“Everyone has that giving side to their personality”

As they peeled potatoes and diced up peppers, two dozen students from Holy Redeemer High School got a lesson that can’t be found in a textbook.

“It’s really humbling because a lot of time we take for granted the food we have and how easy and accessible it is to us,” senior Rebecca Revitt said.

The Holy Redeemer Student Leadership Council volunteered to prepare, serve and clean-up the daily meal at Saint Vincent de Paul Kitchen in Wilkes-Barre on Saturday, Jan. 4.

“Holy Redeemer always talks about servant leadership so being able to come here and experience it and live out our faith, it is really cool to know we’re making a difference,” senior Marissa Jason said.

The students were joined by Bishop Joseph C. Bambera. After celebrating Mass at the school in September, the Student Leadership Council gifted the bishop a “Day of Service” in his name and the bishop made it a priority to join them for the entire morning.

“He’s such a down to earth guy. He’s really intrigued and interested in our lives,” Revitt said. “It makes us feel like we’re all just one because the bishop is cutting potatoes with us. It’s not a big deal for him.”

“It really demystifies the position of bishop having him here. He’s just a regular man who is serious about his faith,” junior Peter Khoudary said.

Khoudary admitted giving up a Saturday morning to volunteer may not have been an easy decision but he knows his efforts made a difference.

“We have a lot of people that are struggling, especially in Wilkes-Barre, so anything we can do to help is a blessing,” Khoudary said. “Everyone has that giving side to their personality, even teenagers, and doing stuff like this, the more you do it, the more you realize how nice it is!”

The students certainly took notice that the line of people needing a meal at Saint Vincent de Paul started forming more than an hour before the doors opened.

“You don’t really see this side of the community of Wilkes-Barre when you’re at school!” senior class president Carl Yastremski said.

The “Day of Service” is just one of many things that Holy Redeemer students do to help the kitchen.

“Over Thanksgiving, we do a Thanksgiving food drive and this year we helped bring all the stuff over here, we helped unload it out of the truck and there was a lot of it!” Yastremski said.

While volunteering, the students wore maroon t-shirts that displayed a quote from Pope Francis, “To change the world, we must be good to those who cannot repay us.”

The teens say those words have special meaning to them.

“It really inspires us all to keep going and keep doing more community work,” Revitt said.

“It’s honestly such a rewarding experience, especially coming here to see those who are less fortunate and to brighten their day,” senior Lauren Kozicki said.

Most of the students have volunteered at Saint Vincent de Paul before but they say each experience teaches them something.

“It’s so awesome knowing that we’re able to help the community,” Jason added. “When you see the amount of people in need and the children, it really just opens your eyes to the need in the world.”

“It really, truly is a great feeling to help others. Anyone that has ever helped someone out can attest to how well it makes them feel,” Khoudary said.

 

As the year 2019 came to a close, dozens of young men from across the Diocese of Scranton gathered on Monday, Dec. 30, looking toward the future.

The annual Project Andrew Dinner, sponsored by the Diocesan Vocation Office, gives priests from around the 11 counties of the Diocese the opportunity to invite individuals whom they think might have a priestly vocation – or the qualities needed in a good priest – to pray and have dinner with Bishop Joseph C. Bambera in a relaxed atmosphere.

The evening began in the Cathedral of Saint Peter with Evening Prayer. Bishop Bambera shared his vocation journey with attendees and gave an inspirational Christmas message. He also expressed the crucial need for diocesan priests to serve our local Church of Scranton.

After prayer, attendees had dinner in the Diocesan Pastoral Center. They were able to meet and have informal conversations with priests, deacons and seminarians from throughout the diocese.

In the Eastern Church, Saint Andrew is known as the Protokletos (“First Called”) as John the Baptist invited him to follow Jesus. After doing so, Andrew then brought his brother Simon Peter to the Lord. (John 1:38-41). Similarly, it is not enough for priests to be satisfied with their own priestly vocations. Like Andrew, the Lord is asking priests to bring others to Him so that they may discover their vocations as well.

After dinner, presentations were given to the different age demographics about ways to get involved with the Vocation Office in 2020.

For more information, visit vocations.dioceseofscranton.org or call (570) 207-1452.

 

hown, from left, Barbara Maculloch, PA President of Community Bank N.A.; Jason Morrison, Diocesan Secretary of Catholic Education/Chief Executive Officer; Kristen Donohue, Superintendent of Schools; and Richard Kazmerick, VP Commercial Banking Team Leader

Community Bank N.A. recently made a contribution to the Diocese of Scranton Scholarship Foundation in support of need-based tuition assistance for students attending a Diocesan Catholic school. This donation is part of the Pennsylvania Educational Improvement Tax Credit Program operated by the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development.

Shown, from left, Barbara Maculloch, PA President of Community Bank N.A.; Jason Morrison, Diocesan Secretary of Catholic Education/Chief Executive Officer; Kristen Donohue, Superintendent of Schools; and Richard Kazmerick, VP Commercial Banking Team LeaderCommunity Bank presented the Diocesan Scholarship Foundation with a $50,000 gift through the EITC program and a $15,000 gift through the Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit (OSTC) program.  Since the tax credit program began, Community Bank (the former First Liberty Bank & Trust) has donated more than $1 million to Catholic education in the Diocese of Scranton.

“This generous contribution directly impacts students and families in our region by ensuring an excellent education rooted in faith and values remains accessible. We are grateful to Community Bank for their ongoing support,” Jason Morrison, Diocesan Secretary of Catholic Education/Chief Executive Officer, said.

 

 

The Diocesan Office for Parish Life is looking to bring Retrouvaille back to the Diocese of Scranton in 2020!

Retrouvaille is a peer ministry of volunteer couples that can help you learn the tools of healthy communication, build intimacy and heal, just as they have done in their own marriages. Retrouvaille is Christian-based, and Catholic in origin, but welcomes couples of all faiths as well as non-religious couples. If your marriage is in distress, even if you are currently separated or divorced, Retrouvaille can help get your relationship back on track.

A Retrouvaille Weekend has been scheduled for May 29-31, to be held at St. Gabriel’s Retreat Center in Clarks Summit.  If you, or any other Retrouvaille couple you know would like to assist with the nuts and bolts of restarting the ministry, help is needed!

To learn more about attending the weekend in May, or to learn more about helping to bring this weekend to life, please contact: Phil & Sue Milazzo, philmilazzo@outlook.com, (631) 338-5413 or Jen Housel, jhousel@dioceseofscranton.org, (570) 207-2213 x1104.

 

 

 

 

Celebrate World Marriage Day (Sunday, February 9) and National Marriage Week (February 7 – 14) in your Parish!

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishop’s ask that we use these opportunities, “…to focus on building a culture of life and love that begins with supporting and promoting marriage and the family. Our theme for 2020 is ‘Stories from the Domestic Church.’”  Many resources, including those for liturgical recognition of these events, can be found at the USCCB website:  http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/marriage-and-family/national-marriage-week.cfm

Please consider the ways in which your parish can recognize, support, and celebrate the vocation and sacrament of marriage.  Begin planning your parish’s 2020 celebration of these occasions today!  To learn more, contact Jen Housel, jhousel@dioceseofscranton.org, 570-207-2213 x1104

MESSAGE OF HIS HOLINESS POPE
FRANCIS
FOR THE CELEBRATION OF THE
53rd WORLD DAY OF PEACE

1 JANUARY 2020

PEACE AS A JOURNEY OF HOPE:
DIALOGUE, RECONCILIATION AND ECOLOGICAL CONVERSION

1. Peace, a journey of hope in the face of obstacles and trial

Peace is a great and precious value, the object of our hope and the aspiration of the entire human family. As a human attitude, our hope for peace is marked by an existential tension that makes it possible for the present, with all its difficulties, to be “lived and accepted if it leads towards a goal, if we can be sure of this goal, and if this goal is great enough to justify the effort of the journey”.[1] Hope is thus the virtue that inspires us and keeps us moving forward, even when obstacles seem insurmountable.

Our human community bears, in its memory and its flesh, the scars of ever more devastating wars and conflicts that affect especially the poor and the vulnerable. Entire nations find it difficult to break free of the chains of exploitation and corruption that fuel hatred and violence. Even today, dignity, physical integrity, freedom, including religious freedom, communal solidarity and hope in the future are denied to great numbers of men and women, young and old. Many are the innocent victims of painful humiliation and exclusion, sorrow and injustice, to say nothing of the trauma born of systematic attacks on their people and their loved ones.

The terrible trials of internal and international conflicts, often aggravated by ruthless acts of violence, have an enduring effect on the body and soul of humanity. Every war is a form of fratricide that destroys the human family’s innate vocation to brotherhood.

War, as we know, often begins with the inability to accept the diversity of others, which then fosters attitudes of aggrandizement and domination born of selfishness and pride, hatred and the desire to caricature, exclude and even destroy the other. War is fueled by a perversion of relationships, by hegemonic ambitions, by abuses of power, by fear of others and by seeing diversity as an obstacle. And these, in turn, are aggravated by the experience of war.

As I observed during my recent Apostolic Journey to Japan, our world is paradoxically marked by “a perverse dichotomy that tries to defend and ensure stability and peace through a false sense of security sustained by a mentality of fear and mistrust, one that ends up poisoning relationships between peoples and obstructing any form of dialogue. Peace and international stability are incompatible with attempts to build upon the fear of mutual destruction or the threat of total annihilation. They can be achieved only on the basis of a global ethic of solidarity and cooperation in the service of a future shaped by interdependence and shared responsibility in the whole human family of today and tomorrow”.[2]

Every threatening situation feeds mistrust and leads people to withdraw into their own safety zone. Mistrust and fear weaken relationships and increase the risk of violence, creating a vicious circle that can never lead to a relationship of peace. Even nuclear deterrence can only produce the illusion of security.

We cannot claim to maintain stability in the world through the fear of annihilation, in a volatile situation, suspended on the brink of a nuclear abyss and enclosed behind walls of indifference. As a result, social and economic decisions are being made that lead to tragic situations where human beings and creation itself are discarded rather than protected and preserved.[3] How, then, do we undertake a journey of peace and mutual respect? How do we break the unhealthy mentality of threats and fear? How do we break the current dynamic of distrust?

We need to pursue a genuine fraternity based on our common origin from God and exercised in dialogue and mutual trust. The desire for peace lies deep within the human heart, and we should not resign ourselves to seeking anything less than this.

2. Peace, a journey of listening based on memory, solidarity and fraternity

The Hibakusha, the survivors of the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, are among those who currently keep alive the flame of collective conscience, bearing witness to succeeding generations to the horror of what happened in August 1945 and the unspeakable sufferings that have continued to the present time. Their testimony awakens and preserves the memory of the victims, so that the conscience of humanity may rise up in the face of every desire for dominance and destruction. “We cannot allow present and future generations to lose the memory of what happened here. It is a memory that ensures and encourages the building of a more fair and fraternal future”.[4]

Like the Hibakusha, many people in today’s world are working to ensure that future generations will preserve the memory of past events, not only in order to prevent the same errors or illusions from recurring, but also to enable memory, as the fruit of experience, to serve as the basis and inspiration for present and future decisions to promote peace.

What is more, memory is the horizon of hope. Many times, in the darkness of wars and conflicts, the remembrance of even a small gesture of solidarity received can lead to courageous and even heroic decisions. It can unleash new energies and kindle new hope in individuals and communities.

Setting out on a journey of peace is a challenge made all the more complex because the interests at stake in relationships between people, communities and nations, are numerous and conflicting. We must first appeal to people’s moral conscience and to personal and political will. Peace emerges from the depths of the human heart and political will must always be renewed, so that new ways can be found to reconcile and unite individuals and communities.

The world does not need empty words but convinced witnesses, peacemakers who are open to a dialogue that rejects exclusion or manipulation. In fact, we cannot truly achieve peace without a convinced dialogue between men and women who seek the truth beyond ideologies and differing opinions. Peace “must be built up continually”;[5] it is a journey made together in constant pursuit of the common good, truthfulness and respect for law. Listening to one another can lead to mutual understanding and esteem, and even to seeing in an enemy the face of a brother or sister.

The peace process thus requires enduring commitment. It is a patient effort to seek truth and justice, to honour the memory of victims and to open the way, step by step, to a shared hope stronger than the desire for vengeance. In a state based on law, democracy can be an important paradigm of this process, provided it is grounded in justice and a commitment to protect the rights of every person, especially the weak and marginalized, in a constant search for truth.[6] This is a social undertaking, an ongoing work in which each individual makes his or her contribution responsibly, at every level of the local, national and global community.

As Saint Paul VI pointed out, these “two aspirations, to equality and to participation, seek to promote a democratic society… This calls for an education to social life, involving not only the knowledge of each person’s rights, but also its necessary correlative: the recognition of his or her duties with regard to others. The sense and practice of duty are themselves conditioned by the capacity for self-mastery and by the acceptance of responsibility and of the limits placed upon the freedom of individuals or the groups”.[7]

Divisions within a society, the increase of social inequalities and the refusal to employ the means of ensuring integral human development endanger the pursuit of the common good. Yet patient efforts based on the power of the word and of truth can help foster a greater capacity for compassion and creative solidarity.

In our Christian experience, we constantly remember Christ, who gave his life to reconcile us to one another (cf. Rom 5:6-11). The Church shares fully in the search for a just social order; she continues to serve the common good and to nourish the hope for peace by transmitting Christian values and moral teaching, and by her social and educational works.

3. Peace, a journey of reconciliation in fraternal communion

The Bible, especially in the words of the Prophets, reminds individuals and peoples of God’s covenant with humanity, which entails renouncing our desire to dominate others and learning to see one another as persons, sons and daughters of God, brothers and sisters. We should never encapsulate others in what they may have said or done, but value them for the promise that they embody. Only by choosing the path of respect can we break the spiral of vengeance and set out on the journey of hope.

We are guided by the Gospel passage that tells of the following conversation between Peter and Jesus: “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven” (Mt 18:21-22). This path of reconciliation is a summons to discover in the depths of our heart the power of forgiveness and the capacity to acknowledge one another as brothers and sisters. When we learn to live in forgiveness, we grow in our capacity to become men and women of peace.

What is true of peace in a social context is also true in the areas of politics and the economy, since peace permeates every dimension of life in common. There can be no true peace unless we show ourselves capable of developing a more just economic system. As Pope Benedict XVI said ten years ago in his Encyclical Letter Caritas in Veritate, “in order to defeat underdevelopment, action is required not only on improving exchange-based transactions and implanting public welfare structures, but above all on graduallyincreasing openness, in a world context, to forms of economic activity marked by quotas of gratuitousness and communion” (No. 39).

4. Peace, a journey of ecological conversion

“If a mistaken understanding of our own principles has at times led us to justify mistreating nature, to exercise tyranny over creation, to engage in war, injustice and acts of violence, we believers should acknowledge that by so doing we were not faithful to the treasures of wisdom which we have been called to protect and preserve”.[8]

Faced with the consequences of our hostility towards others, our lack of respect for our common home or our abusive exploitation of natural resources – seen only as a source of immediate profit, regardless of local communities, the common good and nature itself – we are in need of an ecological conversion. The recent Synod on the Pan-Amazon Region moves us to make a pressing renewed call for a peaceful relationship between communities and the land, between present and past, between experience and hope.

This journey of reconciliation also calls for listening and contemplation of the world that God has given us as a gift to make our common home. Indeed, natural resources, the many forms of life and the earth itself have been entrusted to us “to till and keep” (Gen 1:15), also for future generations, through the responsible and active participation of everyone. We need to change the way we think and see things, and to become more open to encountering others and accepting the gift of creation, which reflects the beauty and wisdom of its Creator.

All this gives us deeper motivation and a new way to dwell in our common home, to accept our differences, to respect and celebrate the life that we have received and share, and to seek living conditions and models of society that favour the continued flourishing of life and the development of the common good of the entire human family.

The ecological conversion for which we are appealing will lead us to a new way of looking at life, as we consider the generosity of the Creator who has given us the earth and called us to a share it in joy and moderation. This conversion must be understood in an integral way, as a transformation of how we relate to our sisters and brothers, to other living beings, to creation in all its rich variety and to the Creator who is the origin and source of all life. For Christians, it requires that “the effects of their encounter with Jesus Christ become evident in their relationship with the world around them”.[9]

5. “We obtain all that we hope for”[10]

The journey of reconciliation calls for patience and trust. Peace will not be obtained unless it is hoped for.

In the first place, this means believing in the possibility of peace, believing that others need peace just as much as we do. Here we can find inspiration in the love that God has for each of us: a love that is liberating, limitless, gratuitous and tireless.

Fear is frequently a source of conflict. So it is important to overcome our human fears and acknowledge that we are needy children in the eyes of the One who loves us and awaits us, like the father of the prodigal son (cf. Lk 15:11-24). The culture of fraternal encounter shatters the culture of conflict. It makes of every encounter a possibility and a gift of God’s generous love. It leads us beyond the limits of our narrow horizons and constantly encourages us to a live in a spirit of universal fraternity, as children of the one heavenly Father.

For the followers of Christ, this journey is likewise sustained by the sacrament of Reconciliation, given by the Lord for the remission of sins of the baptized. This sacrament of the Church, which renews individuals and communities, bids us keep our gaze fixed on Jesus, who reconciled “all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross” (Col 1:20). It requires us to set aside every act of violence in thought, word and deed, whether against our neighbours or against God’s creation.

The grace of God our Father is bestowed as unconditional love. Having received his forgiveness in Christ, we can set out to offer that peace to the men and women of our time. Day by day, the Holy Spirit prompts in us ways of thinking and speaking that can make us artisans of justice and peace.

May the God of peace bless us and come to our aid.

May Mary, Mother of the Prince of Peace and Mother of all the peoples of the earth, accompany and sustain us at every step of our journey of reconciliation.

And may all men and women who come into this world experience a life of peace and develop fully the promise of life and love dwelling in their heart.

From the Vatican, 8 December 2019


Franciscus


[1] BENEDICT XVI, Encyclical Letter Spe Salvi (30 November 2007), 1.

[2] Address on Nuclear Weapons, Nagasaki, Atomic Bomb Hypocenter, 24 November 2019.

[3] Cf. Homily at Lampedusa, 8 July 2013.

[4] Address on Peace, Hiroshima, Peace Memorial, 24 November 2019.

[5] SECOND VATICAN ECUMENICAL COUNCIL, Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes, 78.

[6] Cf. BENEDICT XVI, Address to the Italian Christian Workers’ Associations, 27 January 2006.

[7] Apostolic Letter Octogesima Adveniens (14 May 1971), 24.

[8] Encyclical Letter Laudato Si’ (24 May 2015).

[9] Ibid., 217.

[10] Cf. SAINT JOHN OF THE CROSS, Noche obscura, II, 21,8.

 

Dear Friends in Christ,

On December 1, I returned from a weeklong trip to Rome, along with the bishops of Pennsylvania and New Jersey. We had just completed our ad limina visit during which every bishop provides a report the Holy See on the state of the Diocese entrusted to his care, celebrates Mass in the four great basilicas of Rome and has the privilege of meeting with our Holy Father. Needless to say, our visit, highlighted by a two and a half hour conversation with Pope Francis, proved to be challenging, encouraging and hopeful, not only for us as bishops but also for our priests and the faithful people who make up the Church in the United States.

Pope Francis attends the unveiling of a large bronze statue titled, “Angels Unawares,” by Canadian artist Timothy Schmalz, in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican Sept. 29, 2019. The statue depicts a group of migrants and refugees on a boat. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

During our few days in Rome, like every visitor, I found myself walking across the great piazza in front of Saint Peter’s Basilica, at times overwhelmed by the splendor of that space and at others, simply rushing from one meeting to the next. Whenever I was fortunate enough to pause and reflect a bit on where I stood and why, I couldn’t help but focus upon a massive, new statue installed in the piazza by Pope Francis, entitled “Angels Unawares.”

The statue, the first to be installed in Saint Peter’s Square in over 400 years, is a 20-foot-long and 12-foot-high bronze and clay work of art depicting 140 immigrants of different cultures, faiths and ethnicities. The artist, Timothy Schmalz, took inspiration from pictures of refugees and immigrants throughout history — from persecuted Jews to Christians fleeing the Middle East, from Irish escaping the potato famine to Poles running from communism. Mary, Joseph and Jesus are also hidden among the figures. At the center of the crowd of 140 immigrants, the same number as the saintly figures topping the colonnade surrounding the piazza, are a pair of wings directed at the sky. The angel wings hearken to the title of the artwork, “Angels Unawares,” which is taken directly from Hebrews 13:2: “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.”

In a very literal way, the artwork challenged me to appreciate all that was taking place in the bustling piazza that I crossed several times a day during my few days in Rome. I found myself walking side by side with religious sisters, cardinals, tourists, shopkeepers and workers. And interspersed among all of us were the poor – beggars looking for a few coins – immigrants seeking a place to rest – angels in our midst – of whom we all seemed to be unaware. God with us!

Therein, my friends, lies the heart of what we celebrate at Christmas. When our need for a savior was great, God broke through the heavens and sent his son, Jesus, into our midst to give us hope and a way forward in life.

It was hardly by accident that God chose to have his son born into poverty amid a broken and hostile world. For human nature being what it is, regardless of the technological and scientific advances that have consumed our lives over the past two millennia and in particular, in the last few decades, we need the presence of God in our lives more than ever. People continue to war one with another. Terrorism and the consequences of hatred are rampant in all corners of the globe, including our own. Self-centeredness and pride tear apart relationships with those we love. Our Church continues to deal with the tragic consequences of the behavior of some of its very own leaders who abused the most innocent among us. The treasured gift of life is increasingly disregarded, especially in the unborn, the poor, disabled and elderly. And immigrants and refugees seeking a better life are still so often forced to the margins of society by discrimination, bigotry and hatred.

Pope Francis greets children as he leads a special audience for patients and workers of Rome’s Bambino Gesu children’s hospital. The audience was in Paul VI hall at the Vatican Nov. 16, 2019. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

Yet, in a world that seems to have gone awry due to a lack of respect for lives that are made in the very image of the Christ whose birth we celebrate, we have reason to hope. Through the wonder of the incarnation, God is in our midst and Jesus walks among us – especially in the poor. In his apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis reminds us of this reality, “We are called to find Christ in the poor, to lend our voice to their causes, but also to be their friends, to listen to them, to speak for them and to embrace the mysterious wisdom which God wishes to share with us through them.”

When all is said and done, we are all poor in one way or another, aren’t we? Some of us are poor because of a lack of resources. Many of us are poor due to a lack of welcome, due to unfair judgment by others, and due to loneliness that comes from a lack of love and forgiveness. On our own, we will never be able to provide ourselves with the meaning, purpose and peace that each of us so desperately seeks in life.

Yet, when we are humble enough to open our hearts to the presence of God, to admit our need for a Savior and to, in turn, follow the pattern of Jesus’ life in service of our sisters and brothers, we discover just how rich we are. Through the grace of God, each of us is given the power to discover authentic love and a reason to hope. … And if we look carefully enough at our lives, we will surely recognize the presence of angels, even if the rest of our world is unaware of their presence.

Thank you for the privilege of walking with you in faith as your Bishop. Thank you as well for reflecting the presence of Christ within your lives and for respecting Christ’s presence in the lives of those whom God has entrusted to your care.

With prayers for a blessed Christmas, I am

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

 

 

While many people regard the days leading up to Christmas as a joyful time, for some it can be very stressful and even a time of great struggle.

As a result, Saint John Neumann Parish, Nativity of Our Lord Church, will offer its first “Blue Christmas Mass” on Christmas morning, Dec. 25, at 9:30 a.m.

“We read about it in some other places and we as a team sat down and said, ‘Should we do this?’ and we all said yes,” Rev. Michael Bryant, pastor, said.

The Blue Christmas Mass will be a Mass for people and their family or friends who might feel at odds with – or estranged from – the general feeling of joy and happiness at this time of year.

“It’s not necessarily people that are in deep depression but it’s people remembering that they’ve lost loved ones who are not going to be around this year, it’s people who are struggling to make ends meet financially or it’s people who are trying to take care of an ill parent or child who has a chronic disease,” Rev. Bryant said.

The Mass will seek to comfort people by reminding them that they are not alone. While the Mass will still focus on Christmas itself, the birth of Christ, organizers hope to emphasize God’s hope and joy.

“It is open to anyone,” Rev. Bryant said. “It’s Christmas. Our theme this year has been HOPE so we want to emphasize that there is hope for all of God’s people!” Rev. Bryant added.

The music for the Mass is still being finalized, but it is expected to be mellow, relaxing and peaceful without triumphant organ fanfares or majestic hymns.

Saint John Neumann Parish, Nativity of Our Lord Church, is located at 633 Orchard Street in South Scranton.

For more information, please contact Saint John Neumann Parish at (570) 344-6159 or check out the parish website at stjnparish.org or its Facebook page.

 

Pope Francis greets Bishop Joseph C. Bambera of Scranton, Pa., during a meeting with U.S. bishops from New Jersey and Pennsylvania in the Apostolic Palace at the Vatican Nov. 28, 2019. The bishops were making their “ad limina” visits to the Vatican to report on the status of their dioceses to the pope and Vatican officials. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

While many families in northeastern and north central Pennsylvania spent Thanksgiving discussing football and politics over turkey dinner, Bishop Joseph C. Bambera was in Rome for a two-and-a-half-hour meeting with Pope Francis.

The meeting, which involved all of the bishops of Pennsylvania and New Jersey, was an important part of the bishops’ “ad limina” visit.

“He was welcoming, he was disarming in terms of his ordinary, simple demeanor, he was funny, he was extremely well-versed on our situation locally and was very encouraging,” Bishop Bambera said reflecting on the meeting with the Holy Father.

Pope Francis greeted the bishops by saying “Happy Thanksgiving” at the beginning of their discussion. He then encouraged them to ask questions, offer observations or seek input on any situation they wanted to.

The wide-ranging conversation focused on topics including the clerical sexual abuse scandal, ways to be responsive to survivors of sexual abuse and the decreasing number of Catholics in many parts of the East Coast.

“He was very, very in tune to where we are,” Bishop Bambera said.

At the time of the meeting on Nov. 28, Pope Francis had just returned from a weeklong trip to Thailand and Japan. Bishop Bambera said the Holy Father’s comments were very much “like a father.”

“He challenged us, in the best way, to be sensitive to our priests because of what they’re dealing with on the front lines,” Bishop Bambera said. “He encouraged us to be supportive of them and all our people.”

Bishop Bambera says one of the main themes, woven into many of Pope Francis’ comments, was the notion of synodality.

“He was encouraging us to face decision-making and our future in a collaborative way with our people, in a thoughtful and discerning matter and really to encourage us to engage the entire people of God,” Bishop Bambera said.

The bishop was glad to see that synodality is a topic that is important to Pope Francis.

“I found that very, very encouraging. It reflects a lot of the agenda that we’ve set forth for our own Diocese and the vision that we put forward in my pastoral letter when I first started ten years ago as bishop,” he added.

AD LIMINA VISIT PURPOSE

The bishops’ meeting with Pope Francis came during their visits “ad limina apostolorum” – to the threshold of the apostles.

As the “Directory for the ‘Ad Limina’ Visit” makes clear, the bishops’ visits are a pilgrimage with a “very definite purpose: that is, the strengthening of their own responsibility as successors of the Apostles and of their hierarchical communion with the Successor of Peter.”

Throughout November, December, January and February, a total of 15 groups of U.S. bishops will travel to Rome; the visits should conclude Feb. 22 with the bishops of the Eastern Catholic churches in the United States.

At the heart of the bishops’ pilgrimage are Masses at the Rome basilicas of Saint Peter, Saint Paul Outside the Walls, Saint John Lateran and Saint Mary Major.

Bishop Bambera’s visit to Rome Nov. 25 – Nov. 30 was his second ad limina pilgrimage. He was joined by Monsignor Thomas M. Muldowney, V.G., Vicar General of the Diocese of Scranton and Moderator of the Curia.

The U.S. bishops’ last “ad limina” visits were eight years ago, in 2011-2012.

“It really does challenge you. It gives you the opportunity to step aside for a time to reflect upon what you’re called to do and be as a bishop,” Bishop Bambera said.

For Bishop Bambera, the Masses at the basilicas of Saint Peter and Saint Paul Outside the Walls held special meaning.

“Those Masses were powerful moments to reflect upon the gift of faith and the call of Jesus to follow after Him. They afforded all of us the opportunity to think about Saint Paul and the message that he preached and proclaimed beyond Jerusalem to the whole Mediterranean world and Saint Peter, the one to whom Jesus entrusted the leadership of the Church!” Bishop Bambera said.

The bishop added that being in those locations was both inspiring and humbling.

“In reflecting upon the great gift of our Catholic faith and the beginnings of our Church, you realize that for all of our brokenness and imperfections, you are a tiny part of something that has touched our world for 2,000 years and continues to provide hope and meaning to people everywhere!” the bishop added.

MEETINGS WITH HOLY SEE OFFICES

In addition to the meeting with Pope Francis and celebrating Masses at the four basilicas, Bishop Bambera also participated in numerous meetings at various offices of the Roman Curia.

The offices that the bishops met with included: Laity, Family and Life; Christian Unity; Congregation for Clergy and the Protection of Minors, among many others.

“The meetings were markedly different,” Bishop Bambera said, comparing them to his first ad limina experience. “They were engaging meetings that acknowledged the challenges and opportunities that we face as leaders of Dioceses and suggested how we can best respond to the needs of the people God has entrusted to our care.”

Prior to arriving in Rome, the bishops of every diocese prepare detailed reports on the life of the Catholic Church in their region.

With 13 total dioceses represented between Pennsylvania and New Jersey, Bishop Bambera said many of the dioceses are facing similar challenges.

“They clearly understood what is going on in New Jersey and Pennsylvania,” the bishop said.

REALIZING THE UNIVERSALITY OF THE CHURCH

With Bishop Bambera now back home in the Diocese, he has been able to reflect on the meaning of his pilgrimage.

“It helps me realize the universality of the Church,” Bishop Bambera said.

While many people experience faith in their individual parishes, the bishop said there is so much to celebrate globally.

“We are a part of this incredible reality of faith that has grown and flourished from the tiniest of roots in the Middle East 2,000 years ago and touches this whole world and we realize how much we are all alike and how much we are all struggling and looking for the same meaning and purpose and hope in our lives,” he said.

Bishop Bambera said a new sculpture in Saint Peter’s Square helped showcase that for him.

Pope Francis attends the unveiling of a large bronze statue titled, “Angels Unawares,” by Canadian artist Timothy Schmalz, in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican Sept. 29, 2019. The statue depicts a group of migrants and refugees on a boat. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

On Sept. 29, Timothy P. Schmalz’s sculpture on the theme of refugees and migration, “Angels Unawares,” was unveiled on the occasion of the World Day of Migrants and Refugees. The artwork was the first to be added to Saint Peter’s Square in 400 years.

The 20-foot-long and 12-foot-high bronze and clay statue depicts 140 immigrants of different cultures, faiths and ethnicities.

“I think it is extremely meaningful,” the bishop said. “Forever, people have been searching for something more. That search began with Jesus, Mary and Joseph fleeing into Egypt, immigrants, refugees in a foreign land.”

As he traveled around Saint Peter’s Square, Bishop Bambera reflected upon the presence of God in the people he encountered.

“Wherever you walk, especially around the Vatican, you see beggars looking for help. It struck me that, there is something sacred about their presence. You realize that God is present not just in the places that you’d think most obvious, the big magnificent church buildings, as beautiful and as meaningful as they are to our faith tradition,” Bishop Bambera explained. “Pope Francis, in a very unique way, has reminded us time and again that God is very much present in these simple souls who are wandering about and in the people who put a coin in their cup. Being a part of that exchange touched me deeply, more than ever before.”

 

On June 14, Bishop Joseph C. Bambera will celebrate a Wedding Anniversary Mass at 2:30 p.m. in the Cathedral of Saint Peter, Scranton, for couples celebrating their 25th or 50th year of marriage in 2020.

This is an occasion to recognize the role married couples play in the Church’s mission to bring God’s faithful love into the world.  Couples will have the opportunity to renew their commitment to marriage and to receive a blessing on their marriage from the Bishop.

A reception will follow in the Diocesan Pastoral Center, where anniversary couples will be able to have their picture taken with the Bishop.

Eligible couples should give their names and an April mailing address to their parish office before March 16.  Parish lists are due to the Office for Parish Life by March 23.