HARRISBURG (May 18, 2020) – The Pennsylvania Catholic Conference today urged Governor Tom Wolf to halt his administration’s efforts to divert federal CARES Act money away from private schools. The governor and the Pennsylvania Department of Education are looking to take away most of the funding for private schools that Congress wants distributed equitably in COVID-19 relief to ALL schools in Pennsylvania and across the country.

Pennsylvania received $471 million in funding from Washington D.C., but PCC Education Director Sean McAleer says, “The Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) created its own set of rules to distribute that money that blatantly ignores federal guidance. The end result significantly lowers the amounts to be given to Catholic and nonpublic school students.”

McAleer broke down the disparity this way, saying, “The Wolf Administration is calling for roughly $19 million to go to Catholic and nonpublic school students, while Washington is calling for $66 million. The Wolf administration is misappropriating some $47 million in federal funds and harming families who have chosen to send their children to Catholic and nonpublic schools.”

“Catholic and nonpublic school students matter,” McAleer added. “Mr. Wolf, please follow the federal guidelines! In a time when thousands of Pennsylvania’s children and families are suffering and struggling to make ends meet, the administration has chosen to cause further harm by refusing to allocate money as directed by the federal government.”

The Pennsylvania Catholic Conference is based in Harrisburg and is the public affairs arm of Pennsylvania’s Catholic bishops.



May 18, 2020

WASHINGTON—The annual collection for the Catholic Communication Campaign (CCC) is scheduled to take place on the weekend of May 23-24, coinciding with World Communications Day. This annual national appeal supports efforts in the United States and around the world to use the media, internet, and print publications to help people connect with Christ.

The COVID-19 virus has prompted life to change in dramatic ways for more than two months with an increased reliance on communication tools to stay connected. Catholics and non-Catholics alike are using online tools to work and attend school, and stay connected to their families, friends, and their faith. Although most people are unable to gather together in their parishes for Mass, some dioceses offer electronic offertory programs that include the Catholic Communication Campaign or other ways for parishioners to support scheduled appeals. “In these times, the support of the Catholic Communication Campaign is vital to help keep the faithful connected to our faith and for dioceses to communicate the Gospel through all available means,” said Archbishop Gregory J. Hartmayer, OFM Conv. of Atlanta, and chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Subcommittee on the Catholic Communication Campaign (CCC). “The CCC has long recognized the need to reach people and help them connect with Christ. Thanks to the generosity of the faithful in the United States, millions of people throughout the world have been able to connect in new ways with the Good News of Jesus Christ, especially in recent months,” continued Archbishop Hartmayer.

Fifty percent of the funds collected through the campaign remain in each diocese to support local communication efforts. The other half is used to support national efforts in the United States and in developing countries around the world.

With support from the Catholic Communication Campaign, the USCCB developed a resource page in response to the COVID-19 virus, “Together in Christ” on its website with links for families, parishes, and dioceses to prayer resources, livestream of Masses, and catechetical materials.

Two documentaries supported by major CCC grants are now in national broadcast television circulation. Revolution of the Heart: The Dorothy Day Story, about the Catholic Worker movement co-founder who is on the road to sainthood, was released to public television stations in March 2020 and has already exceeded 1,000 broadcasts nationwide. The film won the Religion Communicators Council 2020 Wilbur Award for best documentary. Walking the Good Red Road: Nicholas Black Elk’s Journey to Sainthood, presents the intriguing life of a man born into pre-reservation America and immortalized in author John Neihardt’s classic 1932 book Black Elk Speaks. The program brings to light Black Elk’s conversion to Catholicism and his dedication to bringing other Native Americans to the Catholic faith. In cooperation with the Interfaith Broadcasting Commission, the program will be available on ABC-TV stations nationwide beginning May 17, 2020.

The Subcommittee on the Catholic Communication Campaign oversees the collection and an annual grants program under the direction of the USCCB’s Committee on Communications. Shareable resources for the collection are available online. More information about the Catholic Communication Campaign can be found at www.usccb.org/ccc. Still photos from the documentary films Revolution of the Heart and Walking the Good Red Road are available to the media upon request.


May 18, 2020

His Excellency, Bishop Joseph C. Bambera, announces the following appointments, effective at a time to be determined, given the ongoing health crisis.

Reverend John J. Chmil, from Senior Priest, Saint Matthew Parish, East Stroudsburg, to Pastor, Saint Ann Parish, Williamsport.

Reverend Ryan P. Glenn, from Assistant Pastor, Saint John Neumann Parish, Scranton, to Assistant Pastor, Saint Matthew Parish, East Stroudsburg. Father Glenn is also appointed as Chaplain, Notre Dame High School, East Stroudsburg.

Reverend James Price C.P., from Pastor, Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish, Carbondale, and Saint Rose of Lima Parish, Carbondale, to ministry within the Passionists Congregation.

Reverend Alex J. Roche, from Pastor, Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Lake Silkworth, and Chaplain, Holy Redeemer High School, Wilkes-Barre, to Diocesan Vocations Director.  Father Roche will remain Chaplain, Misericordia University, Dallas.

Reverend Phillip J. Sladicka, V.F., from Administrator, Pro Tem, Saint Maria Goretti Parish, Laflin.  Father Sladicka will continue to serve as Pastor, Queen of the Apostles Parish, Avoca.

Reverend Seth D. Wasnock, from Assistant Pastor, Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish, Carbondale, and Saint Rose of Lima Parish, Carbondale, to Pastor, Saint Maria Goretti Parish, Laflin. Father Wasnock is also appointed as Chaplain, Holy Redeemer High School, Wilkes-Barre.

Reverend Donald J. Williams, from Diocesan Vocations Director, to Pastor, Saint Matthew Parish, East Stroudsburg.

Newly Ordained Priests will be assigned to the following Parishes as Assistant Pastors:

Saint John Neumann Parish, Scranton

Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish and Saint Rose of Lima Parish, Carbondale

Saint Faustina Parish, Nanticoke


Saint Michael Parish in Canton, Bradford County, will be one of the first that is gradually able to resume public Masses

As four counties within the Diocese of Scranton’s territory entered the “yellow phase” of Pennsylvania’s reopening plan on Friday, May 8, 2020, Bishop Joseph C. Bambera announced that public Masses would be allowed to gradually resume for parishes in those specific communities.

Public Masses will initially only be allowed to resume in Bradford, Lycoming, Sullivan and Tioga counties, which were the first four counties to enter the “yellow phase.” Bishop Bambera directed that public Masses in Bradford, Lycoming, Sullivan and Tioga counties could not begin until at least Monday, May 18, 2020, ensuring parishes have the proper time to develop plans to protect the safety and well-being of all parishioners.

“A slow, steady, gradual approach will best enable us to regather,” Bishop Bambera said, emphasizing “gradual” to ensure the health of all the faithful, clergy and the community. In addition to opening their doors for public Masses, parish churches in the four designated counties will also be allowed to offer sacramental confessions and the celebration of wedding and funeral liturgies, but only with strict adherence to current social distancing guidelines and the mandate that no more than 25 people gather in one place at one time.

Bishop Bambera also announced that during the “yellow phase,” much-anticipated First Holy Communion and Confirmation Mass celebrations will be able to take place, with individual parishes determining when and how these are to occur. Lauding the faithful of the Diocese for radiating the “Light of Jesus” and expressing his appreciation for their patience and understanding during these “challenging and unprecedented times , ” Bishop Bambera stressed the call for sacrifice continues. He stated the preparations and planning underway by pastors and parishes for such a transitioning are immense and timelines for the reopening of churches may vary between parishes.

“Jesus’ embrace of our lives and our world powerfully reminds us of why we are charged to take so much care in reopening our churches,” the Bishop said, as he looks forward to welcoming faithful back to the pews. “Our careful attention to keeping each other safe as we regather is the greatest affirmation that we can offer in support of human life and, ultimately, our faith as Christians.” Bishop Bambera cautioned the guidelines required to resume public Masses are fluid and changes should be expected. However, he was also emphatic that it is important that the process begins. The gradual resuming of daily Masses on May 18 in the Bradford County Parish of Saint Michael in Canton was announced by its pastor, Father Joseph Kutch. In addition to Saint Michael Church, the parish community also encompasses the worship sites of Saint Aloysius Church, Ralston, and Saint John Nepomucene Church in Troy. Father Kutch stated the schedule for weekend Masses throughout the parish will be scaled back, with a reservation system being implemented for all liturgies in accordance with the limit of 25 congregants in attendance.

“What I am most thrilled about is the opportunity to now baptize and confirm one of our catechumens and confirm our other two candidates in the RCIA program,” Father Kutch commented. “Of course, we were unable to do this at this year’s Easter Vigil.” Those sacraments are now scheduled to be conferred and celebrated in the parish on the Vigil of Pentecost Sunday on Saturday, May 30.

“This is particularly important to me and our parish,” Father continued, “because once our catechumen is baptized and confirmed and his fiancé is also confirmed, they plan on receiving the Sacrament of Matrimony on June 20 here at Saint Michael’s Church.” The rural pastor also said he is looking forward to the celebration of the sacraments of First Holy Communion and Confirmation for the parish children in the near future. Father Andrew Hvozdovic admitted he initially had mixed feelings about moving his parish, Church of the Epiphany in Sayre, Bradford County, from the socalled “red phase” to the “yellow phase.” “One on hand,” the Epiphany pastor said, “I thought, ‘this is great,’ then reality set in and I thought, ‘how do we make this happen?’”

Father Hvozdovic stated that once the guidance measures and materials for reopening the churches were issued by the Diocese and shared with the Parish Pastoral Council, members were “overwhelmed with initial wonder as to how we would safely be able to make this work.”

Not surprisingly, according to Father, reaction from parish faithful was quick and enthusiastic as parishioners devoutly looked forward to rushing back to church. “Well, not so fast,” he responded.

Blessed with a large worship site able to seat 500 people, Epiphany Church will utilize its capacity to abide by social-distancing requirements for the two dozen worshippers allowed in the church at any given time. Separate doors to enter and exit the church are also available.

The reopening process will begin with the parish’s celebration of daily Mass at 12:10 p.m.

“The opportunity to attend will be offered first to the family of the Mass’ intention and the family requesting the intention,” Father Hvozdovic said. “Then whatever space is available will be on a first-call order system,” to be operated by members of a newly formed Pandemic Coordinating Team.

According to the pastor, the first several weekend Masses to be offered at the reopened parish church will be dedicated to the celebrations of First Holy Communion, Confirmation, and RCIA sacraments.

With regard to First Communion and Confirmation, Father explained, Masses will be limited to just a few of those children receiving the sacrament and their family members. “This would probably take us into the middle of June,” he said.

The Sunday morning Mass at 9 a.m. will also continue to be livestreamed from Epiphany Church.

Father Bryan Wright, pastor of Holy Child Parish in Mansfield, which includes Saint Mary of Czestochowa Church in Blossburg, announced a preliminary schedule of Masses between the two worship sites has been tentatively set as the Tioga County faith community moves forward in its reopening phase.

Holy Child Church, Mansfield, will host a weekend vigil Mass on Saturday at 4 p.m. and Sunday morning Mass at 11:15 a.m. Daily liturgies at the main worship site will now be celebrated on Thursday at 6 p.m. and Friday at 8:30 a.m.

Saint Mary’s in Blossburg will be open for Sunday liturgy at 9 a.m., with weekday Masses scheduled for Monday and Tuesday at 12:10 p.m.

Attendance for Masses is by invitation only. The parish churches will be open for private prayer as follows: Holy Child – Monday, Tuesday & Wednesday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Thursday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Friday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.; and Sunday, 2 to 4 p.m. Saint Mary’s – Wednesday, Thursday & Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 12 noon. “We are very happy to be part of this moving-forward process,” Father Wright said.

“As far as we’re concerned, the congregations for the Masses will be sizable groups, especially given our staggered schedule of celebrations,” he continued. “Many people are excited, but some will be cautious and may not want to return immediately, and that’s understandable.” In Lycoming County, Father Brian Van Fossen, pastor of Saint Joseph the Worker Parish in Williamsport, is also moving forward with safety in mind. “We are approaching this time with tender care,” the Williamsport pastor said as his parish prepares to reopen its church doors.

“We are planning with the Parish Council and our staff in order to allow people time to spend in prayer as well as continue our ministries to those in need.” Father Van Fossen indicated the parish church will be open daily from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and offer Holy Hour from 4 to 5 p.m. Plans are also progressing to expand the Holy Mass celebration schedule in order to offer evening times for those wishing to attend – particularly those who serve at the nearby hospital. He also stated Saint Joseph the Worker will continue its online presence through YouTube and the virtual presentation of Eucharistic liturgies.

“We are very excited to welcome people back to the Sunday celebration in the church,” Father said, “but we are also approaching with caution, just in case we are reverted back to the ‘red zone.’” At this time, parishes in the seven other counties that make-up the Diocese of Scranton (Lackawanna, Luzerne, Monroe, Pike, Susquehanna, Wayne and Wyoming counties), which remain in the “red phase” of Pennsylvania’s reopening plan will not be able to resume public Masses at this time. Pastors in those communities have been encouraged to begin planning for their eventual transition to the “yellow phase.”


Mark DeCelles, 38, will begin the final step of his formation for the priesthood when he is ordained to the transitional diaconate by Bishop Joseph C. Bambera at a Mass on Saturday, May 23, at 10 a.m. in the Cathedral of Saint Peter in Scranton.

The Mass will be broadcast live on CTV: Catholic Television of the Diocese of Scranton.

Ordination as a transitional deacon generally occurs after a seminarian has completed at least three years of study in theology and takes place usually one year prior to priestly ordination. A deacon may serve as an ordinary minster of Baptism and is able to preside at weddings, assist the priest at Mass, proclaim the Gospel and preach, as well as preside at wakes and funeral services.

A member of Immaculate Conception Parish in Scranton’s Hill section, DeCelles is the son of Charles, Ph.D., and Mildred DeCelles, R.N., of Dunmore. The Scranton Diocesan seminarian is completing his theological studies and priestly formation at Saint Mary’s Seminary and University in Baltimore, Md. He is currently serving in his pastoral year at Saint Matthew Parish in East Stroudsburg. A pastoral year provides a year of practical ministry in a parish setting, allowing a seminarian experiences near the end of his priestly training in addition to his formal preparatory education.

“I am very grateful for all of the pastoral assignments I have received during the course of my formation,” DeCelles said, including his 2018 summer assignment at the parish communities of Blessed Sacrament and Holy Cross in the Mid Valley region of Lackawanna County. As for his pastoral year experience, the transitional deacon candidate referred to Saint Matthew Parish as “an amazingly complex and lively community, teeming with opportunities for evangelization, catechesis and community outreach.”

“It has been a profound privilege to witness the growth of young adult ministries, high school and college men discernment groups, the Hispanic community and this year’s catechumens and candidates for the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA),” he said. Additionally, DeCelles was given the opportunity to teach an eighth grade theology class at nearby Notre Dame Junior/Senior High School in East Stroudsburg. The seminarian also reflected on his upcoming diaconate ordination during such challenging and unprecedented times.

“The world of COVID-19 is a world full of pain and uncertainty and despair, a world that needs Christ more than ever,” DeCelles said. “It is because of this that I am eager and excited for the day of my ordination. My desire to carry the light of Christ to the frontlines of our hungry, suffering world has only grown over the course of my almost three years of formation, and the pandemic has made this desire still more acute.” In light of the current health crisis, the seminarian expressed his gratitude for those putting their lives on the line for the health, safety and well-being of others.

“I am also most grateful today for the gift of the priesthood – for priests whose lives give testimony, in and out of season, to the love of God who loved us first, before we were ever able to muster some shred of love for others,” he said. “I am grateful for the priests who continue to say, ‘This is my body. This is my blood,’ to an empty church.” He concluded by saying this is the kind of priest he hopes to be when – by the Lord’s will and grace – he is ordained to the priesthood next year.

“I want everyone to know the God who continues to take the lead in loving me, so that when I just don’t feel like giving any more, I can turn to Him for the grace and strength to love those who might not be able, or willing, to love me back.”


Lynn Pryor, a parishioner at Church of the Resurrection in Muncy, uses her sewing machine to create masks that were donated to patients at the Geisinger Infusion Clinic.

MUNCY – Resourceful, caring and charitable individuals from Catholic parishes across the Diocese of Scranton have responded earnestly to a pressing need that only a global pandemic can create – personal safety masks. As the calendar turned to 2020, it was unthinkable that facial/surgical masks, once only associated with doctors, nurses and healthcare workers, would now be a required commodity for anyone wanting to venture outside their home to guard against an insidious, invisible enemy. When the coronavirus outbreak became a real concern in March, Lynn Pryor of Church of the Resurrection in Muncy, Lycoming County, began her mission to find some way to help others during the pandemic. Her quest ended when she read an article about a hospital reaching out to the community to help make essential, but extremely scarce, N95 masks for staff members.

“I explored websites and found patterns that met the CDC guidelines and starting making masks,” Pryor said. “I wrote to one woman to offer help with masks for nursing homes she was sewing for in Williamsport.” After creating about 15 masks to help the cause, Pryor said the woman urged her to continue her efforts and donate them to as many people in the area as possible. She immediately sought out a parish friend, Pat Merrifield, who is a nurse at the nearby Geisinger Infusion Clinic.

Ann Mullen, a parishioner of Saint Matthew Church in East Stroudsburg, has helped make hundreds of masks for essential workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“(Pat) told me that the staff had masks, but many of the patients didn’t,” explained Pryor, “so I started to make them for the patients.” Thus her mask ministry was born. By early April, the Muncy mask maker contacted the Women’s Organization at Church of the Resurrection Parish looking for some much needed help. Several women responded, including experienced quilters Joann Ort and Teri Snyder. Others like Nan Rusczak and the parish pastor, Father Glenn McCreary, donated materials.

“At that point,” Pryor recalled, “we really got going and have made several hundred masks so far.” In addition to the Infusion Clinic, mask recipients have included family members, neighbors and friends, particularly older members of the Resurrection community.

“While making these masks I often think of the patients and the staff who will use them and of their love and courage,” Ort commented. “They are certainly in our hearts.” Merrifield is very thankful for all of the masks that were provided for home-infusion patients who would normally be receiving their vital medications in the hospital. “These patients accept the masks with so much gratitude,” she said.

Linda Ross, a parishioner of Saint Matthew Church in East Stroudsburg, puts her sewing skills to work to create masks for healthcare providers and other emergency responders.

“Some get quite emotional. Thanks to those at the Church of the Resurrection for these wonderful gifts of mercy!” The Muncy mask ministry is now preparing for the opening of Diocesan churches and the public celebration of Masses, when masks will be required for all faithful in attendance. “During this pandemic, I know many people wish to do something and would love to help from the safety of their own homes,” Pryor said.

“One of the most needed pieces of equipment is the face mask.” She has graciously offered to assist anyone in joining the effort, including, if possible, picking up finished masks and getting them to where they are most needed. Those interested may contact Lynn Pryor via email at: pry0rla@gmail.com. ‘The MassQueens’ As the spring season ushered in the harsh reality of COVID-19, the “MassQueens Community Assistance Mask Sewing Project” also began coming to life on the other side of the Diocese in its eastern-most region. Ann Mullen and Linda Ross learned valuable sewing skills around the same young age – Mullen from her mother, and Ross from taking sewing classes at North Scranton Junior High School. The longtime friends met years ago as parishioners of Saint Matthew Church in East Stroudsburg, where Ross is a choir member and cantor and Mullen serves as music director and organist/pianist, along with being a member of the music faculty at nearby Notre Dame High School. But it has been their love of sewing that launched their mask making apostolate. According to Mullen, it all began with a somewhat prophetic suggestion by another friend, who upon learning of a new virus on the horizon, sensed an urgent need for safety masks. “I really didn’t take her seriously until about a week after she said this,” Mullen recalled. “Then it became apparent that wearing masks would become a way of life, essential to health and safety.” Well known for her sewing abilities, Mullen received her first request from a friend whose daughter is on staff at a hospital in Allentown. Her department was suddenly in need of 50 masks due to the pandemic.

“No sooner had that request been fulfilled, then mask requests for essential workers and service personnel started pouring in,” Mullen said. “When I got a request for 300 masks from another friend at Lehigh Valley Hospital in East Stroudsburg, I knew I would need help.” Enter Linda Ross, who responded to her friend’s desperate plea with a resounding “Yes!”

“We both wanted to do whatever we could to help the community during a time of crisis,” said Ross, “and since we both sew, the mask making was the perfect fit for us.” Early on in the project, the duo began referring to their charitable enterprise as “The MassQueens” – giving a nod to their Catholic Church affiliation while describing their mask making commitment. While working from their homes, Mullen and Ross comprise the sewing portion of the operation; however, they have received much behind-the-scenes support from numerous friends from the Saint Matthew’s community as well as local Immaculate Heart of Mary Sisters. With the creation and donation of more than 1,600 masks – and the number continually rising – the list of beneficiaries from the project is quite lengthy. Grateful recipients of the MassQueens’ handiwork include healthcare providers, emergency responders, police departments, cafeteria workers, homes for the elderly, local businesses and clergy.

“This is and has been such a fulfilling adventure for both of us,” Mullen offered. “We feel that we have been called to make use of our God-given talents to do something positive that will make a difference to those around us.” Despite having worked tirelessly for more than fifty straight days to fill mask requests, the MassQueens are prepared to continue their commitment to the community for as long as it is needed.


More than 600 parishioners and friends have made gifts to the Coronavirus Emergency Fund established by Bishop Joseph C. Bambera to help support public ministries, parishes and Catholic schools during the COVID-19 pandemic.  A total of $130,000 has been raised so far: $40,000 for parishes, $50,000 for kitchens, food pantries, shelters and relief assistance, $14,000 for Catholic Schools and $26,000 to be used where it is needed most.

“I am grateful for the generosity of our friends and neighbors,” Bishop Joseph C. Bambera said. “It is wonderful to see so many people embracing the example of Jesus to reach out to others, especially those most in need of our help at this time.” The Coronavirus Emergency Fund provides an opportunity to financially support a specific parish, a Diocesan Catholic school or one of the kitchens, food pantries, shelters or relief assistance programs provided by Catholic Social and Human Services in Carbondale, Hazleton, Scranton and Wilkes-Barre.

“Thank you to everyone who is responding to the significant need at this time as parishes strive to maintain their weekly offetory collections, Catholic school families struggle to pay tuition due to lost wages, and Catholic Social Services’ kitchens, food pantries and shelters experience a substantial increase in the number of people in need of help,” Jim Bebla, Diocesan Secretary for Development, said.

Parishes, schools and Catholic Social Services are also seeing additional expenses due to COVID-19 for items including cleaning supplies, masks, hand sanitizer and takeout food containers. For example, Catholic Social Services recently incurred a cost of more than $30,000 for equipment needed to properly sanitize and provide a safe environment for visitors, clients, guests and staff at all of its kitchens, food pantries and shelter across the Diocese of Scranton.

Interested donors are encouraged to make gifts to the Coronavirus Emergency Fund online at www. dioceseofscranton.org/emergencyfund.

If donors prefer, they can mail gifts to Coronavirus Emergency Fund, Diocese of Scranton, 300 Wyoming Ave., Scranton, PA 18503. Checks should be made to the Diocese of Scranton and list the gift designation – either the Catholic Human and Social Service program, parish or specific Catholic School they wish to support.

To donate to the Coronavirus Emergency Fund: www.dioceseofscranton.org/emergencyfund


Arabella Robbins, a second grade student at Epiphany School in Sayre, shows off her creation for the school’s ‘Build a Car’ STREAM challenge.

Even though students aren’t physically together in their classrooms because of the COVID-19 pandemic, they are still being challenged to use creativity and critical thinking skills. At the beginning of the 2019- 20 academic year, the Diocese of Scranton Catholic School System launched its new STREAM (Science, Technology, Religion, Engineering, Arts and Math) learning initiative, and even the coronavirus cannot stop students and teachers from continuing to use it.

“They’ve embraced it and I think it helps us all stay connected when we’re so separate,” Sara Kitts, computer teacher and librarian at Epiphany School in Sayre, said. In her Bradford County elementary school, Kitts has been sending a weekly blog to families with materials and resources for distance learning. Part of the blog contains a daily Facebook challenge which includes STREAM activities focused on connection, creativity, critical thinking skills and communication. “We have done several different STREAM challenges,” Kitts said.

“One of them asked students to build a car. That was an engineering challenge with whatever materials they have on hand. We asked the kids to design a car and post a picture of their creation to our Facebook page with their parents help. We got quite a few different options. We had some do Legos, some made it out of cardboard. We had a young lady in second grade do it out of Easter candy and cookies which I thought was quite creative.” Epiphany School keeps its STREAM Facebook challenges broad to make sure all students, Pre-K through sixth grade, can participate.

Arabella Robbins, a second grade student at Epiphany School in Sayre, shows off her creation for the school’s ‘Build a Car’ STREAM challenge.

“In an Easter art challenge, there was quite a lot of watercolors showing Jesus on the Cross that the kids made with their families, which I thought was a nice connection between the art and religion of STREAM and of course the technology piece of sharing their creations through social media,” Kitts added. The basic concepts of STREAM learning are that it is student-centered and cross-curricular. It focuses on hands-on projects that connect the six disciplines (Science, Technology, Religion, Engineering, Arts and Math), encouraging students to work collaboratively and communicate effectively.

“Everybody is being very flexible and open-minded and allowing the students to learn in the ways that they can learn in their own environment,” Kitts added. Ongoing STREAM lessons are taking place at all of the Diocese of Scranton’s Catholic Schools. In Williamsport, Saint John Neumann Regional Academy Principal, Alisia McNamee, said elementary school students are working on a special project at this time. Families have been asked to submit videos of their students singing God Bless America to be accompanied by patriotic artwork.

“Rich Cummings is then going to string all of it together to create a video (virtual chorus) of all of the students singing together. This project was born out of the plans that were already in place for our spring concert,” McNamee said. They hope to have the virtual chorus project finished by early June. Ann D’Arienzo, principal of Our Lady of Peace School in Clarks Green, said STREAM learning has also continued for her students because it was a commitment the school made to families at the beginning of the year.

“Our teachers have gotten very creative by researching and using digital apps as well as having the kids think critically about ways that they can meet a challenge,” D’Arienzo said. At Our Lady of Peace School, educators are very deliberate in the assignments they prepare for students while they are out of the classroom. “What we want to avoid during this remote learning is students just doing written assignments and submitting them for a grade. We want them to be able to do hands-on, project-based learning. We want them to continue that,” D’Arienzo said. For example, Pre-K students, who are just four and five years old, recently completed a STREAM project that helped explain how bean plants grow. With the help of their families, the kids used beans, wet paper towels and plastic bags to help them observe the growing process. No matter the grade level, students at Our Lady of Peace School are still taking part in STREAM learning. First grade students were tasked to create something useful out of recycled plastic grocery bags, second and third grade students took part in an ecosystem scavenger hunt and sixth grade reading students created their own movie trailers as a digital STREAM project in conjunction with a reading lesson.

“I think our kids, especially as they’re getting older, are becoming more resourceful and are brainstorming with each other,” D’Arienzo said. D’Arienzo even believes this pandemic has a silver lining. “I firmly believe this is making us better teachers and better educators,” D’Arienzo said.

“We’re doing things that we would not be doing otherwise. Teachers are experimenting, researching, figuring out different platforms and ways to deliver instruction that they wouldn’t have had to think about in their normal routine.” Because embracing technology is an essential aspect of STREAM, educators expect to keep using many of the things they have learned during this pandemic well after it is over.

“When we go back to physical school, we’re going to continue moving forward with these technological platforms even though we’ll be in school. This is something that we’re going to move forward with and continue to grow,” D’Arienzo added. Amina Hazzouri, a Pre-K student at Our Lady of Peace School in Clarks Green, watches her beans after completing a class STREAM project. Arabella Robbins, a second grade student at Epiphany School in Sayre, shows off her creation for the school’s ‘Build a Car’ STREAM challenge. Christopher Jordan, a first grade student at Our Lady of Peace School in Clarks Green, used action figures to complete a ‘Jumping Into Measurement’ STREAM activity regarding non-standard units of measurement.


Daniel Grogan, AmeriCorps peer support specialist at Saint Francis Commons, left, and Ryan Pollock, program supervisor, Saint Francis Commons, right, have taken extra sanitary precautions to protect veterans during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo/Alan K. Stout)

Throughout this spring, the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way Americans live.

Shelter in place, stay-athome and social distancing are all phrases that have served as a way of life for people during this time. People now wear masks and gloves to the supermarket, they disinfect, they sanitize, and they do their best to help stop the spread of the coronavirus.

At Saint Francis Commons in Scranton, where 28 United States veterans currently reside, several precautionary steps have been taken to help ensure the safety of its residents.

“We’re deep-cleaning the facility twice a day,” Ryan Pollock, program supervisor at Saint Francis Commons, said. “We’re cleaning all hard surfaces with industrial antibacterial cleaners, which have been provided to us by our property management company. We do it morning and night on all hard surfaces, on all of the staff desks, and on any common traffic areas. That includes the kitchens, the door handles, elevators, handrails, tables, chairs, everything.”

Saint Francis Commons is a transitional housing facility for veterans which is operated by Catholic Social Services of the Diocese of Scranton. The facility opened in 2015 and has 30 beds.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, all residents have also been provided with face masks, which they are asked to wear whenever they are in commonly shared areas of the facility. Each resident also has their temperature taken, using a forehead thermometer, by a staff member on every first and second shift. The results are then properly logged to help ensure that the health of all residents is properly monitored.

“Knock on wood, but we haven’t had anyone running a temperature in the last month,” Pollock said. “We had a veteran running a temperature about five weeks ago, and we did quarantine him, but it ended up being the result of another aliment. He got an antibiotic and it cleared up. Thankfully, it wasn’t COVID-19.”

Pollock said that Saint Francis Commons has also modified the way it accepts new residents. Though it will still allow new residents to come to the facility, they must first be tested for COVID-19 or be coming from another facility at which medical professionals have determined that they are non-symptomatic of COVID-19. “It’s a case-by-case basis,” Pollock added.

“We’re not taking people off the street right now unless they agree to be quarantined for 14 days. We do have residents that have compromised immune systems and respiratory systems and are on oxygen. We’re doing everything we can to protect them.” Pollock said that once it became clear that the COVID-19 pandemic was something that Daniel Grogan, AmeriCorps peer support specialist at Saint Francis Commons, left, and Ryan Pollock, program supervisor, Saint Francis Commons, right, have taken extra sanitary precautions to protect veterans during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo/Alan K. Stout) would require heightened precautions, Saint Francis Commons acted quickly.

“It was March 13,” he explained. “We immediately said there were no more visitors. We stopped everyone from coming into the facility. Even the mailman and FedEx driver have not been inside. We meet them at the door. Normally, our residents can have visitors in the common areas, anytime from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., but those privileges were suspended on March 13. Generally, all of our residents are also eligible for up to three overnight passes per month, where they can go and stay with their children or family. Those services were also suspended on March 13, so nobody has been staying outside of the facility.”

Pollock said he is proud of how the Saint Francis Commons community has come together during the crisis. In addition to staff and cleaning professionals, residents have also assisted with keeping the facility safe.

“A lot of people have gone the extra mile,” he added. “The staff and the residents are really trying to keep the place sanitized.”


Staff members from Birchwood Nursing Home were the first to be honored by the Saint Faustina Kowalska Parish Mini/Youth Ministry program’s “Honoring Our Heroes” initiative.

NANTICOKE – “Thanks so much for the pizza! We greatly appreciated it and it was so good!” “It’s so wonderful that Sandy and the youth ministry are doing so much good in these scary times. Love you!”

“Thank you Saint Faustina Youth Ministry. This was so appreciated. God bless you all!”

These are just a small sampling of the expressions of gratitude the Mini/Youth Ministry at Saint Faustina Kowalska Parish has received from first responders and essential workers in its hometown during the coronavirus crisis.

Since the global pandemic crept into our lives two months ago, the Catholic parish youth group well  known for its many activities in the community has embarked on a project called “Honoring Our Heroes.” The endeavor has trays of pizza or breakfast treats – depending on the time of day – surprisingly show up at the workplaces of those who valiantly continue to serve the  public in the face of the COVID-19 emergency.

“We are so blessed and we wanted to give back to our community,” Saint Faustina Mini/ Youth  Ministry Director Sandy Repak said. She explained how the youth group came up with the idea of selecting two groups of essential workers each week and treating them with the free meals.

Staff members at Birchwood Nursing Home and Guardian Elder Care were the first to be honored by the youth ministry’s surprise gesture, followed by the Nanticoke Public Works Department and Nanticoke Medic 5 Ambulance crews.

Repak makes all the deliveries personally, strictly adhering to the safety measures and guidelines put in place to combat the pandemic. The large group of young parishioners who comprise the Saint Faustina Youth Ministry design and create the personalized thank you certificates that accompany each delivery of food, which has been provided at a reduced cost by local eateries including Joe’s Pizza, Marty’s, and Baker Boys.

Included among those who have felt the love and gratitude the effort graciously offers are the Nanticoke police and fire departments and the city’s Code Enforcement Office. Most recently,  refuse-removal workers have been recognized and organizers of the project are now setting their eyes on local supermarkets and pharmacies.

According to Repak, youth group members are also preparing posters/cards offering gratitude and inspiration for frontline health care employees at three area hospitals. “ We will continue each week surprising groups of our essential workers,” she said.

“As we continue to pray for all of them to stay safe and healthy.”