WILKES-BARRE – The faithful of Saint Robert Bellarmine Parish will come together in late April to celebrate the 125th anniversary of Saint Aloysius Church.

The Most Rev. Joseph C. Bambera, Bishop of Scranton, will celebrate a Mass of Thanksgiving for the 125th anniversary at 11:00 a.m. on Sunday, April 28, 2024. All are invited to attend this special liturgy.

A special 125th anniversary dinner at R & D Memories will follow the Mass.

“It is really a milestone,” Father Richard Cirba, pastor, said. “What we are celebrating is the past, the present, and the hope for the future.”

In order to prepare for the special celebration, the parish hired Robert A. Ritterbeck Painting, Inc., to paint the sanctuary area of the church. Workers recently completed the work just in time for the anniversary celebration.

“Right now, we’re brightening up the sanctuary area of the church behind the altar. The work will take a couple of weeks,” Father Cirba said. “We have a Lenten drive going on to help defray the cost of the painting.”

The faithful of Saint Robert Bellarmine parish have responded generously in the last year to stewardship efforts with the theme “Faith in the Present, Hope for the Future”, indicating to their pastor that they value their church community.

In advance of its 125th anniversary Mass, 42-foot-tall scaffolding has been temporarily put up inside Saint Aloysius Church so that the sanctuary area of the church can be painted by Robert A. Ritterbeck Painting, Inc.

“We are nowhere without the past. We are standing on the shoulders of our ancestors and to be 125 years old, it’s amazing!” Father Cirba added. “We had a school for many years. Many people have been educated through this parish so what we’re celebrating and what we’re hoping for is that we continue to build on what we’ve been given as the torch has been passed.”

Saint Robert Bellarmine Parish – and specifically Saint Aloysius Church – are proud of the vocations to the priesthood and religious life that have been fostered within the parish community.

The parish currently has two seminarians – Andrew McCarroll and Peter Stec – discerning the priesthood. McCarroll is slated to be ordained to the Diaconate in May. Several native sons are already Diocesan priests, including Father Jeffrey Tudgay, Father Andrew Sinnott, Father James Nash, Father Richard Fox and Father John Doris.

“The seeds of a vocation come from within the parish. They come from the people, they come from the community,” Father Cirba added.


Saint Aloysius was formed in 1899 when more than 30 families presented their case for a new parish to Father Richard McAndrew, pastor of Saint Mary’s Church of the Immaculate Conception in the city. The families had been traveling to Saint Mary’s, Saint Leo’s in Ashley, and Saint Charles in Sugar Notch to attend Mass.

Scranton Bishop Michael J. Hoban granted Father McAndrew’s petition and on April 29, 1900, blessed and dedicated the cornerstone for the new church in south Wilkes-Barre.

Father McAndrew guided the new parish until Father Thomas Brehony was appointed pastor by Bishop Hoban on Nov. 4, 1901. Due to Father Brehony’s health, Father John Griffin was appointed assistant pastor in 1903 and later rose to administrator and pastor of the parish.

Rev. Thomas P. Monahan breaks ground for a convent on Saint Aloysius Church property on August 23, 1962. The convent was built to care for the Sisters of Mercy stationed at Saint Aloysius.

Father Daniel McCarthy was appointed the third pastor of the parish in 1913 and began a 32-year era of expansion. By the end of World War I, the parish served the spiritual needs of nearly 450 families and was outgrowing the original church building.

Father McCarthy led the building project, and the present brick, Gothic church was blessed and dedicated on Nov. 24, 1927, by Cardinal Dennis Dougherty, Archbishop of Philadelphia, with more than 200 priests in attendance.

In 1938, Father McCarthy added the rectory, which still stands.

Upon the death of Father McCarthy, Father Thomas Monahan was installed as pastor in 1945. His lasting contributions were the establishment of a parish school in 1948, the establishment of a convent to house the sisters who taught there, and the construction of a school building, which was blessed and dedicated on Aug. 30, 1953.

The original convent quickly became overcrowded and Father Monahan directed the building of a new facility for the Sisters of Mercy who taught at the school. The new convent was dedicated on Aug. 18, 1963.

Father Monahan passed away in 1967, and Bishop J. Carroll McCormick appointed Msgr. Joseph Padden as the new pastor. Parochial activities grew, the parish debt was retired, and the future was bright for the parish until disaster struck five years later.

Flood waters from the Susquehanna River inundated Saint Aloysius Church in July 1972. This photo was taken when water was nearly to the top of the church doors.

On June 22, 1972, the Agnes Flood nearly destroyed the parish complex as the Susquehanna River rose to the second floor of all the parish buildings. For several months, while the church was repaired, the Saint Aloysius congregation celebrated Mass at nearby Baptist Tabernacle Church.

Msgr. Padden directed the renovation of the church, school, convent and rectory with the assistance of federal loans, which were paid in 1992. He retired as pastor in 1982 and passed away on March 19, 1990.

Msgr. Donald McAndrews was appointed the sixth pastor at Saint Aloysius on June 22, 1982, and began a new series of improvements for the parish, which housed 1,800 families at the time.

The original pipe organ was restored, building exteriors were repaired, the rectory was expanded, and the church was made handicap accessible in a project led by a young parishioner, James Post III, and his family.

A major interior renovation of the church began in 1991. The altar, tabernacle, pulpit, and baptismal font were replaced; the interior was repainted; a new electrical and sound system and air conditioning were added; the woodwork and pews were refinished, and the stained glass windows were resealed. On Nov. 27, 1993, Bishop James C. Timlin rededicated Saint Aloysius Church.

In 2010, Saint Aloysius Church joined together with Saint Casimir’s to form the current parish of Saint Robert Bellarmine, which serves the Catholic community of both south Wilkes-Barre and the Hanover Township area. Looking to the tradition of its pastor ancestors, the parish community continues to look to the future; that through its legacy parishioners may continue to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ, live as examples to a world in darkness, and be stewards to all in need.