Saint Mary, Our Lady Help of Christians Church in Dorrance hosted the Saint Jude Youth Group for a combined Diocesan Day of Service on Oct. 2, 2021. The jobs that volunteers participated in included cleaning bazaar stands and the parish hall along with painting classrooms. (Photo/Ed Koons)

HAZLETON – From cleaning up a cemetery to making birthday bags for children who visit a soup kitchen, more than 165 people throughout the Diocese of Scranton participated in various service projects on the weekend of Oct. 2 and 3.

Parish and school groups arranged service opportunities in their communities as part of the “Scranton Serves” initiative. Organized by the Diocesan Offices for Parish Life and Vocations, the weekend of service challenged people to put their faith into action in tangible ways.

More than 30 people participated in a clean-up project on Oct. 2 at Transfiguration Cemetery in the Hazleton area. Volunteers from both Holy Rosary Parish in Hazleton and Holy Name of Jesus Parish in West Hazleton rolled up their sleeves to help.

“It was a good project for both parishes to get together,” volunteer Brian Schott said. “It’s really great because some people we haven’t seen before. We’re getting to make new friends.”

Shannon Marsyada, a parishioner at Holy Name of Jesus Parish, admits she did not know many of her fellow volunteers at first but quickly became acquainted with everyone.

Volunteers from Holy Rosary Parish in Hazleton and Holy Name of Jesus Parish in West Hazleton work to clean up Transfiguration Cemetery on Oct. 2, 2021. (Photo/Ed Koons) 

“I love volunteering. I feel like I’m doing God’s work. He is using my hands today,” she said. “This is what God intended for us to do. We’re not here for ourselves. We’re here for each other.”

Father Wilfredo Cusicanqui, Assistant Pastor of both parishes, also participated in the service project saying he was very happy to see all the people who assisted.

“It’s fantastic to see the turnout and everyone is just working and looking to see what else they could do in order to make the cemetery a beautiful place for others to rest,” volunteer Barbara Bayzik said.

While the cemetery clean up was underway in lower Luzerne County, dozens of young adults from Saint Matthew Parish in East Stroudsburg and Our Lady Queen of Peace Parish in Brodheadsville were participating in the Pocono Pregnancy Center’s Walk for Life in Stroudsburg as part of “Scranton Serves.”

Volunteers from Saint Ignatius Parish work to clean up the pasture for the sheep at the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker Farm in Harveys Lake on Oct. 3, 2021. (Photo/Shannon Kowalski)

Following the walk, the volunteers from Saint Matthew Parish took part in clean-up projects around their church while some people from Our Lady Queen of Peace did landscaping outside Shepherd’s Maternity House, a pregnancy resource center operated by Catholic Social Services.

Meanwhile, 7th and 8th grade Confirmation students at Gate of Heaven Parish in Dallas and Our Lady of Victory Parish in Harveys Lake made 56 birthday bags for children who visit the Saint Vincent de Paul Kitchen or reside at the McAuley House. The bags were filled with cake mixes, icing, birthday candles, balloons, streamers, toys and more.

At Saint Mary, Help of Christians Parish in Dorrance, nearly 50 people worked to clean church pavilions, paint classrooms and clean the social hall kitchen.

“It is good to help out the church,” volunteer Conor Buckley said. “We’re just cleaning up the church. We’re getting ready for a festival that we’re about to have.”

Parishioners of Saint Mary’s got assistance from their linked parish, Saint Jude’s in Mountain Top.

“It’s good for people to get out in their community,” volunteer Jack Scanlan added. “I think it’s nice when you get a lot of people here. It makes the work go by faster and you get more work done in total.”

“I think it’s really good to see that all these people who didn’t have to be here came to help out,” volunteer Steven Rowlands added.

On Sunday, Oct. 3, the service projects continued as more than 20 volunteers from Saint Therese Parish in Shavertown made blankets for children in need of a proper place to sleep.

Seven volunteers from Saint Ignatius Parish in Kington also volunteered to clear the fall and winter pasture for sheep at the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker Farm in Harveys Lake.