The Most Reverend Joseph C. Bambera, Bishop of Scranton, will celebrate a Mass for priests who are observing their 60th, 50th and 25th years of ordination.

The Mass will be held at 12:10 p.m.  on Thursday, June 24, at the Cathedral of Saint Peter in Scranton.

The public is invited to attend the Mass. The Mass will also be broadcast live on CTV: Catholic Television of the Diocese of Scranton.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Priest Jubilarians from both 2020 and 2021 will be recognized.



The Annual Solemn Novena to Saint Ann will be held from July 17-26 at Saint Ann’s Basilica, which is located on Saint Ann Street in Scranton. The Most Reverend Joseph C. Bambera, Bishop of Scranton, will celebrate the Solemn Closing Mass of this year’s Novena on July 26, 2021, at 7:30 p.m. (Photos/Eric Deabill)

SCRANTON – As pandemic restrictions continue to loosen, organizers of the Solemn Novena to Saint Ann are remaining cautious – but stress they will be ready to host the 97th annual spiritual pilgrimage in a much more traditional fashion this year.

“We’re going to be pretty close to 90-percent back to normal,” Very Rev. Passionist Father Richard Burke, rector of the Saint Ann Passionist Monastery and director of the Basilica of the National Shrine of Saint Ann, told The Catholic Light earlier this month.

Every mid-July for nearly a century, faithful followers of the venerated Saint are drawn by the thousands to the Catholic Church’s only national shrine and basilica church dedicated to the mother of the Blessed Virgin Mary and grandmother of Jesus – located high atop the hill on Saint Ann Street in Scranton’s West Side.

Devotees of “Good Saint Ann” will once again pilgrimage to their favorite destination next month beginning on Saturday, July 17, and continuing each day until the devotion’s faith-filled conclusion on the Feast of Saint Ann on Monday, July 26.

While planning for this year’s Novena has been – and continues to be – fluid, Father Burke says the traditional slate of daily Masses and Devotions will occur this year.

“We will have five services through the day in the traditional format that we’ve had,” Father Burke said. “We are reinstating the 7:30 p.m. Mass and Novena. Last year, because of sanitizing efforts, we weren’t able to do both a 5:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Mass because they were too close together.”

One change that will remain this year is that the large tents in the upper parking lot will not be used again.

“Most people are still hesitant about being in big crowds. To have 200 people under one tent is going to be a little bit too challenging,” Father Burke explained. “We’ll still have drive-in parking. They can bring a lawn chair with them and get out of the car and sit.”

Last year, all of the Novena Masses and devotions were held indoors. This year, the 8:00 a.m. Mass and Devotions, along with the 5:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Masses and Devotions will be held outdoors once again.

“We have many benches under the portico and along the walkway and people can feel free to sit in all those places or bring a blanket and sit on the lawn if they want,” Father Burke added.

For services that will be held indoors, mainly at 11:45 a.m. and 3:30 p.m., there should be plenty of seating.

“The church is big enough that I encourage people to use common sense and not sit too close to one another. It’s big enough that you can have 600 or 700 people that are spaced out pretty well,” Father Burke said. “People are coming back in larger numbers on the weekends now and they’ve been spreading out and being careful.”

Confessions will be available before all Masses each day. The basilica is planning to have additional confessors this year and will offer the Sacrament for an hour before each Mass begins in the Lower Basilica.

“The Lower Basilica confessionals are large enough to have a decent distance between the penitent and the priest. The Upper Confessionals are a little boxy,” Father Burke admitted.

The Passionist superior is still working out some final details of how this year’s Solemn Novena will run – most notably how the blessing with the relic of Saint Ann will take place. He is hoping to return to individual blessings again this year, after only offering a general blessing last year, out of an abundance of caution. Further information will be forthcoming in the following weeks.

The Most Reverend Joseph C. Bambera, Bishop of Scranton, will celebrate the Solemn Closing of the Novena on the Feast Day of Saint Ann, July 26, at 7:30 p.m.

The Most Reverend Kurt Burnette, Bishop of the Byzantine Ruthenian Catholic Eparchy of Passaic, will also celebrate the Divine Liturgy on Tuesday, July 20, at 5:30 p.m. On that evening there will be no 7:30 p.m. Mass.

Sure to be appreciated by many, the traditional Saint Ann Novena food stand will be back open this year on Basilica grounds.

“The food stand will help especially with the kids,” Father Burke emphasized. “They enjoy being able to pray and then go down and get something to eat.”

Planning for the Solemn Novena requires a great deal of conversation, discussions and decisions.

“About two and a half, three months ago, we thought we were going to have to be limited the way we were last year. But then things developed over the last three months with vaccinations and the diminishment of the presence of the virus, illnesses and infections – to the point where we’re able to plan a little bit more vigorously for the traditional welcoming and traditional presence,” Father Burke said.

Father Burke recognizes that the Solemn Novena might be the first time some members of the faithful return to Mass since the pandemic started. As a result, he stresses this year’s pilgrimage is being planned with caution. For the last 15 months, he has personally stressed that anyone who is not comfortable returning to Mass can continue to pray at home.

For those who wish to participate remotely, livestreaming will occur on the Basilica of the National Shrine of Saint Ann’s website and broadcasts will be made available on CTV: Catholic Television of the Diocese of Scranton.


Be a part of our community’s tribute to the HEROES in our lives – PAST and PRESENT.


This is your opportunity to HONOR your personal hero – a veteran, a member of the military, police, fire, or other first responder, a teacher, a coach, a mentor, a family member, or ANYONE who has been a hero in your life.

Honor your hero by sponsoring a 3’ X 5’ flag for $50.00.

A tag with your hero’s name, rank/title and service (e.g. John Smith, Sgt. US Marine Corps) will be displayed with the flag and is YOURS TO KEEP and use for next year.

Please complete and mail in the KOC 12571 Flags for Heroes Order Form


Rev. Brian J.T. Clarke, pastor, Christ the King Parish, helps pinch pierogies that will be sold during this year’s Parish Picnic.

SCRANTON – While some parishes across the Diocese of Scranton are still determining whether to hold summer picnics and festivals during the ongoing pandemic, other events are already taking shape.

Mary, Mother of God Parish at Holy Rosary Church will once again hold a Drive-Thru Block Party this weekend – Friday, June 18, and Saturday, June 19, in the 300-block of William Street in North Scranton.

“Normally, we have a very large, three-day block party. As the planning started in January, we didn’t know what restrictions would be lifted and what wouldn’t,” Mary Claire Boylan, a member of the planning committee, said. “We certainly didn’t want to be responsible for holding a super spreader so we decided to do a drive-thru event once again this year as we did last year.”

The Drive-Thru Block Party will run from 4:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. each day this year.

“You have the opportunity to pre-order your food on our website ( or through our Facebook page or our Instagram page,” Boylan added. “You can pick your time slot that you want to pick it up and pre-pay for the food.”

Pre-orders are not a necessity. Anyone can drive-up to the church, enter the driveway and order food right there. All are welcome.

“The cooks are right there. There are people that will be taking orders,” Boylan explained.

Visitors can choose from delicious food options that include potato pancakes, par-baked pizza, pizza fritta, haluski and steak and cheese sandwiches. Each night, the Drive-Thru Block Party will also have a ‘specialty’ food item.

On Friday night, customers can order either a hot sausage and pepper sandwich or a sweet sausage and pepper sandwich for $6.00. On Saturday night, the specialty food item will be a porketta sandwich for $6.00.

Volunteers have spent the last several weeks making 9,277 pierogies for this year’s Christ the King Parish Picnic, which will be held July 23-25 on the grounds of Saint Mary of Czestochowa Church, at the corner of Betty & Main Streets in Eynon.

“There will be a DJ playing. You’ll be able to listen to music while you’re sitting in the car. You never have to leave your car. Everybody is safe,” Boylan explained.

Since COVID-19 restrictions on events have lessened in the recent month, organizers have gotten asked by a few people why they don’t simply change their format.

“It’s too late in the season and planning process to do that. It also could be entirely too many people together because our Friday night, when Picture Perfect plays, you can’t move. We have so many people there,” Boylan said. “For the three-day event, it takes us approximately 450 volunteers to get through those three days which is a lot of people. We still need a tremendous amount of volunteers for this (Drive-Thru Block Party) but we’re able to rely on the youth group to do all of the running. They’re wonderful kids!”

Organizers of the block party say last year’s event turned out to be a huge hit, which is why they felt comfortable, hosting it once again. While things might not be completely the same as the parish’s traditional festival, organizers say the event still fosters a sense of community.

“There absolutely is a sense of community because everybody is out in the middle of the road chit-chatting with everybody in their cars,” Boylan said.

In East Stroudsburg, Saint Matthew Parish made the difficult decision to cancel its traditional three-day parish festival this year but decided to replace it with another community-building event.

On Saturday, July 10, Saint Matthew Parish will hold an International Food Fest in its lower parking lot on Ridgeway Street.

“We want to highlight our diversity, united as one parish, but recognizing the beauty of our differences,” Father Ryan Glenn, Assistant Pastor of Saint Matthew Parish, said.

Noting that everyone loves food, the event will have plenty of room for visitors to spread out.

“We will be offering food from many different parts of the world. Parishioners are donating their time and are cooking. We are going to have food from Latin America, food from the Philippines, Poland, Germany, Ireland, England and of course the United States,” Father Glenn added.

Attendees will be able to purchase a passport to sample foods from four countries of their choice. Tickets are being pre-sold for $20 and will be available for $25 on the day of the food festival. The parish is planning to hold a lunch session from 1:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. and then a dinner session from 5:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.

“We’re very excited,” Father Ryan explained. “It’s just a creative way for us to get together, to do it safely and try and raise some necessary funds for the mission of our parish.”

Saint Matthew Parish is blessed to have parishioners from several different counties. Masses are offered in both English and Spanish. During the pandemic not everyone has been able to gather and this food festival is an opportunity for everyone to gather under one large tent.

“It is really a blessing and I think it’s always eye opening to see the beauty that we have in our diversity,” Father Glenn added.

For more information on purchasing a pre-sale ticket, email for more information.

All parishes across the Diocese of Scranton have been invited to submit information for their summer bazaars, picnics and festivals to be published here in The Catholic Light throughout summer editions and on the Diocese of Scranton website. To view the full list of events, please visit


More than 100 married couples, who are celebrating milestone anniversaries in 2021, gathered at the Cathedral of Saint Peter in Scranton on Sunday, June 6, 2021, to participate in the Diocese of Scranton’s annual Wedding Anniversary Mass. 

SCRANTON – On his wedding day, Patrick Aquilio made a promise to his new wife. Twenty-five years later, he continues to keep that promise – to love and cherish his wife, Julie.

The couple, parishioners of Epiphany Parish in Sayre, were among more than 100 who celebrated milestone anniversaries with a special Mass Sunday, June 6, at the Cathedral of Saint Peter. The Most Reverend Joseph C. Bambera, Bishop of Scranton, served as principal celebrant and homilist for the liturgy which recognized married couples celebrating 25, 50 or more years of marriage in 2021.

“I’ve actually been looking forward to this for quite some time. I heard about this Mass many, many years ago and I looked forward to the time that we were able to celebrate just like everybody else,” Patrick said.

“It’s hard to believe that 25 years ago we were just out of college and the whole world was ahead of us and how much we have accomplished in the last 25 years,” Julie added. “We have four wonderful boys who are all growing and becoming productive citizens and they’re continuing on with their Catholic faith. It has been a blessing!”

Anne and Joseph Koniszewski of Sacred Heart Parish in Peckville, who are celebrating their 25th anniversary, participate in the ‘Renewal of Commitment’ on June 6, 2021.

With the married couples gathered in the Cathedral, Bishop Bambera felt the collective joy and pride from all of the couples gathered.

“I don’t believe that there is any other Mass that we celebrate as a Diocese that generates more interest and excitement than this one,” the bishop said. “Thank you for your presence and for your example!”

The date of the Wedding Anniversary Mass fell on the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ. The bishop said the link between what the Church celebrates on Corpus Christi Sunday and what is acknowledged in the lives of married couples speaks profoundly to the power of authentic, Christ-like love as it has grown in each couple’s lives through the Sacrament of Marriage.

“In the Church’s ritual for marriage, the words of blessing bestowed on a newly married couple acknowledge the fact that the union of a man and woman is so holy a mystery that it symbolizes the marriage of Christ and His Church. In other words, your relationship as husband and wife is somehow meant to reflect God’s love for us,” Bishop Bambera explained.

Deacon Patrick McDonald and his wife Ann Marie, who are celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary, serve as gift bearers during the 2021 Wedding Anniversary Mass at the Cathedral of Saint Peter. 

Deacon J. Patrick McDonald of Immaculate Conception Parish and his wife Ann Marie attended the Wedding Anniversary Mass. They are celebrating 50 years of marital bliss this year.

“I’m still trying to process that we’ve been together that long,” Deacon McDonald said with a chuckle.

“It’s a big number. I still feel like the bride I was sometimes. He still makes me laugh. He makes me mad sometimes but he can still make me laugh,” Ann Marie quickly jumped in saying.

With four children, the Dunmore couple acknowledged marriage is a gift but it also requires work.

“Take things in stride. The good will come and the bad will come but if you have faith and trust in each other and God, you’ll get through it all,” Ann Marie added.

Patrick Aquilio and his wife Julie, who are celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary, pose for a photo with Bishop Joseph C. Bambera after Mass. (Photos/Mike Melisky)

Patience and laughter have been the keys to success for Carl and Kathleen Ives of Dunmore who are also celebrating five decades of marriage this year.

“I’m just grateful that we’re still together and that we survived and that we’re still here. I have so many widow friends who have not been able to celebrate this kind of anniversary,” Kathleen explained.

When she first met Carl at a pizza shop in Olyphant, Kathleen knew immediately she had met her match.

“The minute I met him, I knew he was the one,” Kathleen said.

John and Angela McCarthy of New Milford, who attend Most Holy Trinity Parish, said it was an honor to attend the Wedding Anniversary Mass. They were especially struck by the Bishop’s homily and being able to renew the commitment they made 50 years ago.

“It was wonderful. The bishop is excellent. We watch him on TV all the time,” Angela said.

The Susquehanna County couple says they have been blessed with two daughters as well as grandchildren.

When asked for a piece of advice they might give to a newlywed couple, both weighed in.

“Compromise a lot, talk to one another and have conversation,” Angela explained.

“Have a lot of meetings at the kitchen table,” John added, explaining that talking about problems is always better than not addressing them.

Compromise and sacrifice were two of the ideals noted by Bishop Bambera in his homily.

“In the end, marriage is less about the things you’ve acquired and the bucket list that you’ve fulfilled. It is far more about each of you giving of yourself in a total and complete manner. The real miracle of Christian marriage is that when this Sacrament is lived in an authentic way, you don’t have to look very far for the deep sense of happiness and contentment that you’ve achieved and all of us seek,” Bishop Bambera said as he congratulated all of the couples.



SCRANTON — When the Catholic Publishers Association announced their 2021 Excellence in Publishing Awards on June 7, two books attributed to Deacon Ed Shoener of the Cathedral of Saint Peter Parish received high praise and recognition for their contributions to Catholic mental health ministry, particularly with regard to suicide.

Responding to Suicide: A Pastoral Handbook for Catholic Leaders was awarded top honors in the “Resources for Ministry” category by the Catholic Publishers. The Association also recognized When A Loved One Dies by Suicide: Comfort, Hope and Healing for Grieving Catholics with a second-place award in the “General Interest” category.

Both published works were compiled and edited by Deacon Shoener and Auxiliary Bishop John P. Dolan of San Diego, who were also among the books’ contributors.

Ordained to the permanent diaconate in 2004, Deacon Shoener launched his Catholic Mental Health Ministry, based at the Scranton Cathedral, in 2017. He began the support ministry following the death of his daughter, Katie, who took her own life after a 12-year battle with depression.

Deacon Shoener currently serves as president and a founding member of the Association of Catholic Mental Health Ministers.

“If today is a typical day in the United States, about 130 people will die this day from suicide,” the deacon said. “Please pray for them, their families and those who will minister to them.”


James Harris, an employee of Saint Francis Kitchen, hands food to Ryan Stefanovich and other volunteers, who helped to distribute it to seniors at Saint Catherine Manor in Dunmore on May 26, 2021.

DUNMORE – Residents living in two apartment complexes in Lackawanna County recently received a helping hand thanks to Catholic Social Services of the Diocese of Scranton.

On May 26, more than 50 elderly residents living at Saint Catherine Manor in Dunmore received fresh food and vegetables delivered to their door. A similar delivery took place for residents of Saint Michael on the Hill in Jessup on June 10.

Karen Beavers, a resident at Saint Catherine Manor for the last six years, greatly appreciated the extra assistance.

“Everything helps. Every little bit helps when you’re a senior,” Beavers said.

Ryan Stefanovich, a Catholic Social Services Relief Services Case Manager, said the residents received a number of different items.

“We have meat, chicken, hamburger, several canned vegetables, orange juice, tea and other things that the residents can use,” Stefanovich explained.

Catholic Social Services worked with Schiff’s to get all of the food delivered.

“Every little bit helps, especially in these unprecedented times,” Stefanovich added, referring to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Beavers said the food delivery is appreciated by residents – because many have medical conditions that make it hard to make frequent trips to the grocery store.

Asked what she will make with the food delivered to her, she responded, “I’ll probably make barbeque chicken!”


Pope Francis leads an audience June 7, 2021 at the Vatican with priests staying at the St. Louis of France residence for priests in Rome. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Pope Francis told a group of priests studying in Rome that if they do not want to be pastors, spending time with the faithful, they should request dismissal from the priesthood and concentrate on academics instead.

“Be pastors with the scent of your sheep, persons able to live, laugh and cry with your people — in other words, to communicate with them,” the pope told the priests June 7.

The priests, who are studying at pontifical universities in Rome, live at the city’s St. Louis of France residence.

The priesthood cannot be understood without its essential connection to “the holy people of God,” the pope told them. “The ministerial priesthood is a consequence of the baptismal priesthood of the holy faithful people of God.”

“If you think of a priesthood isolated from the people of God, that is not a Catholic priesthood,” he said. A Catholic priest puts God and God’s people at the center of his daily concerns, setting aside self-interest and “dreams of greatness.”

“To put God’s holy faithful people at the center, you must be a pastor,” he said.

A priest who would say, “No, I would like to be an intellectual only, not a pastor,” would be better off asking for “a reduction to the lay state,” the pope said. “But if you are a priest, be a pastor.”

Obviously, there are many ways to be a pastor, he said, but all those ways involve being “in the midst of God’s people.”

During the ongoing year dedicated to St. Joseph, Pope Francis asked the priests “to rediscover the face of this man of faith, this tender father, a model of fidelity and trusting abandonment to God’s plan.”

St. Joseph is a reminder that “having faith in God also includes believing that he can work even through our fears, our frailties, our weaknesses,” he said. “We must not leave frailty aside: it is a theological place.”

“My fragility, the fragility of each one of us, is a theological place of encounter with the Lord. The ‘superman’ priests end up badly, all of them,” Pope Francis said. “The fragile priest, who knows his weaknesses and talks about them with the Lord, he will be fine.”

To be the “apostles of joy” that the church and its people need, priests also must have a sense of humor, he said, and they must cultivate gratitude for being called to serve people and the church.



Seminarian Luke Daghir, left, enjoys a moment with Deacon Ben Daghir, his twin brother, who ordained a transitional deacon May 1, 2021, in the chapel at St. Mark Seminary in Erie, Pa. (CNS photo/Anne-Marie Welsh, Diocese of Erie)


WASHINGTON (CNS) – Not a day goes by that identical twins Luke and Ben Daghir don’t get confused for each other.

It’s probably even more confusing now since Luke and Ben, both graduate seminarians, wear black shirts with white clerical collars.

“We’ve gotten so used to it, it’s become a part of our life,” said Luke during a June 3 interview with Catholic News Service held jointly with his brother. “You just smile.”

Just to add another layer of confusion, the twins grew up and went to Catholic schools in St. Marys, Pennsylvania — without the apostrophe — and are studying for the priesthood in Baltimore at St. Mary’s Seminary and University — yep, with the apostrophe.

There may be one way to tell the Daghir twins apart: Ben is further ahead than Luke in his graduate seminary work. Ben was ordained a transitional deacon in May, and if all goes well, will be ordained to the priesthood for the twins’ native Diocese of Erie, Pennsylvania, over the Memorial Day weekend next year.

Luke isn’t that far behind. He’s on schedule to be ordained a transitional deacon in 2023, and a priest in 2024, also serving the Erie Diocese. That would mean four ordinations in four years in the Daghir household.

It was Luke who heard the first callings to priesthood — as early as third grade, he said, with continued nudgings in high school — but Ben got what for him was a definitive calling in his early 20s when the twins were enrolled at Benedictine-run St. Vincent College in Latrobe, Pennsylvania.

Both twins were studying education while simultaneously being exposed to the Benedictine charism of religious life at St. Vincent. After graduation, Luke returned to their high school alma mater, Elk County Catholic in St. Marys; he coached tennis and taught at the same school where he and his brother had played baseball and basketball.

It posed a different kind of dilemma in discernment. Which kind of priesthood appealed more to them: diocesan or religious? They could see the appeal in each. “It really is a choice between two very good goods. Either route is an exceptional route to serve Christ or the church,” Luke said.

In his own discernment process, Ben recalled hearing a priest talk on the topic: “He drew a distinction between the diocesan priest and religious life. In religious life, there is community already established, you enter into it and you thrive in that environment. The diocesan priest is sent out on mission to create community.”

“I just feel called deep down to evangelize, to foster community. To foster hope in areas that are struggling. That has the heart of the diocesan priest, to create community,” Ben said. “I saw Ben enter first the seminary for the diocese,” Luke said. “With Ben in, it turned me toward the diocese. Deep down as a priest, I want to be in a parish.”

A 2012 data brief from the National Center for Health Statistics sets the U.S. twin birthrate at 16.7 twin sets per 1,000 live births in 2009 — nearly double the 1980 rate of 9.4. But not all twins are identical. Any twin set with a boy and a girl is a fraternal twin set, and not even all twin sets of the same sex are identical.

That would make the decision for twin brothers to join the priesthood, er, doubly rare. But the Erie Diocese already has a set of twins in the priesthood.

Luke, speaking from Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska, during its annual Institute for Priestly Formation summer program, told CNS he was alerted to the presence of a Franciscan monk on the program faculty who himself has a Franciscan twin brother — and was going to seek him out.

Twinhood has its perks when it comes to Ben giving Luke a heads-up about what to expect in seminary life

“We were both big baseball players growing up. (Ben) being ahead in the seminary is similar to facing a pitcher earlier in a game. You’re going to go the person who’s already batted: What do they throw, what’s coming up?” Luke said. “In the seminary: How can I best prepare myself for this year, for this class, how can I learn from this professor? It’s really a special gift to ask him questions, knowing I’m going to get a good answer.”

Ben added, “There’s the delicate balance of letting a person enter the seminary and thrive.”

Parents can be ambivalent about a child going into a seminary or convent. “For me, they were extremely excited,” Ben said. “Our parents are extremely good at that. Not getting in the way between us and listening to the Lord, which is the most important thing.”

Ben added that when he told his folks of his plans, “Dad and me went for a walk that night. We just sat on the steps of our home parish we talked for an hour and a half … things he had seen in me long before. He had seen a priest but he didn’t want to push.”

“Ben and I have grown in sympathy with our parents. Seminary — it’s designed for the seminarian, it’s not designed for the parents,” Luke said. “There’s no program for the parents of 150 seminarians to be together” similar to the Creighton institute, he noted.

“There are beautiful images of Peter and John dropping their nets,” Ben added. “Not many talk about the parents having to drop their nets — their dreams, their hopes for having grandchildren. They have to drop them.”

Luke said, “Overall, I think they’ve been very supportive to us. We stay in contact. It’s fair to acknowledge it’s been challenging in ways, too. Our parents are reaching the age where all of their peers are having grandchildren.”

The twins have enjoyed seminary life, with the occasional odd challenge.

“There’s joy in seminary, I think that’s a message that needs to continue to be stated,” Luke said. “It’s a wonderful place of academic study, brotherhood — not just twin brothers, but brotherhood among men which is missing in our culture. The biggest thing is that if someone is thinking about seminary, it’s worth talking to the vocations director, take the big step, the big journey in front of you.”

After growing up with his twin and four years of dorm life in college, “the first time I ever had a room to myself was my first night of seminary,” Ben said. “Finally I had a room to myself, and I thought that was interesting. You do get your own room, and it took me, I’ll admit, several weeks to get used to having a room to myself. There were quiet moments that I was not expecting.”

“Jesus loves to call brothers,” Ben said, citing the apostles. Peter and Andrew and James and John. Another apostle was Thomas, whose name means “twin.” “It’s obvious 2,000 years later,” he added.

“Yes, we’re identical twins,” Luke said, “but on a deeper level, we’re genuinely being best friends, and that has grown and grown and grown in time.”



U.S. Catholic bishops attend a Nov. 11, 2019, session during the fall general assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Baltimore. The bishops’ 2021 spring assembly June 16-18 will take place virtually due to concerns about the coronavirus pandemic. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

WASHINGTON (CNS) – When they gather virtually for their annual spring assembly June 16-18, the U.S. bishops will be asked to approve the drafting of a formal statement on the meaning of the Eucharist in the life of the Catholic Church.

They also will be asked to approve three translations by the International Commission on English in the Liturgy for use in U.S. dioceses of the United States, to endorse the sainthood causes of two military chaplains revered for their heroism in World War II and the Korean War, and approve drafting of a national pastoral framework for youth and young adults.

Also on the agenda will be an update from the Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis on the Eucharistic Revival initiative; an update from the Subcommittee for Pastoral Care for Immigrants, Refugees and Travelers on a study by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate; and an update on the work of the Subcommittee on the Catechism.

Earlier this year, the bishops voted to approve convening this June meeting in a virtual format given the challenges of meeting in person with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The “Action Item” asking the bishops to approve the drafting of a teaching document on the reception of Communion is likely to draw the most debate — and media attention — starting with a vote to formally approve the meeting agenda shortly after the assembly is called to order.

In early May, Los Angeles Archbishop José H. Gomez, president of the USCCB, received an unprecedented letter from 67 bishops appealing for a delay in a discussion during the bishops’ upcoming spring general assembly on whether to prepare a teaching document about the Eucharist.

The signers wrote that “we respectfully urge that all conference-wide discussion and committee work on the topic of eucharistic worthiness and other issues raised by the Holy See be postponed until the full body of bishops is able to meet in person.”

Among those signing the letter were Cardinal Blase J. Cupich of Chicago, Cardinal Wilton D. Gregory of Washington, Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley of Boston and Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin of Newark, New Jersey.

In a May 22 memo to fellow bishops, Archbishop Gomez explained that USCCB rules require that the body of bishops first be asked whether to issue a document on a particular topic.

The bishops’ letter and Archbishop Gomez’s memo follow an increasingly public debate among the bishops about Catholic politicians who support keeping abortion legal and whether they should be denied access to the Eucharist.

Archbishop Gomez in his memo said the USCCB Administrative Committee approved a request from Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Indiana, that time be included on the spring assembly agenda for discussion on drafting a teaching document on Communion.

The process, the archbishop said, involves the creation of an “Action Item” for the bishops to consider. “Importantly, the Action Item does not ask the body to approve a final statement, but only whether drafting of a text may begin,” he said.

The bishops’ meeting agenda also includes a report from the National Review Board, which advises the USCCB and the Committee on the Protection of Children and Young People about matters of child and youth protection, specifically on policies and practices.

There also will be a vote to approve a “National Pastoral Framework for Marriage and Family Life Ministry in the United States: Called to the Joy of Love” and a vote to authorize the development of a new formal statement and comprehensive vision for Native American/Alaska Native Ministry.

The assembly will begin with an address by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, papal nuncio to the United States, followed by an address by Archbishop Gomez as USCCB president.

The sainthood candidates whose causes the bishops will be asked to approve are Father Joseph Verbis Lafleur and Capt. Leonard LaRue, who became Benedictine Brother Marinus of St. Paul’s Abbey in Newton, New Jersey. Both have the title “Servant of God.”

Father Lafleur, a priest of the Diocese of Lafayette, Louisiana, was a World War II chaplain who gave his life while saving others on a Japanese prison ship.

Survivors recall the priest’s heroic efforts helping his fellow POWs escape the hull of the ship under Japanese gunfire by pushing them up to the deck at the cost of his own life. He died Sept. 7, 1944.

In October 2017, Father LaFleur was honored posthumously with the Distinguished Service Cross and Purple Heart.

LaRue and the crew of the S.S. Meredith Victory piloted 14,005 refugees to safety during the Korean War from the port of Hungnam, now part of North Korea. The mission has been called a “Christmas Miracle.”

In early December 1950, the S.S. Meredith Victory’s duties involved delivering supplies to anti-communist forces in Korea, which included a stop in Hungnam. In the midst of the heavy fighting on land, LaRue, who also was a World War II veteran, volunteered the Merchant Marine cargo ship to participate in the rescue operation — the refugees’ last hope of escape. The captain entered religious life after the Korean War.

The public sessions of the bishops’ spring assembly are scheduled for: June 16 from 2:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. (EDT); June 17 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. (EDT); and June 18 from 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. (EDT). They will be livestreamed on the USCCB website —

The vote tallies on the action items, news updates, texts of addresses and presentations and other materials will be available on the USCCB website.

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