their challengers in the general election to indicate how they would vote on these same bills. This guide is meant to be an educational piece, which we hope will provide you with information so that you can make your own decisions.

A listing of the bills used for this comparison and their descriptions are below. The overall scores given to each candidate indicate the percentage of times they vote in support of PCC’s position and the percentage of times they voted in opposition to PCC’s position.  Please understand we continue to work with legislators from all parties on various pieces of legislation. Unlike these, not all of that legislation has been sent to the Governor.

The Conference neither supports nor opposes any candidate or political party. The Catholic Conference aims to educate and inform Catholics about a wide range of issues.

List of issues included for comparison:

Pro Life:
House Bill 321 was a prolife measure which would prohibit the aborting of a fetus solely on the basis of a possible diagnosis of Down syndrome. The PCC strongly supported this bill and worked with prolife lawmakers to gain its passage.  The bill passed both the House and the Senate but was vetoed by Governor Wolf.

Criminal Justice Reform:
Senate Bill 637 is a bill that will remove procedural boundaries that have prevented many ex-offenders from getting professional licenses in a number of professions. The PCC supported this measure, which got bi-partisan support. It’s a bill that many law enforcement professionals say will result in a reduction of crime. The bill passed both chambers and was recently signed by the Governor.

Disability Rights:
Senate Bill 906 was a measure that would delay the closing of two state long-term centers. The Wolf Administration had called for the closing of both facilities, but the PCC had concerns about what would happen to the residents.  We supported the bill, which passed both the House and Senate but was vetoed by the Governor.

Health Care:
House Bill 427 required that health insurers stay out of decisions between doctors and patients suffering from Stage IV metastatic cancer. The PCC supported this measure.

Human Trafficking:
Senate Bill 60 increased penalties for those connected with crimes of human trafficking. The PCC actively supported this measure in continuing with our efforts to work against human trafficking. This bill was one such bill that was passed and signed into law by the Governor this session.

Poverty:
House Bill 33 was a move to eliminate public assistance due to a purported lack of accountability of recipients.  Voting ‘yes’ on the bill would advocate the ending of that $200 per month payment.  The PCC opposed this bill. The bill ultimately was signed into law.

School Choice:
House Bill 800 was a bill that would have provided tax credits toward children who were attending a failing public school and wanted to attend another school of their choice. The PCC supported this measure as we do with all bills designed to further school choice. Both the House and Senate approved the measure but it was vetoed by the Governor.

Detailed voting breakdown of legislators voting with or against PCC’s position:

Senate

District Candidate HB 321 SB 637 SB 906 HB 427 SB 60 HB 33 HB 800
23 Gene Yaw (R)* Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes
23 Jaclyn E. Baker (D)
25 Margaret Satterwhite Brown (D)
25 Cris Dush (R) Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes
27 John R. Gordner (R)* (R)* Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes
27 Michelle Lynn Siegel (D)

*incumbent

House

District Candidate HB 321 SB 637 SB 906 HB 427 SB 60 HB 33 HB 800
68 Clint Owlett (R)* Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes
83 Jeff Wheeland (R)* Yes Yes No Yes Yes No Yes
83 Airneezer J. Page (D)
84 Joseph D. Hamm (R) Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
84 Amanda R. Waldman (D)
110 Tina Pickett (R)* Yes Yes No Yes Yes No Yes
111 Jonathan Fritz (R)* Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes
112 Kyle Mullins (D)* No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No
113 Marty Flynn (D)* No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No
113 William John Kresge (R)
114 Bridget Kosierowski (D)* Yes Yes NVA Yes NVA Yes No
114 James E. May (R)
115 Maureen Madden (D)* Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No No
115 Dulce Maria Ridder (R)
116 Todd Eachus (D) Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No —-
116 Tarah Toohil (R)* Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes
117 Karen Boback (R)* Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes
118 Michael B. Carroll (D)* No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No
118 Andrew Michael Holter (R) Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
119 Gerald J. Mullery (D)* No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No
119 John W. Chura (R)
120 Aaron D. Kaufer (R)* Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes
120 Joanna Bryn Smith (D) No Yes Yes Yes Yes No No
121 Eddie Day Pashinski (D)* No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No
139 Michael T. Peifer (R)* Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes
139 Marian S. Keegan (D) No Yes —- Yes Yes No No
176 Jack Rader (R)* Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes
176 Claudette Williams (D) No Yes Yes Yes Yes No No
189 Rosemary Brown (R)* Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes
189 Adam A. Rodriguez (D) No Yes Yes Yes Yes No No

 

 

Pope Francis delivers a prerecorded address to the 75th session of the U.N. General Assembly; the recording from the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace was aired Sept. 25, 2020. (CNS screenshot/Chaz Muth)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Francis asked members of the United Nations how they think they can respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and build a more peaceful, more just world when many of their countries spend billions on military weapons and when their treatment of the unborn, of refugees and of women shows so little respect for human life.

“We must ask ourselves if the principal threats to peace and security — poverty, epidemics, terrorism and so many others — can be effectively countered when the arms race, including nuclear weapons, continues to squander precious resources that could better be used to benefit the integral development of peoples and protect the natural environment,” the pope said in his video address, which was broadcast Sept. 25.

On the fifth anniversary of his visit to the U.N. headquarters in New York, Pope Francis returned to themes he has repeated since the COVID-19 pandemic began: Humanity faces a choice between trying to go back to an often unjust “normal” or taking the opportunity to rethink economic and political policies, putting the good of all people and the environment ahead of concern for maintaining the lifestyles of wealthy individuals and nations.

He drew particular attention to the pandemic’s impact on children, “including unaccompanied young migrants and refugees,” as well as to reports that “violence against children, including the horrible scourge of child abuse and pornography, has also dramatically increased.”

With millions of children still out of school, he said, there is a risk of “an increase in child labor, exploitation, abuse and malnutrition.”

“Sad to say, some countries and international institutions are also promoting abortion as one of the so-called ‘essential services’ provided in the humanitarian response to the pandemic,” he said. “It is troubling to see how simple and convenient it has become for some to deny the existence of a human life as a solution to problems that can and must be solved for both the mother and her unborn child.”

Pope Francis insisted that addressing the pandemic and building a more just and equitable world involves looking at every aspect of national and international life.

The pandemic “can represent a concrete opportunity for conversion, for transformation, for rethinking our way of life and our economic and social systems, which are widening the gap between rich and poor based on an unjust distribution of resources,” he said. Or “the pandemic can be the occasion for a ‘defensive retreat’ into greater individualism and elitism.”

The latter path, he said, “emphasizes self-sufficiency, nationalism, protectionism, individualism and isolation; it excludes the poor, the vulnerable and those dwelling on the peripheries of life. That path would certainly be detrimental to the whole community, causing self-inflicted wounds on everyone. It must not prevail.”

When companies, including those being assisted by government handouts during the pandemic, focus more on profits than on job creation, they contribute to the “throwaway culture,” which treats people as less important than wealth, he said.

“At the origin of this throwaway culture is a gross lack of respect for human dignity, the promotion of ideologies with reductive understandings of the human person, a denial of the universality of fundamental human rights, and a craving for absolute power and control that is widespread in today’s society,” he said. “Let us name this for what it is: an attack against humanity itself.”

The pope called on countries to work together to fulfill the ideals upon which the United Nations was founded 75 years ago, particular in peacemaking, defending human rights and caring for the world’s poorest and most disadvantaged.

“It is in fact painful to see the number of fundamental human rights that in our day continue to be violated with impunity,” he said, speaking of a “frightening picture of a humanity abused, wounded, deprived of dignity, freedom and hope for the future.”

“Religious believers continue to endure every kind of persecution, including genocide, because of their beliefs,” he said. “We Christians, too, are victims of this: how many of our brothers and sisters throughout the world are suffering, forced at times to flee from their ancestral lands, cut off from their rich history and culture.”

But the pope also drew special attention to situation of refugees, migrants and the internally displaced fleeing conflict, persecution and extreme poverty.

In an apparent reference to the situation in the Mediterranean, he denounced how “thousands are intercepted at sea and forcibly returned to detention camps, where they meet with torture and abuse. Many of these become victims of human trafficking, sexual slavery or forced labor, exploited in degrading jobs and denied a just wage. This is intolerable, yet intentionally ignored by many!”

Nations have entered into regional and international agreements to assist migrants and refugees, but often are lacking the political support at home to make them a reality or the countries just “shirk their responsibilities and commitments,” he said.

“The pandemic has shown us that we cannot live without one another, or worse still, (be) pitted against one another,” Pope Francis insisted. “The United Nations was established to bring nations together, to be a bridge between peoples. Let us make good use of this institution in order to transform the challenge that lies before us into an opportunity to bui

 

 

September 24, 2020

WASHINGTON — October is Respect Life Month, and Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City in Kansas and chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Pro-Life Activities has issued a statement encouraging Catholics to allow “the Gospel of Christ to touch and transform our own hearts and the decisions we make.”

Archbishop Naumann’s full statement follows:

“As Catholics in the United States, we will soon mark our annual observance of October as Respect Life Month. It is a time to focus on God’s precious gift of human life and our responsibility to care for, protect, and defend the lives of our brothers and sisters.

“This year’s theme, ‘Live the Gospel of Life,’ was inspired by the commemoration of the 25th anniversary of Pope John Paul II’s encyclical, The Gospel of Life. Pope John Paul’s masterfully articulated defense of the right to life for children in their mothers’ wombs, the elderly, persons with disabilities, and the marginalized is more relevant today than ever before.

“Last November, the U.S. bishops reaffirmed that ‘the threat of abortion remains our preeminent priority because it directly attacks life itself, because it takes place within the sanctuary of the family, and because of the number of lives destroyed.’ While we noted not to ‘dismiss or ignore other serious threats to human life and dignity such as racism, the environmental crisis, poverty, and the death penalty,’ we renewed our commitment to protect the most fundamental of all human rights – the right to live.

“This past January, I shared with Pope Francis that the bishops of the United States had been criticized by some for identifying the protection of the unborn as a preeminent priority. The Holy Father expressed his support for our efforts observing that if we fail to protect life, no other rights matter. Pope Francis also said that abortion is not primarily a Catholic or even a religious issue, it is first and foremost a human rights issue.

The Gospel of Life provides a blueprint for building a culture of life and civilization of love. The important work of transforming our culture begins by allowing the Gospel of Christ to touch and transform our own hearts and the decisions we make. May we strive to imitate Christ and follow in his footsteps, caring for the most vulnerable among us. Through the intercession of Our Lady of Guadalupe, may Our Lord grant us the grace to live courageously and faithfully his Gospel of life.”

New parish resources have been developed around the theme of “Living the Gospel of Life” and are available at www.respectlife.org. Respect Life Sunday falls on October 4.

 

 

Dear Friends,

As we prepare for our annual celebration of Respect Life Sunday on October 4, 2020, we do so at a moment that is unprecedented in its focus on care for the human person.

For over eight months, our world has waged war with a virus that has currently attacked more than 29 million people and has left close to a million deaths in its wake. In the process, we have engaged behavior that has isolated us one from another and prompted actions from wearing masks to shuttering churches, schools, stores and factories, all in an effort to protect and preserve human life. In the midst of such upheaval and pain, as a nation, we have also been forced to confront the ongoing reality of racism, which continues to raise its ugly head and tragically disregards the same lives that we are trying to protect from the global pandemic.

Ironically, these challenging realities that prompt us to focus on efforts to preserve and respect life continue to unfold in our own land amid a climate of polarization that has bitterly set lives against one another. And all of this division is fueled by an election cycle that only seems to complicate our search for truth and justice for all.

The theme for this year’s Respect Life commemoration is Live the Gospel of Life! Sadly, a reflection on the current reality of life in our land reveals that as a nation and people, we have yet to embrace and respect human life in its totality as we should. In an introductory letter to the US Bishops’ teaching document on the political responsibility of Catholics, Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, the Bishops quote Pope Francis’ words taken from his exhortation, Gaudete et exultate, as he addresses our role as disciples of Jesus in confronting the struggles of our time:

Your identification with Christ and his will involves a commitment to build with him that kingdom of love, justice and universal peace. … You cannot grow in holiness without committing yourself, body and soul, to giving your best to this endeavor. 

The call to holiness that the Holy Father references requires that we, as Catholics, stand firm in our respect and reverence for the human person as the very foundation of a moral vision for society. As such, in that same letter, the US Bishops affirm that “the threat of abortion remains our preeminent priority because it directly attacks life itself, because it takes place within the sanctuary of the family, and because of the number of lives destroyed. At the same time, we cannot dismiss or ignore other serious threats to human life and dignity such as racism, the environmental crisis, poverty and the death penalty.”

The Bishops stress that “our efforts to protect the unborn remain as important as ever, for just as the Supreme Court may allow greater latitude for state laws restricting abortion, state legislators have passed statutes not only keeping abortion legal through all nine months of pregnancy but opening the door to infanticide. Additionally, abortion contaminates many other important issues by being inserted into legislation regarding immigration, care for the poor, and health care reform.”

The upcoming election provides us with a vital platform through which we, as Catholics, can give voice to core Gospel values rooted in the dignity and worth of every human person, having been created in the image and likeness of God.

While Church leaders have often been accused of siding with one party or another, the fact remains that no one candidate perfectly reflects the broad and encompassing social and moral teachings of our Catholic Church. As such, it is incumbent upon us as Christians that, regardless of party affiliation, we thoughtfully and prayerfully vote for those candidates for office who not only personally reflect but clearly support legislation upholding our obligation to live the Gospel of Life.

In examining our consciences and in seeking to inform them in a responsible manner according to the tenants of our Catholic faith, may we be encouraged in our efforts by the words of Saint John Paul II in his encyclical, Christifideles Laici:

The right to health, to home, to work, to culture is false and illusory if the right to life, the most basic and fundamental right and the condition for all other personal rights, is not defended with maximum determination. 

Brothers and sisters, our responsibility as disciples of Jesus is clear. We are called to live the Gospel of Life. We do so, however, not solely by speaking of our resolve to respect human life or by self-righteously criticizing those whose beliefs may appear to be different than our own. We do so by treating one another with reverence, respect and dignity as children of God. We do so by serving the broken lives and hearts that God has placed in our midst, whomever they may be. And this year, in particular, we Live the Gospel of Life by exercising our right to vote for those candidates who best respect the dignity and worth of all those lives that will be entrusted to their care.

Faithfully yours in Christ,

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

 

SCRANTON – As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread, Bishop Joseph C. Bambera believes the work being done by priests has been nothing less than heroic.

That is why the bishop set this past Monday, Sept. 14, as a Day of Prayer and Gratitude for Priests in the Diocese of Scranton. Bishop Bambera led all diocesan priests in Evening Prayer from the Cathedral of Saint Peter. While only a limited number of clergy were in attendance, the others watched on CTV: Catholic Television or via social media.

“Thank you for being creative and responsive to your people’s pastoral needs. Thank you for keeping your people safe when the doors of our Churches finally reopened,” Bishop Bambera said. “And thank you most especially for placing your own safety and well-being on the line in bringing the sacraments to those who were most in need of their grace.”

During his homily, the bishop explained that priests have confronted these unusual times with great determination, but also acknowledged the struggles and questions that many continue to face.

“The words of the 13th Psalm seem particularly relevant to this moment in our lives, ‘How long, Lord? Will you utterly forget me? How long will you hide your face from me?’” the bishop said. “Let me assure you that as desperate as this time may appear to be, it is miraculously in the acceptance of the many crosses that have made their way in our lives that God’s plan for our salvation begins to take shape and our deepest hopes are realized.”

The bishop reminded the priests that hope can always be found in placing our lives in the hands of God.

“May each of you find consolation and peace in the selfless service that you offer to so many,” Bishop Bambera said. “In the face of suffering, may you simply trust in the mercy and love of God. And may you come to believe with all your hearts that such trust and love bind you to Jesus, the only source of our hope and salvation.”

Monday’s Evening Prayer Service, held on the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, also featured the Renewal of Priestly Promises, in which priests renew their dedication to Christ and to the service of His people.

The Renewal of Priestly Promises typically takes place at the Chrism Mass during Holy Week. The bishop delayed that celebration, hoping that the current health crisis would subside so that everyone could come together but that didn’t happen.

Because of social distancing measures, the bishop didn’t want anyone to be excluded.

“As priests, we have the need to acknowledge in prayer the fraternity that we share as disciples of Jesus Christ. And our good people have a need to support and pray for you,” Bishop Bambera said.

During the Evening Prayer service, the bishop also acknowledged the presence of priests who are celebrating significant anniversaries this year. Completing 25 years of ministry are Fathers John Chmil, Vincent Dang and Glenn McCreary. Celebrating 50 years of service are Father Martin Gaiardo and the Most Reverend Joseph F. Martino, D.D., Hist. E.D., and commemorating 60 years of priestly ministry is Father William Culnane.

 

 

SCRANTON – During the months of September and October, our country observes National Hispanic Heritage Month. We celebrate the histories, cultures and contributions of American citizens whose family ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America. Many of these countries celebrate the anniversary of their independence during this month.

The Spanish community at Saint John Neumann parish in South Scranton has brought their heritage and cultural customs to this Catholic community for close to 40 years. The Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe brings hundreds of people from throughout the Diocese of Scranton to the church in December. Another big event at the parish, among many, is the Spanish Food Booth at the Summer Festival. This year, the COVID pandemic put the fun and delicious event on hold.

To assist the parish and keep our Spanish taste buds alive, Saint John Neumann is offering, on Saturday, September 26, a Spanish Food Drive-by form 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. at the Nativity Church Parking lot site. Tickets are on sale now and these homemade Spanish foods are available: 2 Empanadas for $5.00, 2 Elote (Mexican corn-on-the-cob) for $5.00, 3 Tacos Dorados for $5.00. Tickets can be reserved at the Parish Office (633 Orchard Street) or by calling (570-344-6159). Advanced Ticket

Sales only and no tickets sold after Sept. 23rd. Join St. John Neumann Parish and NEPA in celebrating our Spanish brothers and sisters who share their gifts and histories during this special time.

 

SCRANTON – The 2020 Diocesan Annual Appeal: Bound Together in Hope will begin in all parishes in the Diocese of Scranton on Sept. 26 and 27. This year’s goal is $4.5 million.

An Appeal video will be shown at Masses and on parish websites and Facebook pages. Six regional Appeal videos have been produced to feature ministries funded by the Appeal in each area of the diocese. The videos will also be available on the diocesan website.

“This year’s Appeal theme Bound Together in Hope speaks to the strength of our faith especially during the coronavirus pandemic as we reach out to help each other as one body in Christ,” Bishop Joseph C. Bambera said.

“The generosity of the faithful to the Diocesan Annual Appeal brings hope to thousands of people in northeastern and north central Pennsylvania. This is particularly true this year as we are serving an increasing number of people seeking help,” Bishop Bambera added. “While I know this is a challenging time for many of our parishioners and some may not be able to support the Appeal this year, I ask those who are able to help to consider making a contribution.”

Because of the pandemic, the traditional In-Pew Commitment Weekend for the Appeal will be replaced with an Online Giving Weekend on Nov. 21 and 22, where parishioners and friends will be invited to support the Appeal through this special online event.

Gifts to the Appeal will have a significant impact this year to help diocesan ministries serve an increasing number of people in need and provide opportunities to offer programs and services in different ways in response to the pandemic.

More than 10,000 households have received food from one of our Catholic Social Services food pantries in Carbondale, Scranton, Hazleton and Wilkes-Barre from March to July 2020.  This is a 50% increase over the same period last year.  Parishes are also serving more people in their parish outreach programs, some of which are supported by the Appeal through social justice grants.

Appeal gifts support Diocesan Catholic School teachers and staff as they make the significant changes that are needed to continue to provide a quality education to our students in the safest way possible.

Donations to the Appeal also support the Office for Parish Life in its efforts to develop new ways to connect to parishes such as the recent virtual Catechist Camp for parish directors of religious education, the Together Project for young adults and a new online Faith Formation program to assist parishes.

Thousands of the faithful who are not able to attend Mass in person are watching the broadcast and livestreaming of Masses from the Cathedral of Saint Peter. Catholic Television, The Catholic Light and information provided on the Diocesan website are funded by donations to the Appeal.

Gifts to the Appeal also provide assistance to our seminarians in priestly formation and care and support for Diocesan retired and ill priests who have dedicated their lives in faithful service to parishioners throughout the diocese.

Donors to the Appeal may designate their gift to any of the ministries listed above.

For more information on the Diocesan ministries supported by gifts to the Annual Appeal, to view one of the regional Annual Appeal videos or to make a donation online, visit www.annualappeal.org . 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.

 

 

September 14, 2020

CARBONDALE – Eucharistic exuberance filled the hearts of the faithful when diocesan parishes opened their doors for a return to the sacraments for their flocks. In the months that followed, priests have celebrated Masses in small indoor gatherings and larger outdoor venues.

As the public continues to be welcome to enter their houses of worship for liturgical celebrations, a trend began in which Holy Masses left the churches – especially in rural parish settings – and the Eucharist came to the people who would gather outdoors to be spiritually nourished.

The open air liturgies and sacramental celebrations that continue to be offered have certainly been blessed by Divine Providence, with very little rain taking place during the weekend celebrations of Mass.

“We were blessed with a beautiful morning and naturally beautiful setting at Takach Grove,” Father Jeff Walsh, pastor of Our Lady of Mount Carmel and Saint Rose of Lima in Carbondale, said of the parishes’ first outdoor Mass celebrated on the last Sunday of August at the Greenfield Township social pavilion.

According to the recently appointed pastor of the Carbondale faith communities, approximately 130 faithful gathered for the outside liturgy, abiding by the social distancing and mask regulations set forth by the Diocese of Scranton and Centers for Disease Control during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

As principal celebrant, Father Walsh remarked that the outdoor celebration was the first in-person Mass for many of his parishioners since March.

He was joined by concelebrant and assistant pastor, newly ordained Father Kevin Miller, Deacon Pat Massino and Diocesan seminarian Michael Boris, who has been assigned to serve his pastoral year at the Carbondale parishes, welcomed the outside congregation to the celebration of Mass.

“Surrounded by green field with wandering wild turkeys, next to a pond with lily pads, the Mass was very well received and appreciated,” Father Walsh said. “Thanks be to God!”

In the Poconos, an outdoor Mass is celebrated every Sunday at noon in the grassy area off the upper parking lot of Our Lady of Victory Church, Tannersville, where Father Richard Czachor is the longtime pastor.

“This came about after a few weeks of celebrating Mass only in our church, following proper distancing and wearing of masks,” Father Czachor explained. “Some people shared that they were afraid to come into church. Others said it’s difficult to wear a mask for so long. But they all still wanted so very much to receive the Eucharist.”

The pastor noted members of the Knights of Columbus organize the parking details and give instructions to the gathering congregation. Some remain in their cars, he said, while others bring chairs or sit on the lawn near the covered altar.

“The Contemporary Choir provides the music, making for a beautiful celebration,” noted Father, who indicated between 30 or 40 cars arrive for Mass each week, with upwards of 70 faithful in attendance. “So many people come forward and express their thanks for the opportunity to attend Mass and receive the Eucharist.”

The outdoor Masses have brought Donna and Fred Talcove of Jackson Township back to the liturgies at Our Lady of Victory, after the 18-year parishioners had been viewing the church celebrations online since mid-March.

“I think it’s great because I have underlying issues,” said Donna, who suffers from COPD and would rather attend Mass outside. “I missed receiving Holy Communion.”

Referring to an imminent change in the weather that will not be as conducive to outdoor liturgies, Fred remarked, “I don’t know how long we can go like this. We will take it week by week.”

Stephen and Laura Brady of Reeders, OLV parishioners for 25 years, have attended the outdoor Mass since it was first offered. “It’s good to get back,” said Stephen. “This is fine. We could do this every Sunday.”

A former Catholic school student who became accustomed to attending informal Masses in the gymnasium, Laura said, “You have options,” noting there is no need to register for the outside liturgies.

“You can stay in your car and have Communion brought to you, if you need to,” she remarked.

Echoing the Bradys’ sentiments was John DeRobertis of Stroud Township, a member of the Tannersville parish since 1986.

“When I was in the Boy Scouts, we had outdoor Masses and I loved it,” he said. “It’s just so nice to be outside, in nature, with beautiful scenery around and enjoying the Mass.”

DeRobertis further noted that the open-air liturgies lessen the chances of contracting the COVID virus and offered, “It’s so good to receive the Lord. That’s what we are here for, to receive Jesus.”

At Our Lady Queen of Peace Parish in Brodheadsville, weekday Masses are celebrated in the outdoor Pavilion on the church grounds on Monday at 12:10 p.m. and Tuesday through Saturday at 8 a.m., with a Spanish Mass offered outside on Sundays at 5 p.m.

The Pavilion area has also provided the ideal setting for weekly sacramental confessions at the parish, which is also currently celebrating the Sacrament of Baptism outdoors.

Pastor Father Mike Quinnan sees the outdoor liturgical celebrations as a blessing in disguise in the midst of the ongoing pandemic.

“We are having a beautiful summer,” Father Quinnan said. “It is so peaceful and pleasant to look out over nature and the beauty of the Poconos while celebrating Mass every morning.”

He continued, “I will miss not having Mass out in the Pavilion when the weather turns colder. However, the prayer and faith of the parish is strong and together we will meet the challenges and go where God wants us.”

Queen of Peace parishioner Diane Hicks said of participating in the outdoor liturgies, “It gives me a serenity and a deep connection with God and nature.”

Fellow Mass-goer Joseph Kenas feels the outdoor Pavilion at the parish is a “true blessing,” given the mandated social distancing and other health guidelines brought about by the pandemic.

“Thankfully, through the massive efforts of so many of our church volunteers, we were able to have an outside Pavilion built,” he remarked, “and what better way to celebrate and show our thanks than to celebrate Mass here daily. It’s truly a joy to be able to share this experience with others every day. Sure, it’s not quite the same as celebrating Mass in the church proper, but it’s a very, very close second!”

Father Christopher Sahd, senior priest at Saint John the Evangelist Parish in Honesdale, has been celebrating the 11:30 a.m. Sunday Mass on a picturesque hill located behind Saint John Church.

Explaining that the novel outdoor Mass is offered on the site of the original parish church and cemetery, Father Sahd noted, “While there are no grave markers, there is a beautiful golden statue of the Child Jesus being held by the Mother of God, which beckons prayer for the faithful buried there,” adding the statue presides over the spot where the open-air Mass is offered.

Father estimated that between 50 and nearly 90 parishioners — with children, chairs and blankets in tow — arrive each week and assemble before the outdoor altar for the Sunday celebration.

“Through sacred art and the chanting of the Propers of the Mass, the use of incense and frequent silent contemplation,” he continued, “we have tried to arrange for the Mass to be a solemn as possible, so as to lift our demeanor from the casual to the reverent.”

The Honesdale senior priest said he is always uplifted by the presence of young children at the liturgies, who join their elders in kneeling or standing in adoration on the hillside.

“To me, there is something beautiful about the outdoor Mass,” Father Sahd concluded. “Passersby catch a glimpse of the Sacred Host and chalice lifted high above the altar. We thank God for giving us this opportunity to keep His Day holy and giving Him worship.”

Weekday Twilight
Masses in Muncy

The current health crisis has also brought about changes in parishes’ overall Mass schedules — most notably, the popular choice of pastors to move their traditional weekday morning liturgies to later in the day to accommodate the faithful.

At Resurrection Parish in Muncy, their pastor Father Glenn McCreary decided to celebrate three daily Masses in the evening hours to provide more opportunity for Mass attendance during the week, especially given the lifting of the Sunday obligation.

As Father McCreary explained, since the parish enjoyed a good experience with their regularly scheduled Wednesday evening Mass, daily liturgies on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday are now offered at 7 p.m. in the Church of the Resurrection. The 9 a.m. Mass on Thursday still continues to allow time for Confessions and adoration later in the evening.

“We’re getting more people at weekday Mass in the evenings than we did in the mornings,” the Muncy pastor said.

“Some of those parishioners had never attended weekday Mass,” he continued. “I believe people appreciated the ability of the parish to adapt to new realities and to shape a schedule that better fit their lives.”

 

 

 

September 13, 2020

Planning, preparation and prayer have helped Catholic school students, families, faculty, staff and administrators safely begin a brand new school year.

Many students in the Diocese of Scranton Catholic School System have returned to class for in-person instruction over the last several weeks, while others are taking part in the Diocesan Virtual Academy.

“There is energy and excitement around the first day of school on any year,” Kristen Donohue, Superintendent of Catholic Schools, said. “I’m extremely proud of how our students and teachers have embraced this time, turning challenges into opportunities in many cases.”

Everyone has a role to play in helping mitigate the spread of COVID-19 this fall. Through the diocese’s “Sharing Good Health” initiative, strategies include continuing health screenings at home before going to school, wearing masks, good hygiene practices and keeping a safe physical distance in an effort to prevent the spread of the virus.

“While things may look different this year, our staff has worked extremely hard to create a welcoming environment like always, so that our children can continue to achieve their God-given potential,” Jason Morrison, Chief Executive Officer and Diocesan Secretary of Education, said.

 

 

SCRANTON – The COVID-19 pandemic has forced the cancellation of many events but it wasn’t enough to stop what has become an annual back-to-school tradition in North Scranton.

For the last several years, Mary, Mother of God Parish has hosted a picnic for students and families from the Bangor Heights Housing Development in late August. Due to the coronavirus, this year’s event on Aug. 27 looked different but was still able to accomplish its mission.

“It’s very important to come, just to see the children here,” parishioner Mary Lou Lozinger said. “They appreciate it and whatever we can do to help them further their schooling, we’ll do it.”

Instead of hamburgers and hot dogs served off the grill, those who turned out received pre-wrapped sandwiches. They were also provided with free school supplies and clothing.

“They don’t get a lot of what other children do, so we try our best to help out,” parishioner Nina Condella said.

The back-to-school picnic serves as evangelization tool for the parish. Parents are able to enroll or learn more about religious education classes.

“Every year that we come, we always get a few children to join the CCD classes and receive Communion and Confirmation. Some even get baptized so it’s nice, it really is,” Condella added.

Geraldine Francisco, who lives in the Bangor Heights development, learned about the parish through the event several years ago after moving to Scranton. She attended the event with her son after seeing a promotional flyer.

“I wanted to baptize my son since he was a baby and because of other things going on at the time, it felt impossible, but now I feel stable here at the parish. I’m glad that I was able to baptize him and he’s doing his First Communion so I’m really happy about that,” Francisco said.

“I did not know Geraldine before but now we do, because of this particular project and there are a lot more Geri’s. We just have to surface them and connect with them,” Mary, Mother of God pastor, Father Cyril Edwards, said.

The event is funded by a social justice grant, provided to the parish by generous donations from the Diocesan Annual Appeal.

“This is an opportunity, through the Appeal, to show that there is plenty of hope,” Father Edwards explained.

“The interaction it provides with people is priceless,” Sister Therese Mary Dougherty, I.H.M., said. “Hope never dies. We want to nurture people’s hope through the church and through their neighborhood.”

While Father Edwards used a microphone and speaker to invite families to the picnic, volunteers from the Mary, Mother of God Marian Society waited for hungry guests under two large pop-up tents.

“It is a way to reach people. You have to…We have to go to them,” Father Edwards said.

Without attending the picnic, Geraldine Francisco said she may not have become involved with the parish.

“I feel like everything happens for a reason and if it wasn’t for that, then I wouldn’t be where I am today and I’m so happy that I’m in the parish family,” she said.