SOUTH ABINGTON TWP. – On behalf of the faithful of the Diocese of Scranton, the Most Rev. Joseph C. Bambera, Bishop of Scranton, welcomed a community of ten Carmelite nuns to northeastern Pennsylvania on Sunday, Feb. 26, 2023, the First Sunday of Lent.

“I speak on behalf of the people of the Diocese of Scranton in saying ‘welcome Sisters,’” Bishop Bambera said while celebrating Mass with them. “We are so, so honored and blessed to have you be a part of this local church, a part of this Christian community of believers.”

The Most Rev. Joseph C. Bambera, Bishop of Scranton, celebrates Mass with cloistered Carmelite nuns of the Monastery of Our Lady of Mount Carmel and Saint Joseph, on Feb. 26, 2023, in their temporary home at the former Saint Gabriel Retreat Center near Clarks Summit. The nuns recently relocated to the Diocese of Scranton after leaving Brooklyn.

Earlier in the month, the cloistered Carmelite nuns from the Monastery of Our Lady of Mount Carmel and Saint Joseph relocated from Brooklyn, N.Y., to a temporary home at the former Saint Gabriel’s Retreat Center near Clarks Summit.

Their current location is expected to be only temporary because the Carmelite nuns have plans to build a new monastery on land in Pleasant Mount in Wayne County.

“This place has had a tradition of being a real refuge for many people. I know it may not be part of your tradition but many people have had retreats here. It has been a place of prayer, a place of discernment and just a wonderful place where God’s people have come together,” Bishop Bambera explained to the nuns prior to blessing their current home.

The Discalced Carmelite nuns, who pray for the Church and for the world, especially for the sanctification of priests and the salvation of souls, decided to relocate from Brooklyn because of late night partying by teenagers and young adults in a park next to their former home that was disruptive to their prayer work.

On their website, the nuns wrote the park has “proved to be a real problem and in recent times, even a danger for our Community … Worse than the noise, however, is the late night carousing, drinking and drugs, as well as the evidence of satanic rituals just feet away from us. Under such conditions it is impossible for our Community to grow and flourish.”

Bishop Bambera uses holy water to bless the general living area of the cloistered Carmelite nuns who are temporarily living at the former Saint Gabriel Retreat Center near Clarks Summit.

In beginning his homily for the Carmelite nuns, Bishop Bambera noted they had been an important part of the Brooklyn diocese for nearly 20 years.

“I know first-hand from Bishop DiMarzio, Bishop Brennan, Bishop Chappetto, Bishop Sanchez and Bishop Octavio, they are sorry to see you leave,” he said. “Their loss, as they’ve said to me, is our blessing and we are so grateful.”

Bishop Bambera also reflected on the Gospel passage for the First Sunday in Lent, which was about the temptation of Jesus in the desert.

“He goes into the desert, into the wilderness, probably something like this part of northeastern Pennsylvania or Pleasant Mount, and He prepares for His public ministry,” the bishop said. “At that moment, in the quiet solitude of the desert, He begins to reflect and discern all the more intently, more so than He had done throughout his 30 years of life to that point, what the Father was calling Him to do and to be.”

Not unlike what the Sisters have embarked on, the desert was a time of “great transition, reflection and change.”

Bishop Bambera told the nuns the real blessing in the Gospel account is that every day each of us is confronted with choices and given the opportunity to hand ourselves over to God and thus be used by God.

“I face choices every day of my ministry as Bishop and I dare say Sisters, you face those choices as well. As the spirit has led you into the wilderness of northeastern Pennsylvania, you face a lot of choices … We simply need to trust in the power of God.”

As he reflected on the former Saint Gabriel Monastery property a little more, Bishop Bambera encouraged the Sisters to trust where God’s goodness and mercy leads them.

“This was a monastery for Passionist Sisters. Providentially, I don’t know if this is in your plans yet, but they had a place where they baked altar breads. I know that is something that you will, or plan, to do as you did in Brooklyn,” Bishop Bambera said.

“May we have the humility and the wisdom to pray that the Lord will touch our hearts so that we may trust in God’s way, in God’s will and in God’s plan, and together in the ways given to us by God help to build his kingdom.”

The Carmelite nuns of the Monastery of Our Lady of Mount Carmel and Saint Joseph are currently raising donations for their new home in the Pleasant Mount area. Plans for new Community call for it to be an authentic Spanish Carmel, like those in which Saint Teresa of Jesus and her daughters lived.

The monastic enclosure is being designed for 24 nuns, a chapel that seats 148 and facilities for baking altar bread and communion wafers that would be sent out for use by parishes across the country.

“The monastery is designed in a Spanish Carmelite style, taking its inspiration from the monastic home of Saint Teresa in Avila, Spain, Joel Pidel, lead designer, said.

“The monastery will even share Avila’s distinctive feature of being situated on a hilltop, visible for miles around.”

Erik Bootsma is the architect leading the planning and execution of the planned project in Pleasant Mount.

“It is a privilege to help to facilitate the growth of such a vibrant, devout religious order,” Bootsma said. “The new Monastery will truly be a beautiful center of prayer, built in stone in the classical style.”

As he ended his time with the Carmelite nuns, Bishop Bambera simply told the Sisters they are more welcome in northeastern Pennsylvania than they know.

“We are very touched by your presence and most especially very grateful for your prayers. I know that is the heart of your ministry and we know that we have a special place in that heart,” Bishop Bambera said. “Thank you for all that you have done for us and all that you will continue to do. I hope you feel at home here.”

To learn more about the plans for the Discalced Carmelite nuns, or to donate to their planned Monastery in Pleasant Mount, visit

TOWANDA – Hundreds of people have already taken the opportunity to grow closer to Jesus this Lent at a series of Holy Hours with the Most Reverend Joseph C. Bambera, Bishop of Scranton.

If you have not had the opportunity to participate yet, there is still plenty of time!

As we approach the middle of Lent, nearly half of the 12 Holy Hours have already taken place in communities including Carbondale, Cresco, Montoursville, Towanda, Scranton and Wilkes-Barre. At least six more Lenten Holy Hours will take place before Holy Week begins.

Bishop Bambera celebrated a Lenten Holy Hour at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Montoursville on Wednesday, March 8, 2023.

The Lenten Holy Hours are being held to commemorate the diocesan phase of the National Eucharistic Revival, which has the goal of renewing the Church and enkindling a living relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist.

Below is a roundup of some of the Holy Hours that have taken place so far:


The Lenten Holy Hours began in the Carbondale deanery on Thursday, Feb. 23, the day after Ash Wednesday, at Saint Rose of Lima Parish.

“This Holy Hour is a great way to start, to begin, the first step, because every journey begins with the first step,” Rev. Seth Wasnock, pastor of Saint Rose of Lima and Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parishes, said.

“To have our Bishop here is just a wonderful experience,” Bernadette Lepre, parishioner of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish, explained.

Each Holy Hour begins with Solemn Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, followed by a period of silent, personal prayer.

“I feel that a Holy Hour is a time for me to have a one-to-one talk with the Lord, to sit and just think of what he wants me to do,” Joan Scavo, parishioner of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish, added.


The faithful of the Stroudsburg deanery gathered at Most Holy Trinity Parish in Cresco on Tuesday, Feb. 28.

“Anytime the Sacrament is exposed, it is a time to be with Christ and be closer to Christ and it’s especially important during Lent,” Michael Ziobro, parishioner of Most Holy Trinity Parish, said. “During our Lenten journey, we’re supposed to be spending more time in prayer and having more quiet time and getting ourselves together.”

Many feel the time is well spent.

“It’s a time of very quiet thought and prayer and this gives our community the opportunity to sit together with these solemn services and pray as we should during Lent,” Midge Barron, parishioner of Most Holy Trinity Parish, added. “The silence of it brings us closer to Christ and I think that is what makes it for me.”

“When the whole deanery is represented and we have multiple congregations joining as one, I think it adds a heightened sense of community to the prayer,” Cheryl Lynott, parishioner of Most Holy Trinity Parish, explained. “It invigorates all of us and I think it’s a special way to pay homage to the Lord.”


The faithful of Lycoming and Tioga counties joined together on Wednesday, March 8, at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Montoursville.

“To be here with the Bishop tonight is just so special to me. I’ve never ever been here with a Bishop,” Sharon O’Malley, parishioner of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, said.

As the faithful gazed upon the consecrated host on the altar – many said they prayed about the great mystery of God’s love revealed to us in Christ.

“A Holy Hour is a great way to slow down from the pace of life, which these days seems to be crazier than ever,” Keith Kuzio, parishioner of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, added. “It is time to just be with our Lord in His peace and His love and to feel the grace that comes to us from the Eucharist and His sacrifice for us.”

Rev. Michael S. McCormick, host pastor, said a Lent without Jesus is a waste of time but a Lent with Jesus is worth the world.

“It is such a glorious gift that He has given us and to know that He is with us, in Adoration, we know that He is there substantially. He’s really, really present – body, blood, soul and divinity,” Rev. McCormick said.


As Father Kevin Miller, dean of the Sayre Deanery, welcomed the faithful to Saints Peter & Paul Parish in Towanda, he encouraged people to let Jesus’ holiness penetrate their souls and minds.

“It’s wonderful because you put everything else out of your mind and you just are in the moment and journeying with Christ,” Karen Stroud, parishioner of Saints Peter & Paul Parish, said.

Some people who attended had never participated in a Holy Hour before.

“This was really the first Holy Hour I’ve attended,” Patti Meredith, parishioner of Saints Peter and Paul Parish, said. “I thought the sense of community, where people came from other towns and priests were here from other towns and the Bishop was here providing a beautiful message.”

The Holy Hour was also a family affair for the Tavani family, who attended together.
“I think it is always nice to spend time in front of the Blessed Sacrament. The opportunity is usually time for private, quiet, meditative prayer,” Heidi Tavani said.

For Heidi’s daughter, Hannah, the Holy Hour emphasized the universality of the Church.

“I think Lent is sometimes overemphasizing, ‘What are you giving up?’ I think sometimes the prayer aspect of Lent gets overlooked so I think having the opportunity to have a Holy Hour in front of the Blessed Sacrament, during Lent, before Easter, helps emphasize the importance of prayer, leading up to Easter,” she said.

SCRANTON – They serve as volunteer faith formation teachers, assist at Mass as lectors and altar servers, and provide food to the hungry and less fortunate in their communities among many other things.

Nearly 600 young adults from parishes and Catholic schools across the Diocese of Scranton are being recognized this month with the 2023 Bishop’s Youth Award.

The Cathedral of Saint Peter in Scranton was at capacity during the first Bishop’s Youth Awards Mass March 7, 2023.

Nominated by their pastor, parish life coordinator, youth minister, director of religious education or principal, the award honors those students in eighth and 12th grade who show exemplary practice of faith and/or commitment to service.

“I feel honored. I’m proud to get it,” Gabrielle Gottlieb, a high school senior from Saints Peter & Paul Parish in Plains, said.

Gottlieb is a volunteer faith formation teacher for kindergarten students and volunteers to help Treasures, the clothing boutique at her parish, as often as possible.

“I just love helping out in the community,” she explained. “I want to be a teacher when I graduate so I am getting used to that. I just love teaching little ones.”

All of the Bishop’s Youth Award recipients were invited to special Masses on Tuesday, March 7, and Wednesday, March 15, at the Cathedral of Saint Peter in Scranton. The March 15 Mass needed to be rescheduled to Tuesday, March 21, because of snow-related closures.

“There are few Masses that take place in this Cathedral throughout the entire year that have this many people,” the Most Rev. Joseph C. Bambera, Bishop of Scranton, said in welcoming the students during the first Mass. “It is a testimony to all of you.”

The honorees and their proud families filled the Cathedral during both Masses.

“I’m really excited. My entire life I have been a part of my parish and it has been a big part of me, so being able to get this award means a lot to me,” Sofia Marica, an eighth grader from Epiphany Parish in Sayre, said. “I’m a lector. I help with our parish’s free meals. I help out with children’s programs where we do activities directed towards our Lord.”

“For my senior project, I’m helping out at Sojourner Truth which is a place for those experiencing homelessness. At church, I volunteer at dinners and help wherever I can. I’m involved in Key Club which is doing a food drive,” Lily Reid, a senior at Saint John Neumann Regional Academy in Williamsport, explained. “I love helping people. I want to major in psychology and hopefully continue helping people.”

Abigayle Cryan, a senior at Holy Redeemer High School in Wilkes-Barre, served as a cantor for the first Bishop’s Youth Awards Mass. She is heavily involved in her parish’s music program, but is also involved in her school’s Student Leadership Council that helps beautify the school and visits local soup kitchens.

“I first joined my church choir in first grade so I’ve been able to build up my confidence. I started as a cantor from seventh grade on in church,” she said.

Melanie Rdesinski, a high school senior, has been an altar server since seventh grade and participates in the Christmas choir at Saint Luke Parish in Jersey Shore.

“I’m a little proud, in an offset sort of way,” she said humbly. “I didn’t know about it until two weeks ago when my pastor said something.”

When asked what he gets out of performing community service projects, Conor Buckley, a parishioner of Our Lady Help of Christians Parish in Dorrance, answered easily.

“It is important to see the happiness in other people. Making people feel good makes me feel good,” he explained.

As he ended each Mass, Bishop Bambera thanked the recipients and encouraged them to continue making a difference in the world.

“Thank you for living your faith. Thank you for being a witness to what you believe. Thank you, at times, for taking a stand on issues that might not necessarily resonate with the rest of your classmates or the world. Thank you for serving individuals who are struggling and on the margins of our world, the poor or individuals, who for one reason or another are shut out of peoples’ lives,” Bishop Bambera said.

The Bishop’s Youth Awards have been given out annually since 1996.

SCRANTON – After going to church regularly for more than 20 years, Jerry Garner of Lenox Township is now consciously making a decision to join the Catholic faith.

“I think it’s time right now for me to join the church,” he explained. “There has always been an open invitation. I just think it was the right time, the right calling.”

Like thousands of other catechumens, Garner will receive the Sacraments of Initiation – Baptism, Confirmation and the Holy Communion – during the Easter Vigil April 8 at Saint Patrick Parish in Nicholson. He has been participating in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, or RCIA, and feels fully prepared for the faith journey ahead.

The Most Rev. Joseph C. Bambera, Bishop of Scranton, addresses catechumens and their godparents during the Rite of Election at the Cathedral of Saint Peter in Scranton Feb. 26, 2023. (Photo/Mike Melisky)

“I have been able to get more in touch with Jesus and God and really focus,” he explained. “The process has been terrific. I’m learning a lot more about the church than what I previously knew and it’s been a spiritual journey for me to go through this.”

Clifford Pinner, who will serve as Garner’s godparent, believes there has also been some divine intervention.

“I have three sisters who have been saying novenas for years. The ladies of our parish, after Mass, will also always say to him, ‘When are you going to do it, When are you going to do it,’” Pinner joked.

Garner is one of 162 people from parishes around the Diocese of Scranton who participated in the Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion at the Cathedral of Saint Peter in Scranton on Feb. 26, 2023, the First Sunday in Lent.

During the Rite of Election, catechumens – supported by their sponsors, godparents, family members and parish ministers – freely proclaim their desire to receive the Sacraments of Initiation to Bishop Bambera. The individuals who have never been baptized record their names in the Book of the Elect. After the rite, the bishop signs the book as a witness to their faith.

The Call to Continuing Conversion is similar for candidates – those who have been baptized in another Christian tradition and seek to enter into full communion with the Catholic Church this Easter. They also publicly profess their intention to receive Communion and confirmation.

Ellen Gomez signs the Book of the Elect for Saint John the Apostle Parish in East Stroudsburg during the Rite of Election at the Cathedral of Saint Peter in Scranton Feb. 26, 2023.

Cassandra Johnson of Saint Michael Parish in Canton is planning to receive Confirmation this Easter.

“My family has been helping me through everything but mostly it has been the calling from the Lord to come back to be one of His children,” the 15 year old said.
Johnson says she has learned a lot about the Catholic faith through this process.

“We’re learning about each one of the Sacraments and breaking them down. I’m learning a whole lot more than I knew before,” she explained.

The Most Rev. Joseph C. Bambera, Bishop of Scranton, served as presider and homilist for the Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion liturgy. He reminded each person that by answering Jesus’ call they are not only affirming His presence in their life but are also committing themselves to embracing His example of service and selfless love.

“You too are being called by God to be here today, to enter into a relationship that has the power to save you from the brokenness of this world and to give you meaning and peace – to do more for God’s people – and to be more than you imagined that you could be,” Bishop Bambera said.

Joseph Maazola and Cheyenne Swimpson, both of Saint Luke Parish in Stroudsburg, are joining the Church so they can be godparents to their niece who will be baptized in late April.

“It was always something I planned on doing but now is the best time because of my goddaughter. It pushed us to move forward,” Swimpson said. “Every Wednesday we have night class for about three hours. We talk about the church and learn what God has created. It is just a wonderful learning experience. You really get to know yourself too throughout the whole process.”

After studying religions for decades, Barbara Clarke and her husband, Dennis, will also join the Catholic Church this Easter.

After being raised in the United Church of Christ, Barbara feels the Catholic Church is the only one not succumbing to societal pressures.

“A lot of churches are changing to become more worldly and I like that Catholics stay with God’s word and do not cave into worldly pressures,” she said.

SCRANTON – Before the 61st annual Saint Patrick’s Parade took to the streets of downtown Scranton March 11, 2023, hundreds gathered to celebrate their faith and devotion to the patron saint of Ireland at the Cathedral of Saint Peter.

The Most Rev. Joseph C. Bambera, Bishop of Scranton, served as principal celebrant and homilist for the Parade Day Mass. As he began his homily, the bishop addressed the morning’s weather.

“Not a few of us breathed a sigh of relief this morning as we dodged another proverbial bullet and snowstorm,” Bishop Bambera joked.

Between delays and cancellations associated with the COVID-19 pandemic and a nor’easter last year that pushed the parade back a week – coincidentally to the Feast of Saint Joseph – there have been a lot of challenges.

“My theory is the Scranton parade woes made it all the way to the halls of heaven. Neither Saint Joseph nor Saint Patrick were willing to share center stage again, so here we are, just where we belong!” the bishop said to laughter.

Mayor Mark Duffy of Ballina, Ireland, center, participates in the annual Parade Day Mass at the Cathedral of Saint Peter in Scranton March 11, 2023. (Photo/Mike Melisky)

During Mass, the bishop also acknowledged two special guests from Ballina, Ireland, in attendance at the Parade Day Mass. Ballina is Scranton’s sister city in Ireland.

“It is incredibly heartwarming to see the welcome that we’ve been given. We’re following the same tracks that our ancestors would have travelled in much more difficult times so it’s a privilege to be here in times of celebration,” Ballina mayor Mark Duffy said.

As the second youngest of 13 kids, Mayor Duffy explained the importance of Saint Patrick in his life. He attended Mass at Saint Patrick’s Church growing up and his home address is Saint Patrick’s Way in Ballina.

He said attending Mass at the Cathedral of Saint Peter before the parade was “very emotional.”

“Coming in the doors of the church, you see the colors and the life and the vibrancy of this building. It is breathtaking. When you come into this church, to hear the quality of the music and the service and the welcome that the Bishop gave us, it is really a lifetime memory being created,” Mayor Duffy added.

Bishop Bambera also reflected on the importance of Saint Patrick and the legacy he left.

“By his work, Saint Patrick fathered a people and a culture. From a little green island on the edge of the Atlantic, the message of God’s mercy and love was generously shared,” Bishop Bambera stated. “Countless numbers of lives have been touched. Our nation has been blessed. And we are all richer in our faith because of God’s gift of Saint Patrick to our Church and to our world.”

SCRANTON – As hundreds of people gathered to begin the Lenten season at the Cathedral of Saint Peter on Ash Wednesday, they were reminded of their need for God and encouraged to trust more deeply in God’s merciful presence.

“Saint Matthew, in today’s Gospel, reinforces the words of the prophet Joel and sets forth in practical terms the lifestyle that we are called to embrace as authentic disciples of the Lord Jesus,” the Most Rev. Joseph C. Bambera, Bishop of Scranton, said during his homily. “Pray, fast, and give alms in support of the poor. But do so not because such behavior will make us appear to be righteous. Do so because such acts for a Christian are the consequence of faithful lives rooted in Jesus, who teaches us how best to live.”

Bishop Bambera told those who had gathered for the rite of the imposition of ashes that the Lenten journey draws each one of us to the very heart of what it means to be a Christian.

The faithful receive ashes during the 12:10 p.m. Daily Mass at the Cathedral of Saint Peter in Scranton
on Feb. 22, 2023. (Photos/Mike Melisky)

“Through baptism, we are brought into the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, which, in turn, invites us to trust in the power of God more deeply and equips us for mission – the proclamation of the “Good News” of Jesus – and the service of our sisters and brothers,” the bishop explained.

As Pope Francis marked the beginning of Lent at Rome’s Basilica of Santa Sabina, he told the faithful that Lent is the time to let go of the frivolous.

Lent is the time, Pope Francis said, “to proclaim that God alone is Lord, to drop the pretense of being self-sufficient and the need to put ourselves at the center of things, to be the top of the class, to think that by our own abilities we can succeed in life and transform the world around us.”

“How many distractions and trifles distract us from the things that really count? How often do we get caught up in our own wants and needs, lose sight of the heart of the matter, and fail to embrace the true meaning of our lives in this world!” he added.

The faithful receive ashes during the 12:10 p.m. Daily Mass at the Cathedral of Saint Peter in Scranton
on Feb. 22, 2023. (Photos/Mike Melisky)

“Lent is a time of truth, a time to drop the masks we put on each day to appear perfect in the eyes of the world,” he said, and to “reject lies and hypocrisy. Not the lies and hypocrisies of others, but our own.”

Pope Francis also asked that the faithful use the 40 days of Lent to: “rediscover the joy, not of accumulating material goods, but of caring for those who are poor and afflicted”; to put God at the center of one’s life and pray and dialogue with him from the heart; and to become free “from the dictatorship of full schedules, crowded agendas and superficial needs, and choose the things that truly matter.”