SCRANTON — Not unlike the rest of the world, the 2022 Solemn Novena to Saint Ann is slowly but surely returning to resemble its venerable self when COVID-19 was unheard of.

The 98th annual Solemn Novena at the Basilica of the National Shrine of Saint Ann in West Scranton, honoring of the mother of the Blessed Virgin Mary, will begin on Sunday, July 17, and continue for nine days, culminating with the celebration of the Feast of Saint Ann on Tuesday, July 26.

Very Rev. Richard Burke, director of the Saint Ann National Shrine Basilica, announces the guest preacher for this year’s Novena will be Passionist Father Paul Fagan.

Since the outbreak of the global pandemic two years ago, Saint Ann’s Novena continued to be offered to devotees of the grandmother of Jesus, although in a mitigated, shortened manner.

“Last year we were able to be a little more expansive,” Father Richard said. “This year we are moving far ahead toward normalcy.”

Signs of the easing of restrictions and guidelines the coronavirus imposed include the restoring of outdoor tents and seating for the celebration of outside Masses and Novena services on the Basilica grounds. Preferred parking at the entrance of the Basilica plaza for the sick, infirm and those unable to leave their vehicles is also returning.

Also, Confessions will again be available before and after each service.

“Our priests and brothers will bring Communion and blessings to each car during the services,” Father Richard noted, indicating that, once again, individual blessing with the Saint Ann relic will be available for those who desire it.

“We will continue to take important precautions including hand-sanitizing in the Basilica and the use of disinfectant wipes for cleansing relics between each blessing,” the Passionist superior remarked. “We also encourage everyone to consider wearing a face mask for services, especially those who are more vulnerable to the virus.”

Saint Ann Novena devotions will include outdoor Masses and Novenas (weather permitting) at 8 a.m., 5:30 and 7:30 p.m. The 11:45 a.m. Mass and Novena will be celebrated indoors, except on Sundays, and the 3:30 p.m. Novena service is offered inside the main Basilica church.

Special spiritual services highlighting this year’s Novena to Saint Ann include the Divine Liturgy of the Byzantine Rite on Tuesday, July 19, at 5:30 p.m., celebrated by Bishop Kurt Burnette. On that day there will be no Mass and Novena at 7:30 p.m.

A Mass with Anointing of the Sick will be offered on Thursday, July 21, at 1:30 p.m., with the Sacrament of the Sick available to all elderly and infirm and anyone who wishes to receive the sacrament. On Saturday, July 23, the Novena will include a special blessing service for all infants and children at 10 a.m.

The following day, Sunday, July 24, all Eucharistic liturgies will honor and bless grandparents in observance of World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly.

Bishop Joseph C. Bambera will celebrate the Solemn Closing of the Novena on the Feast of Saint Ann, July 26, at 7:30 p.m. The Mass in Polish will be celebrated at 1:30 p.m., featuring Polish hymns.

Father Richard noted that Passionist Father Rick Frechette was also scheduled to preach this year’s Solemn Novena but is unable to leave his doctoral duties at Saint Damien’s Hospital for Children outside of Port au Prince, Haiti, due to the high incidence of violence in the area.

“Father Rick was instrumental in ransoming two of his kidnapped staff doctors as well as a Jesuit priest with whom he works,” Father Richard explained. “Conditions are such that he cannot leave the island at this time. He and the Haitian people need our prayers in a profound way.”