VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Francis offered his early morning Mass for vulnerable people and health care workers who live in fear that they or their loved ones may fall ill to the coronavirus pandemic sweeping the world.

“In these days of so much suffering, there is so much fear,” the pope said March 26 at the start of the Mass, which was livestreamed from the chapel of his residence, the Domus Sanctae Marthae.

Pope Francis spoke specifically of “the fear of the elderly who are alone in retirement homes or in hospitals or in their own homes and do not know what could happen; the fear of workers without a steady job who think about how they will feed their children and see hunger coming; the fear of many social servants who in these moments help society move forward and could get sick.”

But he also acknowledged “the fear — the fears — of each one of us,” and prayed that God “would help us to have trust and to tolerate and overcome fear.”

In his homily, the pope reflected on the first reading from the Book of Exodus, which recounts how the Israelites made a golden calf and began to worship it.

“It was a true apostasy!” the pope explained. “From the living God to idolatry; they did not have the patience to wait for Moses to come back. They wanted something new, they wanted something, a liturgical spectacle.”

The pope said the sin of the Israelites revealed the “idolatrous nostalgia” for the certainties they had even as slaves in Egypt.

“This nostalgia is a disease, even for us. One begins to walk with the enthusiasm of being free, but then the complaints begin,” he said. “Idolatry is always selective; it makes you think about the good things it gives you but doesn’t make you see the bad things. In this case, they thought about how they were at their table, with such good meals they liked so much, but they forgot that this was the table of slavery.”

Idolatry, he continued, also caused the Israelites to lose everything, including the gold and silver they had received from Egypt after their liberation.

“This also happens to us,” the pope said. “When we have attitudes that lead us to idolatry, we are attached to things that alienate us from God so we make another god and we make it with the gifts God has given us; with intelligence, with will, with love, with the heart. Those are the gifts of the Lord we use to do idolatry.”

Pope Francis invited Christians to ask themselves what their idols are and warned that idolatry can “lead to a mistaken religiosity,” which can “change the celebration of a sacrament into a worldly feast.”

“Take for example a wedding celebration,” he said. “You don’t know whether it’s sacrament where the newlyweds give each other everything and love each other in front of God and promise to be faithful before God and receive the grace of God, or if it’s a fashion show with the way this one or that one is dressed. It is worldliness, it is idolatry.”

The pope prayed that at the end of our lives, God would not be able to say, “You have perverted yourself. You have strayed from the path I had indicated. You have prostrated yourself before an idol.”

 

Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord
March 25, 2020

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Four weeks ago today, Lent began with the celebration of Ash Wednesday and its cherished invitation to rend our hearts and return to the Lord. We embraced this holy season of penance, sacrifice and conversion, hoping and praying that as Lent annually carries us to Holy Week and Easter, our lives of faith would be renewed and reflect a bit more clearly the life and love of Jesus. On Ash Wednesday, none of us could have imagined the depth of sacrifice that the current health crisis would demand of us.

On March 16, 2020, I suspended the celebration of all public Masses in the eleven counties of the Diocese of Scranton. While so many of you expressed how heartbroken you were with this decision, you embraced it willingly in a spirit of faith and self-sacrifice in order that the Church could do its part in mitigating the spread of the coronavirus.

Today, sadly, we are called to sacrifice even further for the sake of serving one another in our battle against this dreaded disease. The cherished Liturgies of Holy Week and Easter – Palm Sunday, the Mass of the Lord’s Supper followed by Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, the Celebration of the Lord’s Passion, the Great Vigil of Easter and Easter Sunday Masses – will all be celebrated privately, without all of you, the blessed faithful who make up the Diocese of Scranton – filling our churches as you have always done during these most sacred days. The Chrism Mass will be deferred to a later date when the current health crisis has passed.

While this ongoing pandemic is calling us to be socially distant from one another, it does not mean we need to be spiritually distant. I invite you and your family to join me in prayer as we renew our efforts to turn to the Lord. While not open to the public, all of our Holy Week liturgies at the Cathedral of Saint Peter in Scranton will be broadcast on CTV: Catholic Television and live-streamed on the Diocese of Scranton’s website and social media platforms. Many parishes will also plan to broadcast their own Masses.

As we seek to come to terms with this latest casualty of the coronavirus, I want to share with you a recent encouraging directive of the Holy See regarding the Sacrament of Reconciliation, firmly rooted in the traditions of our Church. With the increasing difficulty for individuals to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation due to the current health crisis, the faithful are reminded that by having perfect contrition, one can receive the forgiveness of sins apart from going to confession.  Perfect contrition requires the following three things: a love of God above all else; a sincere desire for the forgiveness from sin; and the resolution to go to confession as soon as possible when this health crisis subsides. Please take consolation in knowing that while you may not have access to the Sacrament of Reconciliation, the power and love of God is far greater than we can imagine. For all who sincerely express contrition, your sins are forgiven.

My friends, in so many respects, it seems that the disciplines of Lent will last a bit longer this year as we continue to sacrifice, to pray and to serve in unimaginable ways. Yet, through God’s grace, I hope that we can begin to see one of the blessings of this difficult moment in our lives. In the midst of this crisis, so many of you are responding generously and courageously to the Gospel invitation to walk in the footsteps of Jesus, sacrificing our own well-being and serving selflessly the lives that God places in our own.

As we confront the uncertainty of our future, may we recognize that our greatest hope has always been rooted in our embrace of the mystery of Jesus’ suffering, death and resurrection – the heart of our faith as Christians. Good Friday, with its suffering and pain, always yields to power of Easter and its promise of life and peace! So too will this moment in our lives.

May God continue to bless you and your family and keep you safe.

Saint Joseph, pray for us!

Faithfully yours in Christ,
†Joseph C. Bambera
Most Reverend Joseph C. Bambera, D.D., J.C.L.
Bishop of Scranton

Solemnidad de la Anunciación del Señor
25 de marzo de 2020

Queridos hermanos y hermanas,

Hoy hace cuatro semanas, la Cuaresma comenzó con la celebración del Miércoles de Ceniza y su apreciada invitación a someter nuestros corazones y regresar al Señor. Abrazamos este santo tiempo de penitencia, sacrificio y conversión, esperando y orando para que, como Cuaresma anualmente nos lleve a la Semana Santa y a la Pascua, nuestra vida de fe se renovará y reflejara un poco más claramente la vida y el amor de Jesús. El Miércoles de Ceniza, ninguno de nosotros podría haber imaginado la profundidad del sacrificio que la actual crisis de salud nos demandaría.

El 16 de marzo de 2020, suspendí la celebración de todas las misas públicas en los once condados de la Diócesis de Scranton. Mientras tantos de ustedes expresaron lo desconsolados que estaban con esta decisión, la abrazaron voluntariamente con espíritu de fe y sacrificio para que la Iglesia pudiera hacer su parte en la reducir de la propagación del coronavirus.

Hoy, lamentablemente, estamos llamados a sacrificarnos aún más por el bien de servirnos unos a otros en nuestra batalla contra esta temida enfermedad. Las preciadas Liturgias de Semana Santa y Pascua – Domingo de Ramos, la Misa de la Cena del Señor seguida de la Adoración del Santísimo Sacramento, la Celebración de la Pasión del Señor, la Gran Vigilia de Pascua y misas dominicales de Pascua – se celebrarán en privado, sin todos ustedes, los fieles que conforman la Diócesis de Scranton, llenando nuestras iglesias como siempre lo han hecho durante estos días más sagrados. La Misa crismal se aplazará a una fecha posterior cuando haya pasado la actual crisis de salud.

Si bien esta pandemia en curso nos llama a estar socialmente distantes unos de otros, no significa que debamos estar espiritualmente distantes. Los invito a ustedes y a su familia a unirse a mí en la oración mientras renovamos nuestros esfuerzos para volvernos al Señor. Aunque no están abiertas al público, nuestras liturgias de Semana Santa en la Catedral de San Pedro en Scranton se transmitirán en CTV: canal Católico y se transmitirá en vivo en el sitio web de la Diócesis de Scranton y plataformas de medios sociales. Muchas parroquias también planean transmitir sus propias Misas.

Al tratar de llegar a un acuerdo con esta última consecuencia del coronavirus, quiero compartir con ustedes una reciente directiva alentadora de la Santa Sede sobre el Sacramento de la Reconciliación, firmemente arraigada en las tradiciones de nuestra Iglesia. Con la creciente dificultad para que las personas reciban el Sacramento de la Reconciliación debido a la actual crisis de salud, se recuerda a los fieles que al tener una contrición perfecta, se puede recibir el perdón de los pecados aparte de ir a la confesión.  La contrición perfecta requiere las siguientes tres cosas: un amor a Dios por encima de todo; un deseo sincero de perdón del pecado; y la resolución de ir a confesarse lo antes posible cuando esta crisis sanitaria desaparezca. Por favor, sientan consuelo al saber que si bien tal vez no tengan acceso al Sacramento de la Reconciliación, el poder y el amor de Dios son mucho mayores de lo que podemos imaginar. Por todos los que expresan sinceramente contrición, tus pecados son perdonados.

Mis amigos, en tantos aspectos, parece que las disciplinas de cuaresma durarán un poco más este año a medida que sigamos sacrificando, orando y sirviendo de maneras inimaginables. Sin embargo, por medio de la gracia de Dios, espero que podamos comenzar a ver una de las bendiciones de este difícil momento en nuestra vida. En medio de esta crisis, muchos de ustedes están respondiendo generosa y valientemente a la invitación evangélica a seguir los pasos de Jesús, sacrificando su propio bienestar y sirviendo desinteresadamente la vida que Dios pone en la nuestra.

Al afrontar la incertidumbre de nuestro futuro, reconozcamos que nuestra mayor esperanza siempre ha estado arraigada en nuestro abrazo del misterio del sufrimiento, la muerte y la resurrección de Jesús, el corazón de nuestra fe como cristianos. ¡El Viernes Santo, con su sufrimiento y dolor, siempre cede al poder de la Pascua y a su promesa de vida y paz! También lo hará este momento en nuestras vidas.

Que Dios los siga bendiciendo a ustedes y a su familia y los mantenga a salvo.
¡San José, reza por nosotros!

Fielmente tuyo en Cristo,
†Joseph C. Bambera
Reverendísimo Joseph C. Bambera, D.D., J.C.L.
Obispo de Scranton

 

 

On Wednesday, March 6, 2019, the Diocese of Scranton received an allegation of sexual assault involving Father James J. Walsh, pastor of Saint Maria Goretti Parish, Laflin. Upon receipt of this allegation, the Diocese immediately notified the Lackawanna County District Attorney’s Office. The Diocese also confronted Father Walsh with the information.  Fr. Walsh adamantly denied the allegation.

The alleged incident took place in 1979 while Father Walsh was serving as Assistant Pastor at the Church of Saint Gregory in Clarks Green.  The individual making the allegation was an adult at the time of the alleged assault.

The Diocese followed its established procedure relative to allegations of sexual misconduct not involving minors. In addition to notifying the civilian authorities, Diocesan outside counsel retained a professional investigator to conduct a thorough investigation.  During the course of the investigation, the Diocese received another allegation involving inappropriate behavior with an adult by Walsh. The investigator fully investigated this allegation, as well as two prior reports of possible misconduct. Fr. Walsh denied each allegation.

Based upon the investigation, the Diocese determined the allegations to be credible.  This determination was presented to the Bishop’s Advisory Board for Clergy for recommendation and review. Bishop Bambera thereafter informed Father Walsh of his intention to remove him as pastor.  After being so informed, Father Walsh submitted his resignation as pastor of Saint Maria Goretti Parish.

 

 

Pope Francis is seen in a window greeting a few nuns standing in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican March 22, 2020, after reciting his weekly Angelus prayer from the library of the Apostolic Palace. The pope announced he will give an extraordinary blessing “urbi et orbi” (to the city and the world) at 6 p.m. Rome time March 27 in an “empty” St. Peter’s Square because all of Italy is on lockdown to prevent further spread of the coronavirus. (CNS photo/Alberto Lingria, Reuters)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — In response to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Pope Francis said he will give an extraordinary blessing “urbi et orbi” (to the city and the world) at 6 p.m. Rome time March 27.

The formal blessing — usually given only immediately after a new pope’s election and on Christmas and Easter — carries with it a plenary indulgence for all who follow by television, internet or radio, are sorry for their sins, recite a few prescribed prayers and promise to go to confession and to receive the Eucharist as soon as possible.

After reciting the Angelus prayer March 22 from the library of the Apostolic Palace, Pope Francis announced his plans for the special blessing, which, he said, would be given in an “empty” St. Peter’s Square because all of Italy is on lockdown to prevent further spread of the virus.

With the public joining him only by television, internet or radio, “we will listen to the word of God, raise our prayer (and) adore the Blessed Sacrament,” he said. “At the end, I will give the benediction ‘urbi et orbi,’ to which will be connected the possibility of receiving a plenary indulgence.”

An indulgence is an ancient practice of prayer and penance for the remission of the temporal punishment a person is due for sins that have been forgiven. In Catholic teaching, a person can draw on the merits of Jesus and the saints to claim the indulgence for themselves or offer it on behalf of someone who has died.

In addition to announcing the special blessing, Pope Francis said that at a time “when humanity trembles” because of the COVID-19 pandemic, he was asking Christians of every denomination to join together at noon March 25 to recite the Lord’s Prayer. The Catholic Church and many others mark March 25 as the feast of the Annunciation.

“To the pandemic of the virus we want to respond with the universality of prayer, compassion and tenderness,” he said. “Let’s stay united. Let us make those who are alone and tested feel our closeness,” as well as doctors, nurses, other healthcare workers and volunteers.

Pope Francis also expressed concern for “authorities who have to take strong measures for our good” and the police and soldiers maintaining public order and enforcing the lockdown.

 

March 16, 2020

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Effective immediately, and until further notice, I have suspended the celebration of Masses open to the public and all public gatherings in all diocesan parishes, worship sites, college campuses, chapels and health care facilities in the eleven counties of the Diocese of Scranton.

Churches of the Diocese will remain open daily for individual private prayer. The time frame for each parish is to be determined by its pastor or parish life coordinator. The dispensation from the obligation to attend Mass during this time remains in effect.

Scheduled sacramental celebrations such as weddings, baptisms or funerals will be permitted, but attendance will be limited to immediate family members and follow any guidelines established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The sacraments of the Anointing of the Sick and Reconciliation will be available, when requested individually, by the faithful in cases of serious need.

It deeply saddens me to take this temporary action, knowing the depth of your faith and your desire to celebrate the Holy Eucharist on a regular basis. In light of continued concerns surrounding COVID-19, and upon the advice of medical experts, it is clear that we, as a faith community, must do our part in order to help slow the spread of this virus.

The number of faithful souls who filled our churches this past weekend, even with the dispensation from the obligation to attend Mass, was deeply consoling to me. As you always have, so many of you are turning to your faith as the surest place where we will find God’s peace, consolation and hope.

Unfortunately, the presence of such great numbers of worshippers in our churches is not serving our efforts to help mitigate the spread of the Coronavirus. In an effort to prevent overwhelming our hospitals and health care facilities, national, state and local leaders have urged people to avoid large gatherings of people and keep appropriate social distancing from one another.

As your bishop, in addition to the care of souls, the safety and health of all of our faithful parishioners, friends and those we welcome through our outreach and service, is of utmost importance to me. As such, the decision that I have announced, while difficult, is the best way for us to work together to serve the common good of all, both in our parishes and in our communities.

During these challenging times, it is also crucial that we not forget who we are as Christians. May we continue to offer, in whatever way we can, care and concern for those who are most vulnerable, including the poor, our senior citizens and those who are ill. I also urge those who can do so to maintain support for your parishes during these difficult days in order to sustain the ministries and outreach services for parishioners and those most in need.

Despite the suspension of public Masses, a private Mass will be celebrated daily in the Cathedral of Saint Peter in Scranton, and made available on CTV: Catholic Television of the Diocese of Scranton. On weekdays, the Mass will be broadcast at 12:10 p.m., 3:30 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. On weekends, the Saturday Vigil Mass will be broadcast at 4:00 p.m. and rebroadcast on Sunday morning at 10:00 a.m. The Masses will also be streamed on the Diocese of Scranton’s website (www.dioceseofscranton.org), made available on the Diocese of Scranton’s social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter and Instagram) and will be accessible on the Diocese of Scranton’s YouTube channel.

Additional resources for individual parishioners to deepen their faith during Lent are also available on the Diocese of Scranton’s website.

During this sacred season of Lent, we are being asked to sacrifice more than ever before – particularly with the loss of cherished religious practices, most especially the celebration of the Holy Eucharist. May we do so mindful of the selfless sacrifice of Jesus and for the sake of our brothers and sisters who are most vulnerable and in need of our help.

The Diocese of Scranton continues to monitor the rapidly evolving health situation regarding the coronavirus. We are constantly monitoring directives from national, state and local officials. This policy will be reassessed on a regular basis, in addition to the plans for Holy Week and Easter.

God bless you and keep each of you in His care. Let us continue to pray for one another.

Faithfully yours in Christ,
†Joseph C. Bambera
Most Reverend Joseph C. Bambera, D.D., J.C.L.
Bishop of Scranton

 

 

SCRANTON, PA (March 16, 2020) – Due to the closure of local schools and the pressing need to help our community in regards to COVID-19, Catholic Social Services of the Diocese of Scranton will be offering two additional community food distributions to people in need. The events will take place at the following times/locations:

  • Thursday, March 19 from 3:00 – 6:00 p.m. at 640 Hemlock Street in Scranton
  • Saturday, March 21 from 10:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. at the Family Center Basement of Saint Rose of Lima Parish in Carbondale

(March 13, 2020) – At the direction of Governor Tom Wolf, the Diocese of Scranton Catholic School System will now close for two weeks effective immediately.

The Diocese of Scranton Catholic School System will be moving to distance learning effective Monday, March 16, 2020. All teachers have prepared to deliver instruction to our students through the use of our email system. Administrators have been sending regular communication to parents/students through the use of our email system.

As a result of all K-12 school districts in the commonwealth closing, all faith formation classes in parishes should also be cancelled immediately. Programs are encouraged to offer remote or online learning if possible.

The closure decision impacts the following schools:

BRADFORD COUNTY

Epiphany School, Sayre
Saint Agnes School, Towanda 

LACKAWANNA COUNTY

All Saints Academy, Scranton
Holy Cross High School, Dunmore
La Salle Academy, Jessup
Our Lady of Peace School, Clarks Green
St. Clare/St. Paul School, Scranton
Saint Mary of Mount Carmel School, Dunmore 

LUZERNE COUNTY

Good Shepherd Academy, Kingston
Holy Family Academy, Hazleton
Holy Redeemer High School, Wilkes-Barre
Holy Rosary School, Duryea
Saint Jude School, Mountain Top
Saint Nicholas/Saint Mary School, Wilkes-Barre
Wyoming Area Catholic School, Exeter

MONROE COUNTY

Monsignor McHugh School, Cresco
Notre Dame Elementary School, East Stroudsburg
Notre Dame Jr./Sr. High School, East Stroudsburg

LYCOMING COUNTY

Saint John Neumann Elementary School, Williamsport
Saint John Neumann Jr./Sr. High School, Williamsport

Additional information is available at www.dioceseofscranton.org/catholic-schools.

This document reflects the most recent guidance from the Diocese of Scranton regarding the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) and steps our communities can take to help prevent its spread. The Diocese of Scranton will be updating this guidance in accordance with recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Pennsylvania Department of Health and local public health officials.

 

General Prevention and Preparedness

The health and safety of our parishioners, staff, students, families and clients that we serve are of paramount interest to the Diocese of Scranton. While there is much to learn about the coronavirus, based on what is currently known about the virus, spread from person-to-person happens most frequently among close contacts (within about six feet). Current evidence suggests that the coronavirus may remain viable for hours to days on surfaces made of a variety of materials.

On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the coronavirus a pandemic, because of its severity and the rapid rates at which it has spread. However, the WHO stressed that deliberate preventative actions can stop the virus from spreading.

We ask that all members of our parishes, schools and human/social service agencies assist with the prevention of spreading viruses by following the following recommendations:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.

 

Travel Considerations

The Centers for Disease Control continues to update the Risk Level for each country. The Diocese of Scranton will continue to monitor this information and work to prevent this virus from spreading in our community. With that in mind, the Diocese of Scranton may require employees, students and/or families and clients that we serve who have been exposed to COVID-19 or are returning from countries designated as Risk Level 3 to remain home for 14 days upon returning to the United States or after contact with someone known to have or someone who may have been exposed to COVID-19. Those individuals will also be required to provide a notice from a healthcare professional that they are free from flu-like symptoms in order to return to work or school.

As of March 12, 2020, the CDC indicated the following risk levels related to COVID-19:

Level 3: China, Iran, Italy and South Korea

If you have travelled or are planning to travel to countries indicated with Risk Level 3, please contact your supervisor or principal to discuss plans for return to work or school.

 

Parish Gatherings

During a news conference Thursday afternoon (3/12/20), Governor Tom Wolf encouraged religious leaders statewide to exercise discretion in order to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus and encouraged the suspension of large gatherings and events of 250 individuals or more. In the Diocese of Scranton, it is now strongly recommended that all non-essential parish and Diocesan events be temporarily cancelled or postponed.

 

Parish/Liturgical Recommendations

 

Effective immediately (3/12/20), and until further notice, Bishop Joseph C. Bambera, in union with the Bishops of Pennsylvania, has dispensed the faithful of the Diocese of Scranton from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass. Despite the suspension of the obligation to attend Sunday Mass, all regularly scheduled Masses will remain open to the public for those who wish to attend.

Masses continue to be offered at parish churches across the Diocese of Scranton and churches remain open.

It is important that Catholics use vigilance when deciding to attend Mass. If you are sick, especially with flu-like symptoms, you should stay home for your own well-being and that of others. If parishioners are sick or suspect they are sick with a contagious illness, they are not bound by the Sunday Mass obligation.

Elderly parishioners who are not sick, but are concerned about being in crowded spaces, are also not bound by the Sunday Mass obligation.

The faithful are strongly encouraged at this time to receive the Body of Christ (via the Sacred Host) in the hand, but the right of each individual to receive on the tongue, as guaranteed by the universal law of the Church, remains in place and is to be respected. This request is made in order to curtail the spread of germs to the communicant, the minister of Holy Communion and other communicants.

The faithful should refrain from the use of holy water upon entering and exiting our churches. Out of an abundance of caution, pastors should remove holy water from fonts in an effort to reduce the possible transmission of the virus.

Parishes should make proper provisions for persons with celiac disease who cannot digest the gluten in wheat hosts or have other sensitivities.

The distribution of the Precious Blood via the Chalice is temporarily suspended.

The Sign of Peace will now be exchanged without physical contact.

Priests, deacons and extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion should practice good hygiene, washing their hands before Mass begins or even using an alcohol based anti-bacterial solution before and after distributing Holy Communion.

 

Catholic Education

At this time, all schools within the Diocese of Scranton remain open and under the most recent guidance from the Governor, we will not be holding mass gatherings – especially those with more than 250 attendees.

Plans for continued “distance learning” have been developed and teachers and administrators are prepared to distribute information to parents/students should the need arise.

The Diocesan School System is following the travel considerations listed above and may require students and families who have been exposed to COVID-19 or are returning from countries designated at Risk Level 3 to wait a full 14 days after arriving in the United States and have notice from a healthcare professional that they are free from flu-like symptoms in order to return to school and school functions.

The Diocesan School System continues to take additional precautions in an effort to protect our classrooms and shared areas from any viruses. Custodial staff from each school thoroughly clean our classrooms and common areas (including door handles, desks and cafeterias) daily with proper sanitary materials to minimize the spread of viruses. In order to support the prevention of viruses at all schools, we recommend that your child stay home from school if experiencing flu or cold symptoms. To decide whether or not to send your child to school, please consider the following guidelines, and keep your student home if they show any of the following:

  • Fever‐greater than 100°F and your child should stay home until at least 24 hours after they no longer have a fever. This should be determined without the use of fever‐reducing medicines (any medicine that contains ibuprofen or acetaminophen).
  • Vomiting (even once)
  • Diarrhea
  • Chills
  • General malaise or feelings of fatigue, discomfort, weakness or muscle aches
  • Frequent congested (wet) or croup cough
  • Lots of nasal congestion with frequent blowing of nose

In regards to parish faith formation programs, Catechists should remind students of proper handwashing techniques and coughing and sneezing etiquette.

If threat is moderate to severe, faith formation programs or other parish gatherings should be postponed or canceled.  Parishes should follow the lead of their Diocesan school or local public school districts in canceling Religious Education classes.

Parish Religious Education programs should plan on offering remote or online learning if possible.

 

Catholic Human/Social Services

Catholic Human/Social Services of the Diocese of Scranton remains strongly committed to providing critical services to our brothers and sisters in need. In the midst of the coronavirus crisis, Catholic Human/Social Services is working to ensure the safety and well-being of both our staff and the members of the community that we serve.

At this time, Catholic Human/Social Services is following all guidance provided by the Centers for Disease Control Prevention and other agencies.

Proper cleaning and disinfection procedures are being followed at all kitchens, shelters and pantries under the operation of Catholic Human/Social Services.

At the kitchens, specific procedures are being followed each morning, which include cleaning bathrooms with professional cleaner, wiping down all surfaces with an all-purpose disinfectant, sweeping all floors and using a designated bleach mix and wiping down tables and work surfaces with an all-purpose disinfectant. After lunch and/or dinner service, similar sweeping, mopping and cleaning procedures are also followed in the dining room, kitchen area and dish room.

All volunteers and staff are being reminded of proper precautionary protocols, including urging individuals to stay home and limit their contact with others if they are sick and the importance of proper hand washing, especially when it comes to food preparation.

Catholic Human/Social Services is also following the previously mentioned CDC guidelines and recommendations for any staff members or volunteers who have travelled to a Risk Level 3 country.

All ongoing programs and large public events/gatherings are also being evaluated at this time.

Catholic Human/Social Services also has ongoing communication with its housing and residential facilities in regards to best practices/procedures.

 

Catholic Youth Center

All state regulations are being strictly followed. Any child with a fever will be immediately sent home. In addition, any student with a fever will immediately be isolated from other children.

Parents have been provided information on the coronavirus and are instructed not to bring their child to the Catholic Youth Center if their child displays any of the symptoms.

Staff members have been told to stay home if they have any symptoms of the coronavirus or flu-like symptoms.

Toys and classroom items that children use during the day are normally cleaned/disinfected multiple times during the day. The importance of this procedure has been reinforced with staff and additional time has been given to each teacher’s schedule to stay after their shift to give the classroom a thorough cleaning and disinfection once the room is empty.

As per existing policy, all children and staff wash their hands multiple times during the day. All children must wash their hands upon arrival, prior to-and-after meals, after outdoor play time and before/after naps. Children typically wash their hands at a minimum of five times per day.

Staff members have also been instructed to wash their hands often during the day.

All hand rails and door handles will be disinfected after high traffic periods. Approximate times for this disinfection each day is 9:00 a.m., 1:00 p.m., 5:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m.

Hand sanitizer stations will be placed at both entrances and at the entrance to every classroom as soon as possible. Staff members are working with Cintas to provide the dispensers and sanitizer.

 

Effective immediately, and until further notice, Bishop Joseph C. Bambera, in union with the Bishops of Pennsylvania, has dispensed the faithful of the Diocese of Scranton from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass. Despite the suspension of the obligation to attend Sunday Mass, all regularly scheduled Masses will remain open to the public for those who wish to attend.

Also, during a news conference Thursday afternoon (3/12/20), Governor Wolf encouraged religious leaders statewide to exercise discretion in order to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus and encouraged the suspension of large gatherings and events of 250 individuals or more. In the Diocese of Scranton, it is now strongly recommended that all non-essential parish and Diocesan events be temporarily cancelled or postponed.

Also, attached to this letter, is the latest updates regarding the Diocese of Scranton’s response to COVID-19.

Your careful adherence to these important matters is appreciated.  Let us continue to pray for one another.

Diocese of Scranton Coronavirus Update
March 12, 2020

This document reflects the most recent guidance from the Diocese of Scranton regarding the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) and steps our communities can take to help prevent its spread. The Diocese of Scranton will be updating this guidance in accordance with recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Pennsylvania Department of Health and local public health officials.

General Prevention and Preparedness

The health and safety of our parishioners, staff, students, families and clients that we serve are of paramount interest to the Diocese of Scranton. While there is much to learn about the coronavirus, based on what is currently known about the virus, spread from person-to-person happens most frequently among close contacts (within about six feet). Current evidence suggests that the coronavirus may remain viable for hours to days on surfaces made of a variety of materials.

On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the coronavirus a pandemic, because of its severity and the rapid rates at which it has spread. However, the WHO stressed that deliberate preventative actions can stop the virus from spreading.

We ask that all members of our parishes, schools and human/social service agencies assist with the prevention of spreading viruses by following the following recommendations:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.

 

Travel Considerations

The Centers for Disease Control continues to update the Risk Level for each country. The Diocese of Scranton will continue to monitor this information and work to prevent this virus from spreading in our community. With that in mind, the Diocese of Scranton may require employees, students and/or families and clients that we serve who have been exposed to COVID-19 or are returning from countries designated as Risk Level 3 to remain home for 14 days upon returning to the United States or after contact with someone known to have or someone who may have been exposed to COVID-19. Those individuals will also be required to provide a notice from a healthcare professional that they are free from flu-like symptoms in order to return to work or school.

As of March 12, 2020, the CDC indicated the following risk levels related to COVID-19:

Level 3: China, Iran, Italy and South Korea

If you have travelled or are planning to travel to countries indicated with Risk Level 3, please contact your supervisor or principal to discuss plans for return to work or school.

 

Parish Gatherings

During a news conference Thursday afternoon (3/12/20), Governor Tom Wolf encouraged religious leaders statewide to exercise discretion in order to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus and encouraged the suspension of large gatherings and events of 250 individuals or more. In the Diocese of Scranton, it is now strongly recommended that all non-essential parish and Diocesan events be temporarily cancelled or postponed.

 

Parish/Liturgical Recommendations

Effective immediately (3/12/20), and until further notice, Bishop Joseph C. Bambera, in union with the Bishops of Pennsylvania, has dispensed the faithful of the Diocese of Scranton from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass. Despite the suspension of the obligation to attend Sunday Mass, all regularly scheduled Masses will remain open to the public for those who wish to attend.

Masses continue to be offered at parish churches across the Diocese of Scranton and churches remain open.

It is important that Catholics use vigilance when deciding to attend Mass. If you are sick, especially with flu-like symptoms, you should stay home for your own well-being and that of others. If parishioners are sick or suspect they are sick with a contagious illness, they are not bound by the Sunday Mass obligation.

Elderly parishioners who are not sick, but are concerned about being in crowded spaces, are also not bound by the Sunday Mass obligation.

The faithful are strongly encouraged at this time to receive the Body of Christ (via the Sacred Host) in the hand, but the right of each individual to receive on the tongue, as guaranteed by the universal law of the Church, remains in place and is to be respected. This request is made in order to curtail the spread of germs to the communicant, the minister of Holy Communion and other communicants.

The faithful should refrain from the use of holy water upon entering and exiting our churches. Out of an abundance of caution, pastors should remove holy water from fonts in an effort to reduce the possible transmission of the virus.

Parishes should make proper provisions for persons with celiac disease who cannot digest the gluten in wheat hosts or have other sensitivities.

The distribution of the Precious Blood via the Chalice is temporarily suspended.

The Sign of Peace will now be exchanged without physical contact.

Priests, deacons and extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion should practice good hygiene, washing their hands before Mass begins or even using an alcohol based anti-bacterial solution before and after distributing Holy Communion.

 

Catholic Education

(UPDATE 3/13/20) At the direction of Governor Tom Wolf, the Diocese of Scranton Catholic School System will close for two weeks effective immediately.

The Diocese of Scranton Catholic School System will be moving to distance learning effective Monday, March 16, 2020. All teachers have prepared to deliver instruction to our students through the use of our email system. Administrators have been sending regular communication to parents/students through the use of our email system.

As a result of all K-12 school districts in the commonwealth closing, all faith formation classes in parishes should also be cancelled immediately. Programs are encouraged to offer remote or online learning if possible.

Diocese of Scranton Catholic School System to close schools and begin “distance learning” effective Monday
March 13, 2020 

Follow-up on COVID-19 March 12, 2020

COVID-19 March 12, 2020

At this time, all schools within the Diocese of Scranton remain open and under the most recent guidance from the Governor, we will not be holding mass gatherings – especially those with more than 250 attendees.

Plans for continued “distance learning” have been developed and teachers and administrators are prepared to distribute information to parents/students should the need arise.

The Diocesan School System is following the travel considerations listed above and may require students and families who have been exposed to COVID-19 or are returning from countries designated at Risk Level 3 to wait a full 14 days after arriving in the United States and have notice from a healthcare professional that they are free from flu-like symptoms in order to return to school and school functions.

The Diocesan School System continues to take additional precautions in an effort to protect our classrooms and shared areas from any viruses. Custodial staff from each school thoroughly clean our classrooms and common areas (including door handles, desks and cafeterias) daily with proper sanitary materials to minimize the spread of viruses. In order to support the prevention of viruses at all schools, we recommend that your child stay home from school if experiencing flu or cold symptoms. To decide whether or not to send your child to school, please consider the following guidelines, and keep your student home if they show any of the following:

  • Fever‐greater than 100°F and your child should stay home until at least 24 hours after they no longer have a fever. This should be determined without the use of fever‐reducing medicines (any medicine that contains ibuprofen or acetaminophen).
  • Vomiting (even once)
  • Diarrhea
  • Chills
  • General malaise or feelings of fatigue, discomfort, weakness or muscle aches
  • Frequent congested (wet) or croup cough
  • Lots of nasal congestion with frequent blowing of nose

In regards to parish faith formation programs, Catechists should remind students of proper handwashing techniques and coughing and sneezing etiquette.

If threat is moderate to severe, faith formation programs or other parish gatherings should be postponed or canceled.  Parishes should follow the lead of their Diocesan school or local public school districts in canceling Religious Education classes.

Parish Religious Education programs should plan on offering remote or online learning if possible.

 

Catholic Human/Social Services

(UPDATE 3/13/20) Due to the closure of local schools and the pressing need to help our community in regards to COVID-19, Catholic Human/Social Services will be offering two community food distributions to people in need. The events will take place at the following times/locations:

  • Thursday, March 19 from 3:00 – 6:00 p.m. at 640 Hemlock Street in Scranton
  • Saturday, March 21 from 10:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. at the Family Center Basement of Saint Rose of Lima Parish in Carbondale

Catholic Human/Social Services of the Diocese of Scranton remains strongly committed to providing critical services to our brothers and sisters in need. In the midst of the coronavirus crisis, Catholic Human/Social Services is working to ensure the safety and well-being of both our staff and the members of the community that we serve.

At this time, Catholic Human/Social Services is following all guidance provided by the Centers for Disease Control Prevention and other agencies.

Proper cleaning and disinfection procedures are being followed at all kitchens, shelters and pantries under the operation of Catholic Human/Social Services.

At the kitchens, specific procedures are being followed each morning, which include cleaning bathrooms with professional cleaner, wiping down all surfaces with an all-purpose disinfectant, sweeping all floors and using a designated bleach mix and wiping down tables and work surfaces with an all-purpose disinfectant. After lunch and/or dinner service, similar sweeping, mopping and cleaning procedures are also followed in the dining room, kitchen area and dish room.

All volunteers and staff are being reminded of proper precautionary protocols, including urging individuals to stay home and limit their contact with others if they are sick and the importance of proper hand washing, especially when it comes to food preparation.

Catholic Human/Social Services is also following the previously mentioned CDC guidelines and recommendations for any staff members or volunteers who have travelled to a Risk Level 3 country.

All ongoing programs and large public events/gatherings are also being evaluated at this time.

Catholic Human/Social Services also has ongoing communication with its housing and residential facilities in regards to best practices/procedures.

 

Catholic Youth Center

All state regulations are being strictly followed. Any child with a fever will be immediately sent home. In addition, any student with a fever will immediately be isolated from other children.

Parents have been provided information on the coronavirus and are instructed not to bring their child to the Catholic Youth Center if their child displays any of the symptoms.

Staff members have been told to stay home if they have any symptoms of the coronavirus or flu-like symptoms.

Toys and classroom items that children use during the day are normally cleaned/disinfected multiple times during the day. The importance of this procedure has been reinforced with staff and additional time has been given to each teacher’s schedule to stay after their shift to give the classroom a thorough cleaning and disinfection once the room is empty.

As per existing policy, all children and staff wash their hands multiple times during the day. All children must wash their hands upon arrival, prior to-and-after meals, after outdoor play time and before/after naps. Children typically wash their hands at a minimum of five times per day.

Staff members have also been instructed to wash their hands often during the day.

All hand rails and door handles will be disinfected after high traffic periods. Approximate times for this disinfection each day is 9:00 a.m., 1:00 p.m., 5:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m.

Hand sanitizer stations will be placed at both entrances and at the entrance to every classroom as soon as possible. Staff members are working with Cintas to provide the dispensers and sanitizer.

 

Resources

 

Center for Disease Control

Pennsylvania Department of Health

Catholic Response to Outbreak of Coronavirus

 

 

Passionist Father Lee Havey, C.P., will be the homilist for a two night Lenten Mission to be offered at Saint Mary of the Lake Church, 1872 Dalton Road, Lake Winola, on Tuesday, March 31, and Wednesday, April 1.  Father Havey conducts parish missions, Eucharistic devotions, novenas, and retreats throughout the country while residing in the Passionist Community located at St. Ann’s Monastery, Scranton, PA.

“Discovering Holiness in the Stories of Life” has been chosen as the theme for the mission.  According to Father Patrick Albert, pastor of Saint Mary of the Lake, “We are hoping that this Mission will provide all people of faith with the opportunity to add to their Lenten journey through worship, prayer, and service.” Each evening will include a vespers service, the mission message, and benediction.

In addition, Tuesday, March 31 will be “Reconciliation Night”, with confessions offered from 6:00 PM to 6:45 PM, and the Mission Service at 7:00 PM.  Wednesday’s schedule will include Eucharistic Adoration from 9:00 AM to 7:00 PM, and the Mission service at 7:00PM.  Wednesday’s service will also be “Ministry Night”.  A special invitation is extended to all who contribute to the life of their church through involvement in any ministry.

An additional component of the Wednesday service will be the collection of nonperishable food items for the Lower Wyoming County Food Pantry and St. Francis of Assisi Kitchen.  Each participant is asked to bring an item which will be donated.  According to Mary Lou Franko, chair of the Service Committee at Saint Mary’s, “We have recently doubled the hours of operation of the Food Pantry because of the need”.

All people of faith from throughout the area invited to join the parishioners of Saint Mary’s for the mission.  For more information, see www.nativitystmary.org or call 570 – 836 – 3275.