Safe Environment Message, January 2021
By Kathleen Bolinski, LSW, Safe Environment Coordinator, Diocese of Scranton

Out with the old and in with the new. Never did that phrase have more meaning. Most, if not all of us, are pleased to have seen the end of 2020. We associate the “New Year” with new beginnings. However, before we totally dismiss 2020, let us examine what we have learned from this exceptional year.

If someone had told us in January 2020 of what was to come, we never would have believed it. It still seems like a bad sci-fi movie. When the shutdown occurred, I thought it would be for a couple weeks, perhaps a month at most. I was never more wrong. As a result, our parishes, schools and diocesan organizations were forced to initiate new strategies. I take this opportunity to say we have risen to the challenge. Churches created safe ways to worship. The faithful continued to support our parishes financially. Faith formation programs developed new educational methods. Schools adjusted the environment to remain socially distant but physically present. Catholic Social Services increased efforts to meet basic human needs.

Through all these activities, we demonstrated concern for the well-being of others. Parishes established safety guidelines. Religious education programs assured that, even though a lesson was offered in a virtual context, adults completed requirements such as background checks, safe environment and mandated reporter training. Facilitators adhered to best practices of maintaining transparent communications and appropriate boundaries.

Thank you for your dedication. Thank you for your cooperation. Thank you for staying true to the practices that keep all of us protected. Whether we are interacting on a virtual platform or in a live setting, it is vital that we keep safety our first priority. My wish for 2021 and the future is that we never again take our blessings for granted. Here is to a healthy, kind and safe New Year!


We continue to find ourselves in a time and space we could never have imagined.  For most of us, life has come to a rapid standstill as we struggle to make sense of the challenge that has been placed before us.  In this time of crisis, we are called to be patient.  We are a resilient people.  With God’s direction, we will survive this current situation.  I am hopeful that, having endured this test, we will emerge stronger and more aware of our need to be connected and care for others.

In terms of the Safe Environment requirements, the PA state background checks can be completed online.  This includes the State Police Criminal History and the Child Abuse History Certification.  Please refer to “Background Screening Compliance” on this page for the links to submit online.  THE FBI Federal check with fingerprinting continues to be available with certain modifications.  If you are in need of the FBI check, please see the following site:

You may complete both the VIRTUS and Mandated Reporter trainings online.  Kindly refer to the links below.  This time also presents an opportunity to read the bulletins at VIRTUS online.  This educational material serves as an excellent source of continuing education on the topic of child protection.

Mandated Reporter Training:

VIRTUS training:

If you have questions, do not hesitate to contact me by email at or by cell at 570-862-2707.
Please stay smart and safe!