Dear Friends,

“Do not be afraid! I know that you are seeking Jesus the crucified. He is not here, for he has been raised just as he said.”

These words from Saint Matthew’s gospel proclaimed during the great Vigil of Easter, confronted the first followers of Jesus on the day of His resurrection and boldly affirmed God’s promise to save his people.

Despite such powerful words of faith that we read in the scriptures and proclaim whenever we gather for the celebration of the Eucharist, the reality of life at times can consume us with grief, pain and fear. These days are no exception.

Mary Magdalene is depicted with the resurrected Christ in this icon at the Haifa Melkite Cathedral in Israel. Easter, the chief feast in the liturgical calendars of all Christian churches, commemorates Christ’s resurrection from the dead. Easter is celebrated April 9 this year. (OSV News artwork/Haifa Melkite Cathedral, Bridgeman Images)

From devastating earthquakes in Syria and Ecuador – to tornadoes that ravaged parts of Mississippi, Arkansas and far too many areas of our land – to once unimaginable school shootings that continue to shatter the security and peace that every child should enjoy – to a senseless war in Ukraine that has raged on for more than a year, leaving death, destruction and shattered dreams in its wake – to our own stories of loss – the scope of suffering and pain that has enveloped our world and our lives is difficult to comprehend.

And so as we have done countless times before in the face of such heartbreak, these sacred days of Holy Week and Easter beckon us to turn to the only place that enables our broken world and lives to find forgiveness, healing, hope and peace: the Paschal Mystery – the Easter miracle – the promise won for us through the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus!

But how does a mystery fraught with suffering and death provide us with hope?

In his recently published work, Touch the Wounds, the Czech theologian and priest Tomas Halik writes, “there is no other path or other gate to God than that which is opened by a wounded hand and pierced heart.” The author goes on to reflect upon the depth of Jesus’ love that led him to suffer and to bear the ills of us all, even unto his death on the cross. “Such love represents a force, the only force that survives death itself and overturns its gates with pierced hands.” Halik concludes that in resurrecting the doubting apostle Thomas’ faith by letting him touch his wounds, Jesus was telling him – and us – that “it is where you touch human suffering, and maybe only there, that you will realize that I am alive, that ‘it’s me.’ You will meet me wherever people suffer. Do not shy away from me in any of those meetings. Do not be afraid. Do not be unbelieving, but believe.”

Brothers and sisters, for all that we have experienced throughout the journey of our lives – in joy and gladness, and yes, even in suffering, death and in the many wounds that we have endured – the grace of God does not disappoint! Jesus is risen and lives among us, lifting us from the burdens of this world and carrying us to new life!

As bishop of this great local church of the Diocese of Scranton, I am profoundly touched by the example of your lives. In the midst of all that life unfolds, you continue to live your faith and fulfill the promises of your Baptism. You continue to serve your brothers and sisters. You continue to derive hope from a living relationship with the risen Jesus.

During this Holy Week, I pray that we will all come to appreciate more deeply than ever the fact that we are indeed blessed in more ways than we might believe or imagine. May we hold in our hearts the catechumens and candidates from throughout the Diocese of Scranton who will be baptized into the life, death and resurrection of Jesus and presented for full communion in the Catholic Church. May we trust in God’s promise to sustain us and dispel our deepest fears. Moreover, may we open our hearts to the risen Jesus and allow him to fill them with his love and peace.

This is the day that the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad!

Faithfully yours in the Risen Christ,

Most Reverend Joseph C. Bambera, D.D., J.C.L.
Bishop of Scranton

The Most Reverend Joseph C. Bambera, Bishop of Scranton, celebrates the Chrism Mass on April 4, 2023, at the Cathedral of Saint Peter in Scranton with priests, deacons and laity from around the Diocese of Scranton. (Photos/Mike Melisky)


SCRANTON — A brilliant spring afternoon was matched by the radiant joy emanating from the Cathedral of Saint Peter for the celebration of the Diocese of Scranton’s Chrism Mass on April 4, 2023 – Tuesday of the holiest week of the Christian calendar year.

While the heavens provided a most comfortable day for the venerable gathering, the Most Rev. Joseph C. Bambera, Bishop of Scranton, as principal celebrant and homilist, warmly welcomed to the Mother Church of the Diocese the hundreds of worshippers of all ages who turned out for the annual Eucharistic liturgy concelebrated by the priests ministering in the 11-county local Church.

The traditional Holy Week observance and gathering of the priests of the Diocese — customarily the largest of its kind each year — celebrates their clerical brotherhood and shared divine vocation.

During the Mass, priests and deacons, along with lay representatives from Diocesan parishes, acknowledge the Bishop’s role as the unifying symbol for Church governance and pastoral guidance.

All of the priests also recommit themselves to their office by renewing the promises they made on the day of their ordination to the priesthood, including their vow of obedience to the Bishop.

Before saying the Prayer of Consecration of the Chrism Oil, Bishop Bambera breathes upon the opening of the vessel.

Father Paschal Mbagwu, who serves as administrator of Saint Maximilian Kolbe Parish in Pocono Pines, said prior to the liturgical celebration, “The Chrism Mass is so important since it shows the unity and communion in the Church. It is very symbolic of the oneness Christ prayed for under one shepherd — our Bishop.”

Holding to age-old tradition, the Mass is highlighted by the blessing of the Holy Oils used during the conferral of sacraments throughout the Church year. They include the Sacred Chrism, the Oil of the Sick, and the Oil of Catechumens, which are used in the celebration of Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Orders, the Anointing of the Sick, and the Rites of the Catechumenate.

As he joins Bishop Bambera in celebrating his 40th anniversary of ordination this year, Father Don Williams, pastor of Saint Matthew Parish, Stroudsburg, noted, “By being here today we bring everything together in this beautiful gathering of clergy, deacons, women and men religious, and laity.”

Father Williams continued by emphasizing the importance of the renewal of priestly vows that the Chrism Mass affords the concelebrants.

“It is always very special how the blessed oils go out to the four corners of the Diocese with the priests, who are sent forth to return to their parishes for the Sacred Triduum and the celebration of Easter,” he added.

In addressing the faithful during his homily, Bishop Bambera implored all to heed Jesus’ words from Saint Luke’s Gospel that had just been proclaimed: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me; therefore he has anointed me. He has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives, recovery of sight to the blind and release to prisoners, to announce a year of favor from the Lord.”

“The good news for us, brothers and sisters, is that the same Spirit that set Jesus apart for mission during his inaugural address in the synagogue of Nazareth rests upon us as well,” the Bishop imparted. “We are not alone on this journey. Every experience, no matter how hopeful or challenging, is an opportunity for growth and a deepening of God’s life within us.”

Among the lay faithful in attendance was Jennifer Dunn, a member of Saint Robert Bellarmine Parish in Wilkes-Barre, who arrived early to participate in her first Chrism Mass.

“I am here to support the Diocese and our pastor, Father Richard Cirba, who has done so much for our parish and our community,” she said. “I’m honored to be here to support our Bishop. It is really humbling to be in the presence of all these great priests.”

Currently in his second year of formation for the Permanent Diaconate program, Frank Fanelli of Lackawaxen was invited, along with his wife Nancy, to be at their first Chrism Mass last year. “This Mass is just so impressive,” he said. “Even if we weren’t invited we would be coming back this year.”

Nancy added, “We’re just so honored and privileged to be here for such a great celebration, with all of the beautiful music.”

Sara Jenkins of Larksville and a parishioner at All Saints Parish, Plymouth, remarked, “It is really impressive to be able to see all the priests of the Diocese come together as one. It’s always great to experience the loud round of applause they receive on their way out of the Cathedral after Mass.”

SCRANTON – Throughout the Diocese of Scranton’s 155-year history, teaching the Catholic faith to its young people has been one of its most fundamental missions.

To ensure Catholic school education will continue for decades to come, the Diocese of Scranton is launching “Our Faith. Our Students. Our Future.” – a new strategic growth planning process.

The process will build upon the many successes the 19 Catholic schools in the Diocese of Scranton have seen over the last few years and proactively address challenges along the way.

“As we examine our current state, we are poised and ready for this planning process and see it as an opportunity to make our extraordinary Catholic school education in the Diocese of Scranton available for generations to come,” Kristen Donohue, Diocesan Secretary of Catholic Education/Superintendent of Catholic Schools, said.

Over the last several years, Catholic schools in the Diocese of Scranton have distinguished themselves in several different ways. During the COVID-19 pandemic, students, families, educators, administrators and priests worked together to be innovative and became a benchmark for other schools to follow.

“In the safest learning environment possible, schools not only opened their doors for in-person education, but did so with compassion,” Donohue continued. “We continued to focus on allowing each student the opportunities to grow to his/her God-given potential. We continued to monitor academic growth through regular assessments, using this data to provide responsive and appropriately rigorous, differentiated instruction.”

It is from this position of strength that Diocesan Catholic schools will plan for the future.

“I am hopeful that when this process is complete, we won’t simply set goals and objectives for our 19 schools for the next five or 10 years,” the Most Rev. Joseph C. Bambera, Bishop of Scranton, said. “Hopefully we’ll be able to continue to make Catholic education affordable and accessible to a new generation of students who we will welcome into our schools.”

Bishop Bambera is hopeful the strategic growth planning process will give everyone a voice in shaping the future. Whether it is through surveys, interviews, working groups or simply praying for the planning process, the bishop is hopeful everyone will participate.

“I want to stress that we are not going into this process with some preconceived ideas or plans to change or to reorganize our system. We did that already,” Bishop Bambera added. “Instead, we need to assess the current reality, we need to define what our priorities are and we need to continue to do everything we can to develop a strong, financially sustainable vision for our Catholic schools allowing them to remain vibrant and strong.”

For the last two years, enrollment in many Catholic schools has increased, so one of the challenges ahead is examining best practices for recruitment and retention of students and school families in order to continue seeing increases in enrollment.

Likewise, overall financial stability, addressing aging infrastructure, and recruiting and retaining dedicated teachers and administrators will be critical.

“We need to face our challenges with the same strength, creativity and confidence seen throughout the past four years,” Donohue noted.

The areas of focus for the strategic growth planning process will align with the National Standards and Benchmarks of Effective Catholic Elementary and Secondary Schools: vibrant Catholic identity; academic excellence; governance, leadership and engagement; and operational vitality and financial stability.

The timeline for “Our Faith. Our Students. Our Future” will be divided into phases and take between one and two years to complete. The first phase involves data collection and analysis. The second phase focuses on the development of the strategic plan itself and the third phase involves implementation.

Bishop Bambera said the planning process will allow our Catholic schools an opportunity to grow, learn, change, improve, and move closer to the vision that God has for us.

“It’s important for us to look at where we are, to take this moment and be proactive, to reflect, to think, to pray and to plan for how we can be better – and how we can take where we are – and really carry it into the future,” he said.

Additional information and updates on “Our Faith. Our Students. Our Future” will be available on the Diocese of Scranton website as the process progresses.

SCRANTON – The liturgies of Holy Week began with the celebration of Mass for Palm Sunday, April 2, in parishes around the Diocese of Scranton.

At the Cathedral of Saint Peter, hundreds gathered as the Most Rev. Joseph C. Bambera, Bishop of Scranton, served as principal celebrant for the 12:15 p.m. liturgy.

“God is love, and the cross of Christ, which looms over the message of the scriptures this day, is the supreme proof, the historical demonstration of this reality,” Bishop Bambera said during his homily. 

The Most Rev. Joseph C. Bambera, Bishop of Scranton, begins the blessing of the palms in the Cathedral Prayer Garden April 2, 2023.

On Palm Sunday, the Church celebrates Christ’s triumphal entrance into Jerusalem to accomplish the Paschal Mystery of His death and resurrection. The Gospels record the arrival of Jesus riding into the city on a donkey, while the crowds spread their cloaks and palm branches on the street and shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David” and “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.”

The bishop began the Mass by blessing palms in the Cathedral Prayer Garden and then processing down Wyoming Avenue to enter the Cathedral.

“We’re reminded in Saint Paul’s letter to the Philippians that although He was God, Jesus emptied Himself and took the form of a slave, a servant,” Bishop Bambera explained. “He sought, according to His Father’s plan, to embrace the brokenness and suffering of our world in order to save us from ourselves and to give us a way forward in life.”

Bishop Bambera will also celebrate Masses for the Sacred Paschal Triduum at the Cathedral of Saint Peter.

On Holy Thursday, April 6, the Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper, which marks the day on which Christ instituted the Holy Eucharist and the priestly Order, will be celebrated at 5:30 p.m.

On Good Friday, April 7, the Commemoration of the Passion and Death of the Lord will begin at 12:10 p.m.

Holy Saturday, April 8, is the day that the Church waits at the Lord’s tomb in prayer, meditating on His passion and death and awaiting His resurrection. Bishop Bambera will be the principal celebrant and homilist of the Easter Vigil Mass at the Cathedral beginning at 8 p.m.

On the Holy Night of Easter, many individuals who have participated in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) will become fully initiated Catholics by the celebration of their Baptism, Confirmation, and reception of the Eucharist for the first time. This year, 162 people are expected to celebrate in parishes throughout the Diocese. They join tens of thousands of other individuals throughout the world who will become members of the Church that night.

Easter Sunday of the Resurrection of the Lord is the most joyous day in the Church year. This joy overflows into the 50 days of the Easter season, which concludes on Pentecost Sunday. On Easter Day, Bishop Bambera will celebrate a Pontifical Mass at 10:00 a.m. at the Cathedral.

LARKSVILLE – As the month of March ended, so too did a series of 12 Lenten Holy Hours celebrated by the Most Rev. Joseph C. Bambera, Bishop of Scranton.

Beginning at Saint Rose of Lima Parish in Carbondale Feb. 23 and ending at Saint John the Baptist Parish in Larksville March 29, Bishop Bambera joined the faithful of each deanery to proclaim and adore the presence of Jesus in the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist.

Hundreds of faithful attended each of the Lenten Holy Hours – meaning overall that several thousand people experienced the love of Jesus poured forth from the Cross.

Organized to help highlight the National Eucharistic Revival that has been underway for nearly one year – the Lenten Holy Hours were a time for the Church to discover anew the life-giving strength of the Eucharist – the living presence of Jesus among us.

During his homily at each stop, Bishop Bambera emphasized three important realities that he hoped the faithful would take from each Holy Hour.

First, through the Eucharist, we learn that we are incorporated into Christ’s Paschal Mystery – His suffering, death and resurrection – through which we are saved.

Bishop Bambera stated,

“‘For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup,’ Saint Paul reminds us, ‘you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes.’ What does that mean for us? It means that we do not suffer alone, for Christ suffers with us. It means that the deaths that we experience are known and grieved by Christ. It means that like Jesus who rose, despite our suffering and deaths, we have hope for new life in this world and the world to come.”

“But to make this mystery our mystery, Christ, in the Eucharist, first beckons us to remove the facades that we so often use to mask our troubles and disappointments, our suffering and pain, our failures, sins and death and to come to him as we are to be forgiven, healed and created anew through the power of his resurrection. His death is our death. His rising to new life is our rising as well.”

Second through the Eucharist, we are bound together as brothers and sisters.

Bishop Bambera continued,

“Recall the words of Pope Benedict in this first encyclical, Deus Caritas Est, ‘I cannot possess Christ just for myself … Communion draws me out of myself towards him and thus also towards unity with all Christians.’ That means that while the love of God given to us through Christ is without conditions, it is not without consequences. Communion with the Eucharistic body of Christ must be accompanied by our communion with the mystical body of Christ, which is the Church – our brothers and sisters.”

Third, Through the Eucharist, we are sent forth on mission – to be the living presence of Jesus in our world today.

The bishop noted,

“Saint Paul challenges the Corinthians, ‘You who share the same bread and cup receive the same Christ in the Eucharist, and as such, you become one with each other and with the Lord whom you receive.’ You become one with your husband, your wife; one with your child; one with the neighbor you find intolerable; one with the person of color or ethnic background or lifestyle that you’d rather not accept; one with the poor.”

“Eucharist compels us, brothers and sisters, to remember that we not only receive the risen Christ but also are called to something more. Early in his pontificate, Saint John Paul II wrote to the bishops of the world about the gift of the Eucharist. As he spoke of the sublime gift of God in the sacramental presence of Jesus that we honor and adore this night, he also said this: ‘The authentic sense of the Eucharist is that it becomes the school of active love for my neighbor. If authentically received, Eucharist must make us grow in awareness of one another.’”

As he concluded his remarks each evening, Bishop Bambera told the faithful there is nothing that cannot be forgiven and healed by Jesus.

“Allow his mercy and forgiveness to envelop your lives and to recreate your spirits,” Bishop Bambera ended by saying. “Trust in His promise to save. Open your hearts and let His love fill you with peace. Receive Christ and then, filled with His life, become Christ for our broken world.”

To read Bishop Bambera’s full homily from the Lenten Holy Hours, visit the Bishop’s Office page here on the Diocesan website.

SCRANTON – On Ash Wednesday, February 22, 2023, the Most Rev. Joseph C. Bambera, Bishop of Scranton, will be principal celebrant and homilist for the 12:10 p.m. Mass at the Cathedral of Saint Peter in Scranton.

Ash Wednesday marks the start of Lent, a 40-day season of prayer, fasting and almsgiving that ends at sundown on Holy Thursday. It is a period of preparation to celebrate the Lord’s Resurrection at Easter.

Faithful from the Diocese of Scranton participate in Ash Wednesday Mass at the Cathedral of Saint Peter in Scranton on March 2, 2022. This year, Ash Wednesday is on Feb 22, 2023. Ash Wednesday Masses at the Cathedral of Saint Peter this year will be held at 6:30 a.m., 8 a.m., 12:10 p.m. and 5:30 p.m.

During Lent, the following fasting and abstinence regulations are observed:

FASTING is to be observed on Ash Wednesday (Feb. 22, 2023) and Good Friday (April 7, 2023) by all Catholics over 18 years of age to the beginning of their 60th year. On days of fasting, one full meal is allowed. Two smaller meals, sufficient to maintain strength, may be taken according to one’s needs, but together should not equal another full meal, unless dispensed or excused.

ABSTINENCE from meat is to be observed by all Catholics who are 14 years of age or older. Ash Wednesday, all of the Fridays of Lent, and Good Friday are days of abstinence.

“The Season of Lent provides us with many grace-filled opportunities to grow in our faith,” Bishop Bambera said. “May we be filled with awe and comforted by Jesus’ presence in the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist – strengthened for mission – and ready to assume our responsibility in proclaiming the mercy and love of Christ for our world.”

In addition to the 12:10 p.m. Mass with Bishop Bambera, ashes will also be distributed at the Cathedral of Saint Peter in Scranton during Masses held at 6:30 a.m., 8 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. A full listing of Ash Wednesday Masses for all 114 parishes in the Diocese of Scranton is also available on the main page of

Throughout the Season of Lent, Bishop Bambera will also visit every geographic area of the Diocese of Scranton holding a Lenten Holy Hour. A Holy Hour is a period of time spent in prayer before the Lord, present to all sacramentally in the Eucharist. A Holy Hour involves personal prayer, meditation readings from Scripture, hymns and more.

The dates and locations for Bishop Bambera’s Lenten Holy Hours across the Diocese of Scranton are:

Thursday, Feb. 23, 7 p.m.

Saint Rose of Lima Parish, Carbondale


Tuesday, Feb. 28, 7 p.m.

Most Holy Trinity Parish, Cresco


Wednesday, March 8, 7 p.m.

Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, Montoursville


Thursday, March 9, 7 p.m.

Ss. Peter & Paul Parish, Towanda


Monday, March 13, 7 p.m.

St. Robert Bellarmine Parish, Wilkes-Barre


Tuesday, March 14, 7 p.m.

Mary, Mother of God Parish, Scranton


Monday, March 20, 7 p.m.

St. Gregory Parish, Clarks Green


Wednesday, March 22, 7 p.m.

Corpus Christi Parish, West Pittston


Thursday, March 23, 7 p.m.

Ss. Cyril and Methodius Parish, Hazleton


Monday, March 27, 7 p.m.

Queen of Peace Parish, Hawley


Tuesday, March 28, 7 p.m.

Ss. Anthony and Rocco Parish, Dunmore


Wednesday, March 29, 7 p.m.

St. John the Baptist Parish, Larksville

HAZLETON (Jan. 30, 2023) – After serving the Annunciation Parish community in Hazleton for nearly 14 years, the Oblates of St. Joseph have announced their intention to return the administration of the parish back to the Diocese of Scranton on June 30, 2023.

The announcement was shared with parishioners of Annunciation Parish during all Masses on the weekend of Jan. 28 & 29, 2023, in a letter from Fr. Matthew Spencer, O.S.J., Provincial, Oblates of St. Joseph (Holy Spouses Province).

“It is never easy for us as Oblates to make such a significant decision. When we agree to work at a parish, we do so knowing that we will invariably form friendships with the faithful and become part of the parish family itself,” Fr. Spencer wrote in his letter. “I wish we had more vocations and more active priests to assign, in order to maintain all of our ministries in our Province, but instead we find ourselves having to accept what Divine Providence allows us to do with the limited personnel we have.”

There are currently two Oblate priests – Fr. Mariusz Beczek and Fr. Victor Leon – serving Annunciation Parish. After the transition on June 30, they will assume Oblate assignments elsewhere.

In a separate letter accompanying the Oblates announcement, the Most Rev. Joseph C. Bambera, Bishop of Scranton, thanked the Oblates for the leadership of the Annunciation Parish community over the last 14 years. Bishop Bambera said the Oblates announcement means a new pastor will be named for Annunciation Parish this summer.

“Be assured that parish life and all the ministries of your parish serving both the Anglo and Hispanic communities will continue,” Bishop Bambera explained. “The Diocese will follow its normal protocol for pastoral vacancies to find and announce a new pastor of Annunciation Parish once the standard discernment process takes place.”

While the Oblates will be leaving Annunciation Parish in Hazleton, their service to the Diocese of Scranton will continue and be centered at their religious house in Pittston. The change will allow the Oblates to better live out a unique element of their vocation – which involves living together in a community (of at least three confreres) in order to support each other, challenge each other and give witness to the gospel by their way of life.

“The world needs good examples of families in our day, and our commitment as Oblates today is not only to preach this from the pulpit, but above all to witness to this in our daily life as Oblates in community,” Fr. Spencer added.

In ending his letter to the faithful of Annunciation Parish, Bishop Bambera said change is never easy but pointed to the words of Saint Joseph Marello, founder of the Congregation of the Oblates of St. Joseph, as a reason for hope. He said, “He who is worried and full of anxiety in his work does an offense to God and does not say the Our Father from the heart. Let us accept purely and simply whatever God sends us, without being concerned or sad.”

Read Fr. Spencer’s Letter to the Parishioners of Annunciation Parish (English) 

Read Fr. Spencer’s Letter to the Parishioners of Annunciation Parish (Spanish) 

Read Bishop Bambera’s Letter to the Parishioners of Annunciation Parish (English)

Read Bishop Bambera’s Letter to the Parishioners of Annunciation Parish (Spanish)