SOUTH ABINGTON TOWNSHIP – Northeastern Pennsylvania will soon be losing one of its oldest religious communities. Saint Gabriel’s Monastery will close on Dec. 31, 2020, ending of a 94-year presence by the Passionist Nuns in Northeastern Pennsylvania.
The Passionist Nuns Community established its Scranton-area community in 1926 and then moved to Clarks Summit in 1970. Thirty-three nuns have been a part of the community since 1926, but the numbers have dwindled over the past decade due to an aging community and a lack of new vocations.
The Community produced altar-bread for parishes across the United States and offered retreats to groups and individuals and was also a welcome haven for community faith groups.
The closing of Saint Gabriel’s Monastery will affect the local community as it is one of the last remaining retreat centers in Northeastern Pennsylvania. Since 1970, Saint Gabriel’s has welcomed thousands of retreatants from across the United States, providing a safe and spiritual haven for those in search of peace and strengthening of their faith.
Sister Teresita Kho has been part of the Passionist Community at Saint Gabriel’s for the past 26 years. She, along with Sister Olive Ann Schneider, are the two remaining nuns at the monastery. She believes that Saint Gabriel’s will be missed and has received communications to support her belief.
“I have received a lot of letters, emails and phone calls from people who are devastated by the closing of our facility,” Sister Teresita said. “People knew that they could come here to pray without judgment. We have accepted people who have been hurting and those who were looking for God. It is my hope that the right people will continue the ministry in the same way.”
Sister Teresita said that there are some special bonds that she will miss.
“Every corner of this monastery has contributed to my personal growth. The nuns we have lost and the experiences we have had were a great impact on my life. The people of the monastery and those who I have met in the Scranton Diocese have meant a lot to me. I am hoping that wherever God is taking me, I can use the experiences I have had here to continue to grow in my faith and as a person,” she added.
Carol Burti has been a part of Saint Gabriel’s for nearly 45 years. Her involvement started as a volunteer with music ministry, providing music for weekend retreatants and various community retreat weekends. Even though the community was contemplative, Burti’s involvement with Saint Gabriel’s was providing care to the ailing nuns in need of hospice services.
Her involvement also opened the door for college interns to help with providing care to the sisters in need. Through this interaction, a local butterfly memorial service was held each year for friends of the community that have died. She feels that the closing of the monastery will greatly affect the local community and that the memorial service could continue.
“This was truly a place where people could come together to feel safe and rest awhile. The closing will create more isolation for people who look for areas to interact with others that they may not have opportunity to otherwise,” Burti explained.
Charlie Augustine of Clarks Summit has been providing maintenance services to Saint Gabriel’s for 15 years. He feels that the monastery will be missed.
“People depend on this place to go to Mass and practice their faith,” Augustine said. “It is a shame and will be missed. I will miss the current friendships that I made here, especially with the nuns who are still living and with those who are deceased. It was wonderful.”
The closing Mass will be held on Sunday, December 6, 2020, with the Most Reverend Joseph C. Bambera, D.D., J.C.L, Bishop of Scranton, presiding.
Due to current COVID-19 restrictions, the monastery will be unable to open the ceremony to the public.
Anyone who wishes to express their sentiments can contact the monastery at (570) 586-2791.