HAZLETON – A native son of Holy Rosary Parish, who has served that community since his ordination to the permanent diaconate in 2015, is now taking on additional responsibilities.

Deacon Vincent Oberto has been appointed by the Most Rev. Joseph C. Bambera, Bishop of Scranton, to serve as Parish Life Coordinator (PLC) of both Holy Rosary Parish, Hazleton, and its linked parish of Holy Name of Jesus Parish, West Hazleton.

“I am humbly grateful,” Deacon Oberto said after his formal installation by Bishop Bambera on Saturday, Feb. 10, 2024.

The installation of Deacon Oberto took place during the 4 p.m. Mass at Holy Name of Jesus Parish and immediately repeated at the 5:15 p.m. Mass at Holy Rosary Parish.

“It really is a touching tribute to all of you, that from amongst you, came a man who chose to receive and listen to the call of the Church to serve as a deacon and now in this unique role to lead this parish community,” Bishop Bambera said at the conclusion of the Holy Rosary Parish Mass.

The Code of Canon Law recognizes that there exist parish situations in which the ministry of a permanent pastor may not be possible. Canon 517 states that, because of a lack of priests, a Diocesan bishop may entrust the pastoral care of a parish to a deacon or some other person who is not a priest. Recognizing that the administration of the Sacraments requires the ministry of an ordained priest, a Priest Moderator is assigned to work in cooperation with the Parish Life Coordinator.

During his homily, Bishop Bambera noted that while the Diocese of Scranton currently has roughly 90 active Diocesan priests, by 2030, it is expecting to have only about 60 priests. The Diocese of Scranton’s Vision 2030 Pastoral Planning Process is proactively working to ensure the pastoral needs of parish communities can be met.

“That is a big challenge for us to keep our parishes alive and vibrant. I want to thank you for your willingness to embrace this model that we’re beginning tonight with the Parish Life Coordinator in the person of Deacon Vince,” Bishop Bambera said.

The Bishop stressed the Parish Life Coordinator model of parish leadership is not a novelty for the Diocese of Scranton. Over the last decade, several parishes have utilized the model and been very successful.

“We are leading the way for the future in the Hazleton area,” Deacon Oberto told The Catholic Light in an interview about his new role.

“In the last two years, there have been six different priests, including Monsignor (Arthur) Kaschenbach who passed away, that the people have gone through in the two parishes, so we have to bring a calm to the storm,” Deacon Oberto said.

“Everything will be okay. It is a great opportunity … When the people start seeing how it operates and how we function, it will be okay.”

During his formal installation, Deacon Oberto promised to serve the people of both parishes to the best of his ability, serve the needs of both parish communities, and work with the people to share the faith and Good News of the Gospel.

As Parish Life Coordinator, Deacon Oberto will oversee the administrative and pastoral needs of both parishes. He will facilitate lifelong faith formation in collaboration with parish catechetical leaders, assist in planning and coordinating weekly liturgies in collaboration with an appointed Sacramental minister, oversee visitation of parishioners who are sick, and supervise parish staff, among many other responsibilities.

“The people have seen me in many of these roles already,” Deacon Oberto said.
The new ministry team for Holy Rosary and Holy Name of Jesus Parishes will include Father Connell A. McHugh, who will serve as Sacramental Minister, Father Michael J. Piccola, who will serve as Priest Moderator, and Father Sergio Leon Pamplona Henao, who will serve as Assistant Pastor.

As Sacramental Minister, Father McHugh will assist the parish communities by celebrating Mass, sacraments and providing other needed priestly ministry in collaboration with the Parish Life Coordinator.

As Priest Moderator, Father Piccola, who will continue to serve as Pastor of SS. Cyril & Methodius Parish, Hazleton, will supervise the pastoral care that is provided to both parishes in accordance with Canon Law.

As Assistant Pastor, Father Sergio will serve the Spanish-speaking community at Holy Name of Jesus Parish but also provide assistance in celebrating Masses in both communities.

Holy Rosary and Holy Name of Jesus Parishes were most recently served by Father J. Duane Gavitt, who retired because of health reasons on Jan. 27, 2024.

“There is more to a church than just a building, a priest, or a bishop. The church is the people of God,” Bishop Bambera said during his homily. “You know what gives me hope tonight. There is a filled church with people celebrating their faith, smiling, giving thanks and ready to continue to go forward.”