Father Jeffrey J. Walsh, Bishop-elect of Gaylord, Michigan, wanted to take a moment to express a sincere thank you to everyone who sent well wishes via the Diocese of Scranton’s Facebook page, website and social media pages. In response to the hundreds of comments that have come in over the last week, Bishop-elect Walsh said:

“In gratitude for all the comments regarding my announcement as Bishop of the Diocese of Gaylord, I want to say thanks to all who took time to express congratulations/well wishes/kind remembrances via social media. My heart swelled with love as I read each comment and I felt truly blessed with the gift of friendship. As the adventure unfolds, the welcome mat will always be out in the wilds of northern Michigan to family and friends from NEPA. God bless!”
                                                                                                            — Fr. Walsh

 

On Tuesday, December 21, 2021, the Diocese of Gaylord, Michigan hosted a live press conference at St. Mary Cathedral to announce the appointment of Reverend Jeffrey J. Walsh as the sixth bishop of the Diocese of Gaylord.  You can watch that press conference in the link provided below.

 

SCRANTON – On December 21, 2021, Pope Francis appointed the Reverend Jeffrey J. Walsh, pastor of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish and Saint Rose of Lima Parish, Carbondale, as the sixth bishop of the Diocese of Gaylord, Michigan.

Bishop-elect Walsh succeeds Most Reverend Steven J. Raica, J.C.D., D.D., who was installed as Bishop of the Diocese of Birmingham, Alabama, on June 23, 2020. Since that time, Bishop Walter A. Hurley has been serving as the apostolic administrator of the Diocese of Gaylord.

Bishop-elect Walsh’s episcopal ordination and installation as Bishop of Gaylord are scheduled for March 4, 2022, at 2 p.m. in Saint Mary Cathedral, Gaylord.

“With gratitude to our Holy Father Pope Francis, and joy in the Lord, I am eager to begin a new chapter in my life of discipleship among the good people of the Diocese of Gaylord! I am also most grateful to God for 27 years of priestly ministry in the Diocese of Scranton. I have been inspired and challenged to grow in faith through various diocesan assignments and will forever prayerfully remember all the lay faithful, religious, deacons, priests and bishops with whom and for whom I have served,” Bishop-elect Walsh said. “In particular, I would like to acknowledge the kind support of Bishop Joseph C. Bambera. The most important act of gratitude I can offer is for my parents, Jerome and Nancy (Doud) Walsh. They, as well as my deceased grandparents, have been the most significant formators of my life. I have been blessed with a solid, but by no means ‘perfect,’ family that also includes my two brothers, two nieces, one nephew, aunts and uncles and many close first cousins. Looking forward, I hope to bring a missionary spirit to my episcopal ministry under the mantle of Divine Providence. From ‘Penn’s Woods’ to the land of ‘Great Lakes,’ I trust God’s loving plan.”

Bishop-elect Walsh was born on November 29, 1965. The son of Jerome and Nancy Walsh, he is a native of Scranton, Pa., and is a graduate of Scranton Central High School. He is one of three children, with brothers, James and Joseph Walsh. He graduated from the University of Scranton in 1987 with a degree in Health and Human Resources. He went on to complete his priestly studies at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary, Emmitsburg, Md., earning a Master of Divinity Degree.

Bishop-elect Walsh received a Master of Arts in Christian Spirituality from Creighton University in 1999 and a Master of Social Work Degree from Marywood University in 2010.

Bishop-elect Walsh was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Scranton by Bishop James C. Timlin at the Cathedral of Saint Peter, Scranton, Pa., on June 25, 1994. After ordination, Bishop-elect Walsh served as assistant pastor at Saint Rose of Lima Church, Carbondale, and the Cathedral of Saint Peter, Scranton. In July 1999, he was appointed to his first pastorate at Saint Mary of the Lake Church, Lake Winola, as well as Director of Spiritual & Liturgical Formation at Saint Pius X Seminary. From July 2004-July 2006, he served as pastor at Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Church, Tunkhannock, until being appointed to serve as Episcopal Vicar for the Eastern Pastoral Region of the Diocese of Scranton. In 2008, Bishop-elect Walsh became administrator of Saint Rita Church, Gouldsboro, and in 2009 was appointed administrator of Saint Anthony, Saint Bridget and Saint John the Baptist parishes in Throop. In July 2010, Bishop-elect Walsh was appointed to serve as pastor at the Church of Saint John, East Stroudsburg. In January 2015, he was appointed Episcopal Vicar for Clergy by Bishop Joseph C. Bambera. While serving in that role, Bishop-elect Walsh also served as Sacramental Minister for Our Lady of the Eucharist Parish, Pittston. In July 2020, he was appointed pastor at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish and Saint Rose of Lima Parish, Carbondale. As Bishop-elect Walsh departs for Gaylord, Saint Rose of Lima Parish just completed a large-scale renovation project on its nearly 150-year-old building.

During his years of pastoral ministry, Bishop-elect Walsh also served in a variety of Diocesan positions, including Director of Religious Formation at the former Sacred Heart High School in Carbondale and the former Bishop Hannan High School in Scranton. For five years he was chaplain at Saint Michael’s School and for 12 years (1995-2007) he served as chaplain to the Deaf Community. Bishop-elect Walsh has also served as Diocesan vocations director, was director of youth and young adult retreats at Fatima Center, and served for one year as the Diocesan Deputy Secretary for Catholic Human Services. In 2007, he was also appointed to the Board of Directors of the Notre Dame Regional School System.

In reaction to Pope Francis’ appointment, His Excellency, the Most Reverend Joseph C. Bambera, D.D., J.C.L., Bishop of Scranton, commented, “With pride and gratitude to God, we celebrate Pope Francis’ appointment of Father Walsh to serve as the sixth bishop of the Diocese of Gaylord. This announcement brings great joy in the Diocese of Scranton as the Holy Father has chosen a native son, nurtured and formed locally, to the office of episcopal leadership and service in the Church. Having known and served alongside Father Walsh for many years, he has shown himself to be a caring, compassionate and skilled pastor. His deep love for the Lord is evident in the loving service that he has shared with the flock of Christ entrusted to his care in a wide range of parishes, ministries and apostolates. Father Walsh has generously shared his talents and his love for the Church in so many ways, especially with our youth, elderly, the poor, sick and those on the periphery. While this appointment is somewhat bittersweet for many of us in the Church of Scranton, especially those of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish and Saint Rose of Lima Parish, where Bishop-elect Walsh currently serves as pastor, we are grateful to God that he has chosen Father Walsh to serve the broader Church and particularly our brothers and sisters in the Church of Gaylord as bishop. Please join me in giving thanks for the years of priestly service that Father Walsh has shared so generously with the faithful of our Diocese and in asking the Lord Jesus to fill his heart with joy as he begins his episcopal ministry among the good people of Michigan.”

 

Diocese of Gaylord Overview

The Diocese of Gaylord is one of seven Roman Catholic Dioceses in the state of Michigan. His Holiness Pope Paul VI established it on July 20, 1971. The 11,171 square miles of the diocese includes the 21 most northern counties of Michigan’s lower peninsula, which are mostly rural in nature. The total population of the Diocese exceeds 506,000, of which more than 44,000 are Catholic. The Diocese of Gaylord consists of 75 parishes, 16 Catholic schools and many closely related institutions.

 

The Bishops of Gaylord:

Cardinal Edmund C. Szoka, 1971-1981

Bishop Robert J. Rose, 1981-1989

Bishop Patrick R. Cooney, 1990-2009

Bishop Bernard A. Hebda, 2009-2013

Bishop Steven J. Raica, 2014-2020

Bishop-elect Jeffrey J. Walsh, 2022-

 

Two residents of the orphanage in Zulachchia, Ukraine, proudly wear their Our Lady Queen of Peace Church Orphan Outreach Ministry t-shirts — among the 100 signature shirts provided by the Brodheadsville parish to outfit the children and young adults at the orphanage.

BRODHEADSVILLE — It was two years ago The Catholic Light first reported of the incredible ministerial journey of Sandie Flannery of Our Lady Queen of Peace Parish in Brodheadsville, which began in 2009 when she accompanied friends to the Ukraine to adopt three children with Down syndrome.

Six years later, Flannery established the Orphan Outreach Ministry at her parish in the Poconos that continues to provide much-needed aid to destitute Ukrainian orphan children and young adults — many with severe disabilities and often subjected to deplorable conditions.

The hallmark of the support effort is an ambitious fundraiser Queen of Peace hosts to coincide with worldwide “Orphan Sunday” each November, as it collaborates with the DePaul Society of Ukraine which provides trained staff to serve the orphans’ needs.

A retired special education teacher and the mother of a daughter with special needs, Flannery routinely traveled two to three times a year to Ukraine to help provide educational, therapeutic and sensory materials.

For the first time since the pandemic lockdown in 2020, Flannery was allowed to visit two orphanages in August. Not surprisingly, the global health crisis has gravely affected the residents.

“The conditions of the orphans had declined,” Flannery related. “The DePaul staff were not allowed to work during that time due to COVID and the children really missed their attention and activities. Regular staff was reduced to a minimum, and there was not enough time for the extra love and attention they so sorely need.”

Compounding the program, Flannery said, are the country’s new orphan reform policies which have relocated and centralized the orphaned charges of the state. According to Flannery, the radical changes and disruptions have caused great distress and confusion among the orphans.

“Zulachchia is now the regional orphanage for all disabled children,” she said, “and many of the older men were transferred to the men’s Boarding House (institution in Synatyn) after living their entire lives in Zulachchia.”

Flannery had the opportunity to visit the Boarding House where many of the men recognized her. “It was so sad to see how very distressed they were and want to be transferred back,” she related. “Also, new children with lesser disabilities were placed with more disabled and these children want out!”

In Synatyn, Flannery noted, more than 300 men often spend their days sitting idly and “staring into space.” Due to these stark conditions, the Orphan Outreach Ministry has begun collecting soft “fidget toys,” such as poppits, to keep the orphans’ hands and minds busy.

Collection boxes for the fidget toys are located in Queen of Peace Church, with the goal being to amass 500 of the popular gadgets to provide for all children and adults in both settings.

In November, the annual parish Tricky Tray/Basket Raffle raised more than $10,000, which helped supplement DePaul’s budget and pay for a heated tile floor, in additional to crucial educational, therapeutic and medical equipment.

Despite the onset of the pandemic last year, the Orphan Ministry contracted to have two gazebos built on orphanage grounds, along with helping to pay for an industrial washing machine.

Most recently, Flannery spearheaded the packaging of essential supplies that were transported by United Ukrainian Relief Committee in Philadelphia to be shipped overseas in a cargo container.

“Some equipment will go to a rehabilitation center run by the Sisters of Mercy,” she explained. “Another cargo container will go out in January with more equipment currently in storage!”

Flannery emphasized donations of all kinds are accepted, suggesting that accessories no longer needed or outgrown by a loved one are most welcomed — especially good electric beds, wheelchairs, scooters, cell phones and tablets.

For more information, contact Sandie Flannery at (570) 350-9652, or the parish office at (610) 681-6137.

 

The birth of Christ is depicted in stained glass at St. Michael’s Cathedral in Toronto. The Dec. 25 Christmas feast commemorates the birth of Christ. The Christmas season begins with the Dec. 24 evening vigil and ends on the feast of the Baptism of the Lord, Jan. 13 in 2008. (CNS photo/Nancy Wiechec) (Nov. 27, 2007)

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

“For a child is born to us, a son is given us; upon his shoulder dominion rests. They name him Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, Father-Forever, Prince of Peace.”

In his Christmas homily a year ago, Pope Francis reflected upon this familiar passage from the prophet Isaiah: “To us a son is given.”

Pope Francis began, “We often hear it said that the greatest joy in life is the birth of a child. It is something extraordinary and it changes everything … That is what Christmas is: the birth of Jesus is the ‘newness’ that enables us to be reborn each year and to find, in him, the strength needed to face every trial. Why? Because his birth is for us – for me, for you, for all of us, for everyone … Yet what do those words – for us – really mean? They mean that God came into the world as a child to make us children of God. What a magnificent gift! This day, God amazes us and says to each of us: Are you tempted to feel you were a mistake? God tells you, ‘No, you are my child!’ Do you have a feeling of failure or inadequacy, the fear that you will never emerge from the dark tunnel of trial? God says to you, ‘Have courage, I am with you.’ This is the starting point for any rebirth. This is the undying heart of our hope, the incandescent core that gives warmth and meaning to our life.”

The Holy Father continued: “Jesus, you are the Child who makes me a child. You love me as I am, not as I imagine myself to be; this I know! In embracing you, the Child of the manger, I once more embrace my life. In welcoming you, the Bread of life, I too desire to give my life. You, my Savior, teach me to serve. You, who did not leave me alone, help me to comfort your brothers and sisters, for you know that, from this night forward, all are my brothers and sisters.”

Pope Francis’ words capture so beautifully both the sublime gift that we have been given in the birth of Jesus and the responsibility that is ours to give the same gift of his life to others.

Through the Incarnation, God has immersed himself in our human condition – not because of our righteousness – but because of his grace and mercy. This fundamental belief in the limitless love of God, given human shape and form in Jesus’ birth, confronts the brokenness of our lives with hope. It beckons us to move beyond the division and fear that have engulfed our world, our Church and our lives to recognize an essential reality of humankind: we are all far more similar than we are different. As such, we are all brothers and sisters who, on our own, are powerless to save ourselves. And we are all in need of the heart of Christmas and the power and presence of Jesus – born to save us, to give us life and to enfold us in his peace.

The surest way for us to encounter the saving power and presence of Jesus – particularly in the midst of these unsettling times – is to seek him out in those places where he has told us he will be found. Recognize and embrace Jesus as we feed the hungry, care for the sick, embrace the outcast, forgive generously, love unconditionally and welcome into our hearts his living presence in the Holy Eucharist, the source and summit of our lives.

Brothers and sisters, we have been told where to look to find acceptance, forgiveness and mercy and we have learned what is necessary in order for us to give life to Jesus in a world that so desperately needs to experience his saving grace. During these days that continue to challenge our peace, may we pray for the wisdom and humility to open our lives to this great mystery of faith that we celebrate through the Incarnation of Christ. Therein alone, we will find the true and lasting reason for our hope!

With gratitude for the privilege of serving as your Bishop and with prayers for a holy and blessed Christmas for you, your family and all you hold dear, I am,

Faithfully yours in Christ,

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

 

 

 

SCRANTON – As we move into 2022, the Vision 2020 Blueprint Process, launched in 2019, will now be known as the Vision 2030 Blueprint Process.

The goal of Vision 2030 remains the same. The long range planning process aims to look proactively at the realities of our local Church in the present moment while striving to meet the opportunities and challenges of the coming decade.

Put simply, Vision 2030 will assist the diocese in creating and sustaining vibrant parishes rooted in the life of Jesus Christ that are able to respond to the needs of as many members of the Christian faithful as possible.

“Our ongoing pastoral planning process in the Diocese is both important and necessary to have vibrant parishes and rich participation in the sacraments,” the Most Reverend Joseph C. Bambera, Bishop of Scranton, has said about the process. “At its very core, (this process) is about putting our relationship with Jesus first in our own lives and in the life of our Church. We must desire to help all people meet Christ and build God’s Kingdom – not our own.”

Bishop Bambera first introduced the pastoral planning process to every parish in the Diocese through a video homily played at all Masses on Dec. 8, 2019. Since that time, a lot of work has taken place. Before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the bishop led several regional sessions with parishioners and provided a video presentation to other parishes that were not able to gather in large groups because of the coronavirus.

In 2021, the blueprint process was utilized to help bring together the parish of Sacred Heart of Jesus in Weston with the parish of Saint John Bosco, Conyngham, upon the retirement of the pastor at Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish. Likewise, the blueprint process was also utilized to help Holy Family Parish in Sugar Notch consolidate with Saint Leo the Great Parish in Ashley upon the retirement of the pastor at Holy Family Parish.

The blueprint process has also assisted with parish linkages in the two largest cities of the Diocese of Scranton. Saint John Neumann Parish and Saint Paul of the Cross Parish have been linked in South Scranton under the pastorate of Monsignor Joseph G. Quinn, and Saint Nicholas Parish and Our Lady of Fatima Parish have been linked in Wilkes-Barre under the pastorate of Father Joseph D. Verespy.

In January 2022, the diocese plans to release updated data and information regarding the number of faithful who are supporting the mission of the Church locally as well as information on the decreasing number of priests that will be available in the next decade because of retirements. This information will

provide all the faithful with facts as we best determine how to plan for the future. By the essence of our Baptism, each person is called to take an active role in realizing the mission of the Vision 2030 Blueprint process.

The Diocese of Scranton is not alone in undertaking pastoral planning efforts. Diminishing and aging populations in some sections of the country impacting the number of men pursuing a priestly vocation in the Church, among other factors, have many other Dioceses and Archdioceses undertaking similar measures.

Over the past half century, the number of priests across the U.S. has dropped by about 40 percent — from nearly 60,000 priests in 1970 to 35,513 in 2020, according to the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.

 

Parishioners attending Mass for the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe Mass at Saint Nicholas Church in Wilkes-Barre wear face coverings on Dec. 12, 2021. (Photo/Mike Melisky) 

SCRANTON – With Christmas quickly approaching, Bishop Joseph C. Bambera reminds the faithful about the COVID-19 protocols that remain in place for parishes throughout the Diocese of Scranton. Christmas often brings many visitors to churches throughout the Diocese, so the bishop has encouraged parishes to share the protocols in bulletins and via other communication methods.

While all of the protocols have been in place since August, in recent weeks the number of new, daily COVID-19 infections throughout the 11 counties of the Diocese of Scranton has continued to be high.

The bishop encourages everyone to remain vigilant and not let their guard down, using our best judgment to protect our own health and the health of our neighbors.

COVID-19 Protocol Reminders for Christmas 2021

  • The Diocese of Scranton strongly recommends that all parishioners wear a mask while attending Mass, regardless of vaccination status. As Catholics, we have a responsibility to protect our friends and neighbors and mask wearing remains an important mitigation tool against community spread.
  • Parishes should post signs strongly recommending the use of face masks by all parishioners, especially for those individuals who may be visiting for Christmas or have not attended Mass in-person recently. Bulletin announcements and announcements prior to Mass are also ways that can be used to help communicate this message.
  • Anyone who is sick should stay home and participate in the celebration of Mass through Catholic Television or a parish livestream Mass. In addition, anyone displaying COVID-19 symptoms (fever, cough, sore throat, shortness of breath, headache, or muscle pain) should not attend Mass in-person.
  • Altar servers need to wear a mask while performing their duties.
  • Priests, Deacons and other ministers involved in entrance/exit processions are strongly encouraged to wear masks.
  • Priests, Deacons and Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion must wash or sanitize their hands prior to the distribution of Holy Communion. All ministers should put their mask on BEFORE going to wash or sanitize their hands.
  • Priests, Deacons and Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion must wear a mask during the distribution of Holy Communion. All ministers should sanitize their hands immediately if they come into contact with a recipient’s tongue.
  • At no time should church leaders demand information about vaccination status (or any other protected health information), request vaccination cards be shown on admittance, or pressure attendees in any way to show proof of vaccination. When in doubt, parishes should continue to plan their gatherings with the caution that some participants may be unvaccinated.
  • Parishes should continue to be vigilant in the planning of any Christmas events that might bring together a large number of people from various households. Masks would be strongly recommended for any such indoor events.

Guidelines for Christmas 2021

 

A figurine of the baby Jesus is seen as people gather in St. Peter’s Square for the Angelus led by Pope Francis at the Vatican Dec. 12, 2021. Children brought their Nativity figurines of baby Jesus to be blessed by the pope. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – With Christmas just over a week away, Christians should prepare for Jesus’ birth by serving those in need rather than focusing on what awaits them under the Christmas tree, Pope Francis said.

“We are so busy with all the preparations, with gifts and things that pass,” the pope said Dec. 12 during his Sunday Angelus address. “But let’s ask ourselves what we should do for Jesus and for others! What should we do?”

Many children along with their families came to St. Peter’s Square with their baby Jesus figurines for a traditional blessing by the pope.

Assuring them that he would bless their statues after praying the Angelus, Pope Francis greeted the little ones and asked them to take “my Christmas greetings to your grandparents and all your dear ones.”

In his main address, the pope reflected on the Sunday Gospel reading from St. Luke which recalled the crowds of people who, after being moved by St. John the Baptist’s preaching, asked him, “What should we do?”

Their question “does not stem from a sense of duty” but from their hearts being “touched by the Lord,” and their being enthusiastic for his coming.

Just like the preparations people make to welcome a guest to their home by cleaning and preparing “the best dinner possible,” Christians must do “the same with the Lord,” he said.

St. Luke’s Gospel, the pope added, also encourages one to ask, “What should I do with my life? What am I called to? What will I become?”

“By suggesting this question, the Gospel reminds us of something important: Life has a task for us. Life is not meaningless; it is not left up to chance. No! It is a gift the Lord grants us, saying to us: Discover who you are, and work hard to make the dream that is your life come true!”

The pope encouraged Christians to prepare for Christmas by continuously asking God what should they do for themselves and others in order to contribute to the good of the church and society.

St. John the Baptist’s answers, he said, responded to each individual in a way that fit his or her situation in life, a reminder from the Gospel that “life is incarnated” in concrete situations.

“Faith is not an abstract theory, a generalized theory; no!” he said. “Faith touches us personally and transforms each of our lives. Let us think about the concreteness of our faith. Is my faith abstract, something abstract or concrete? Does it lead me to serve others, to help out?”

Pope Francis said there are several ways people can serve others during Advent, including by doing “something concrete, even if it is small” to help others,” especially by visiting the lonely, the elderly, the sick or someone in need.

Then the pope added to the list: “Maybe I need to ask forgiveness, grant forgiveness, clarify a situation, pay a debt. Perhaps I have neglected prayer and after so much time has elapsed, it’s time to ask the Lord for forgiveness.”

“Brothers and sisters,” he said, “let’s find something concrete and do it!”

 

Catholic Social Services of the Diocese of Scranton and Friends of the Poor collaborated for the annual “Christmas Gifts for Kids” toy distribution on Dec. 14 and 15, 2021. (Photos/Eric Deabill)

DICKSON CITY – Nearly 1,200 children in the greater Scranton area will have presents under the tree Christmas morning thanks to the generosity of the community and an ongoing partnership between Catholic Social Services of the Diocese of Scranton, Friends of the Poor and the U.S. Marine Corps Toys for Tots Program.

“It is truly an honor to be able to serve families and their children,” Mary Theresa Malandro, Diocesan Secretary for Catholic Human Services & Chief Executive Officer of Catholic Social Services, said. “We do not want to see any child go without a gift on Christmas.”

On Dec. 14 and 15, more than 500 families who pre-registered were able to visit LCBC Church on the Scranton Carbondale Highway to select toys for their children as part of the “Christmas Gifts for Kids” program.

Parents were able to shop for their own toys inside LCBC Church during the toy distribution. The toys were all separated by age range to help parents find the perfect present.

Last year, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, gifts were pre-bagged for families and given out via a drive-thru system. This year, Catholic Social Services and Friends of the Poor were thrilled to announce that parents would once again be allowed to select their own gifts.

“Parents know their children better than anyone and for them to be able to come into this environment and feel like they’re shopping and selecting the gifts they know will put a smile on the face of their children is very fulfilling,” Malandro added.

One of the core values for both organizations is dignity. Both agencies feel that allowing families to make their own choices is more empowering and personal.

“Coming in and choosing the toys that they’re going to give their children is a big part of that. No parent wants to be just as surprised as the kids when they open up a gift on Christmas morning,” Meghan Loftus, President and CEO of Friends of the Poor, explained.

When the doors opened to the first families at 9 a.m. on Dec. 14, a large room was filled with presents separated by age groups. From dolls and trucks for younger children – to scooters and sports equipment for older kids – there was plenty for families to choose.

“It is truly an honor and a joy,” Brady Funkhouser, Operations Manager with Friends of the Poor, said about assisting all of the families. “This is what Christmas is all about. Everyone I speak to is just so grateful for the opportunity that they have to have something for their kids at Christmas. It is an awesome feeling.”

In an effort to promote social distancing and allow for a smooth and timely selection of gifts, parents signed-up for a 15-minute time slot in which to select their gifts when they registered for the “Christmas Gifts for Kids” program.

Organizers say every child is expected to get at least two or three gifts.

“We were able to collaborate with other agencies in the community and make sure that we weren’t duplicating who they had already registered so we could reach more people and make sure there is no child in Scranton without a gift underneath their tree,” Loftus said.

All of the agencies involved in the toy distribution explained how this project is a collaborative effort.

“We couldn’t do it without the support of the community and the volunteers who take time off from work to help the families shop and help people pick out toys. We’re both small teams but we’re making a really big impact and that’s because of the volunteers that we have,” Loftus added.

Malandro added that since the Diocesan Annual Appeal supports the work of Catholic Social Services, this project is just another example of how donations help their agency serve the community.

“This is serving those in need. I’m passionate about that,” she explained.

In addition to the toy giveaway in Scranton, Catholic Social Services also sponsored several other toy distributions this year. Hundreds of other families in the Carbondale and Hazleton areas also received toys as well in separate distributions.

 

The Blessed Virgin Mary, portrayed by Serafina Higdon of Saint Faustina Parish, presents the baby Jesus to the people of Bethlehem.

NANTICOKE – A beloved holiday tradition at Saint Faustina Kowalska Parish returned this year with an in-person audience – much to the delight of a thankful community.

On Dec. 3 and 4, the parish presented the play “Miracle of Bethlehem,” depicting the birth, life and death of Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, at the Saint Faustina Cultural Center. In 2020, the production took place virtually because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The reviews of this year’s performance were quick and immediate.

“I think it was wonderful. I had a great time. I have a great time every year,” Christie Davison said.

Jesus, portrayed by Ted Mike of Saint Therese Parish in Shavertown, carries the Cross during the play’s depiction of the Passion of Christ.

“I had the goosebumps and the tears,” Dorothy Hudak added. “It was extraordinary. It just brings Christmas into your lives. The ending is breathtaking.”

The play features dozens of actors. Many belong to the parish and its youth ministry program. The play also uses live animals from Endless Dreams Animals in Benton.

Ted Mike portrayed Jesus in this year’s production for another year.

“It’s one thing to talk about the Christmas story. It’s one thing to see it on TV but to sit here in person and see the actors and see all that is going around, see the animals … it registers and it touches your heart,” he explained.

Judy Minsavage directed this year’s production once again. Throughout the past year, she has fielded many questions from people curious to know if the play was going to return to a live performance. She believes the play helps many rediscover the joy of Christmas.

Ted Mike portrays Jesus Christ at the Resurrection during the play ‘Miracle of Bethlehem’ on Dec. 4, 2021. (Photos/Dan Gallagher) 

“I really do feel that is what the Miracle of Bethlehem is really all about. It’s getting the people back into going to church, celebrating the Christmas holiday as well as telling the story and the true meaning of Christmas,” she said.

That message resonated with many of the people who turned out for the performance.

“There’s been so much commercialism in the holiday that we forget the true meaning (of Christmas), and the true meaning of it is we’re celebrating a birthday. It’s one of the most miraculous birthdays that ever occurred,” Jerry Hudak explained.

“It’s like we’re right there with them,” Shelly Marcella added. “This is the true meaning of Christmas. This play brings out the joy in me. I just love this play.”

When the first production of “Miracle of Bethlehem” took place more than ten years ago, it was held outdoors. The weather didn’t always cooperate.

“When we first saw ‘Miracle of Bethlehem’ it was held in a field. I recall being all wrapped up in my parka and hat,” Chester Zaremba said. “When we saw it the first time, the conclusion was so dramatic that it burned a hole into you.”

For those who helped pull off the production, they are happy to know that it helps to bring their parish – and entire community – together.

“I feel sorry for the people who didn’t attend because they don’t know the treasure that they’re missing,” Jerry Hudak said.

CTV: Catholic Television of the Diocese of Scranton filmed this year’s performance of “Miracle of Bethlehem” and is making the performance available to everyone in the Diocese of Scranton. The showing premiered on Dec. 15. The following are the dates for the rebroadcast: Dec. 16 at 10:30 a.m.; Dec. 21 at 8 p.m.; Dec 22 at 10:30 a.m.; and Dec. 27 at 10:30 a.m.

 

The first Advent Service of Word and Song service was held at Holy Family Parish in Luzerne on Dec. 9, 2021. (Photo/Catholic Television)

LUZERNE – Musicians from three local parishes came together once again this year to the delight of crowds in two counties.

This year marks the twelfth year that Holy Family Parish in Luzerne, Saints Anthony and Rocco Parish in Dunmore and Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish in Dunmore have collaborated for an Advent Service of Word and Song.

This year’s theme was “Light and Life to all He brings.”

The first service was held Dec. 9 at Holy Family Parish in Luzerne while the second service was held Dec. 12 at Saint Anthony of Padua Church in Dunmore.

“Separately, we’re all pretty good but together we’re really great,” Linda Houck, music director, Holy Family Parish, said. “It brings the Gospel message and the Advent message of hope to so many more people than we could reach independently.”

Father David Cappelloni helped to develop the partnership more than a decade ago. He was first pastor at Holy Family until 2007 before moving to Saints Anthony and Rocco Parish. He  suggested bringing the music ministries together.

“It is really a great sound and there’s not many places that can produce that kind of sound with that number of people. People are excited to be a part of it,” Father Cappelloni said. “It does remind us of what we can do when we come together to make a joyful noise for God.”

Each year, scripture readings and songs are chosen around the theme of the Advent service.

“The music tries to uplift us and to remind us what the purpose of the scripture is,” Father added.

Donna Piekanski, a musician from Holy Family Parish, enjoys being a part of the joint choir.

“It’s hard not to cry because it brings joy. You want to give that joy to everybody,” she said.

If you missed the recent performances, the collaboration is being featured on this month’s “Our Faith Our Diocese” program on CTV: Catholic Television. The next airing of the program will be Monday, Dec. 20, at 11:00 a.m.