SCRANTON – Hundreds of people gathered to celebrate their faith – and their Italian heritage – at the Cathedral of Saint Peter on Sept. 5 at the 45th annual La Festa Italiana Mass.

The Mass, which was celebrated in Italian, was held in conjunction with La Festa Italiana. The annual four-day food festival takes place on Courthouse Square over the long Labor Day weekend.

The Most Rev. Joseph C. Bambera, Bishop of Scranton, attended the Mass. Reverend Paul A. McDonnell, OSJ, served as principal celebrant and homilist. McDonnell is the current rector of the Oblates of Saint Joseph in Laflin.

“Today we celebrate the Italian heritage, this wonderful gift given first of all to our country that came from Italy,” Father McDonnell said.

Reflecting on the hallmarks of the Italian culture, which he defined as “faith, family, friends and hospitality,” McDonnell said gratefully each has made its way into the Diocese of Scranton.

During his homily, Father McDonnell joked that his last name is Irish – but he is half-Italian because of his mother. He emphasized that Italians love being in the company of others.

“Being able to share our lives, share our joys, our blessings and our accomplishments and to share also our sorrows, crosses and burdens. We do it together,” he explained.

Connecting that to the Church, the “family of God,” Father McDonnell reminded the crowd that we are also supposed to “walk” with our brothers and sisters in faith.

“We don’t worship in isolation. We don’t serve in isolation. Jesus reminds us over and over again, if you want to love me, then love each other,” he said.

While the La Festa Italiana Mass emphasizes the Italian culture, Father McDonnell reminded those in attendance that many cultures have influenced the Diocese of Scranton.

“We are reminded of all the cultures that have influenced this diocese and have a very important role to play. It reminds us of our rich and diverse history as we acknowledge all ethnic groups that immigrated here: Slovaks, Polish, Lithuanians, Irish, German and today our most recent immigrants from Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Brazil, Cape Verde, Vietnam, India, the Philippines and the continent of Africa,” he said.

Just as the day’s Gospel message stressed – the homilist added we must all be more accepting and loving of others.

“If we are truly rooted in Christ, then we don’t see our brothers and sisters from other races, creeds or colors as a burden, but as an asset to enrich our society and personal lives,” he explained.

This year’s Italian Mass was offered in memory of all those members and friends of La Festa Italiana who passed away since the last Mass was celebrated, including Ray Alberigi, John “Jack” Brunetti, Christina Caprio, Father Andrew Gallia, Patrick A. Luongo, Joseph “Chef” Schiavone, Kevin Shaughnessy and Father Joseph Sica.

Before the concluding prayer, Bishop Bambera thanked the La Festa Committee for helping to organize and participate in the Mass – as well as for their hard work to put on one of the community’s most popular events.

Seizing on the homily message that Father McDonnell shared, the bishop drew connections to the pandemic that we continue to battle.

“We are in this together,” the bishop said. “We are all connected through faith, through life and the fact that we are all a part of this family that God has given to each one of us!”