WILKES-BARRE – On April 28, Cathy Swoboda was celebrating the past and looking forward to the future.

The parishioner and business manager of Saint Robert Bellarmine Parish was one of several hundred people who attended a special Mass of Thanksgiving at Saint Aloysius Church in Wilkes-Barre, recognizing the 125th anniversary of the worship site.

The faithful of Saint Robert Bellarmine Parish celebrate the 125th anniversary of Saint Aloysius Church in Wilkes-Barre on April 28, 2024.

“It is a milestone for the church. We have been through so much, starting with the Flood in 1972 and COVID recently,” she said. “For me, 125 years is a celebration of the past and hope for the future.”

Swoboda credits the kindness of her fellow parishioners – and the serenity of the building itself – for making the church a welcoming place.

“I’m involved in everything that goes on in this church because I want to be, not because I have to be. The people are wonderful. Everybody is sweet and kind to each other. We have a great time at our annual bazaar. It’s just a special feeling you have when you walk in the church,” she added.

The Most Rev. Joseph C. Bambera, Bishop of Scranton, served as principal celebrant and homilist for the 125th Anniversary Mass. Father Richard Cirba, pastor, concelebrated the liturgy along with Father Kevin Mulhern, former pastor, and several other native sons of the parish, including Father Andrew Sinnott and Father James Nash.

“It was just a glorious day. The weather is beautiful and we’re happy to welcome back some of the native sons of the parish,” Father Cirba said. “One hundred twenty-five years is a milestone and it would be remiss for us to just let it go by without acknowledging it so it brought great excitement and enthusiasm for the people.”

As he began his homily, Bishop Bambera thanked parishioners for the opportunity to celebrate with them and called the Mass a “beautiful gathering.”

In reflecting on the Gospel message for the Fifth Sunday of Easter, involving Jesus as the vine and his followers as the branches, Bishop Bambera explained how we are all interconnected – with a shared faith in the Risen Jesus and all those who have gone before us.

“I’d invite you today, here in this church, to let your memories flow,” he said. “Maybe this is the church where you and your children were baptized. Maybe this is where you received your First Communion 60 or 70 years ago, or maybe it is the place where you were married and began a family.”

The Bishop reminded those at the Anniversary Mass, however, that a “parish” is not just a building or a structure, it is the people of God.

“We are celebrating nothing less than the power and presence of God in our lives,” Bishop Bambera noted.

The faithful who attend Saint Aloysius Church are very thankful they currently have two seminarians who are discerning a path to the priesthood – Andrew McCarroll and Peter Stec. McCarroll is expected to be ordained a transitional deacon on May 25 and would likely be ordained a priest next summer and Stec will be attending college seminary this coming fall.

“I’m proud just to be able to see the history of this community, especially as I’m discerning my vocation and preparing for ordained ministry, to see all the men who went before me in priestly service to our Diocese,” McCarroll said at the conclusion of the Anniversary Mass. “To see that rich history of service, not only just to this community, but also the Church of Scranton.”

While McCarroll has seen the South Wilkes-Barre community change demographically over the years, he believes there is a lot of hope for the future.

“It is good to see that we’re still proclaiming the Gospel … because Christ’s message is still true, then, as it is now,” McCarroll noted.