PLAINS – Parishioners of Saints Peter and Paul Parish celebrated a century of faith and service on Sunday, June 25, 2023, as they welcomed the Most Rev. Joseph C. Bambera, Bishop of Scranton, for a special 100th anniversary celebration Mass.

Hundreds of people attended the 10:30 a.m. liturgy that was followed by a reception in Bernardine Hall.

Parishioners of Saints Peter and Paul Parish in Plains gathered to celebrate the 100th anniversary of their church building on Sunday, June 25, 2023.

“It’s a real privilege for me to join with this community of believers, this great community of faith, here at Saints Peter and Paul Parish,” Bishop Bambera said as he began the Eucharistic celebration.

During his homily, Bishop Bambera reminded the people that while it is fitting to mark the 100-year anniversary of the grand edifice of Saints Peter and Paul Church, it is much more important to treasure what has been done inside the walls of the church for the last century.

“We will celebrate not simply a sign or a symbol but the power and presence and reality of God here in our midst through this incredible Sacrament of Jesus’ Body and Blood,” the bishop said.

Like everyone in attendance, Bishop Bambera has many memories in the church.

His great uncle, Msgr. Joseph Pilny, served as pastor of Saints Peter and Paul Church for 47 years before retiring in 1973. As a young man he attended baptisms, weddings and even the funeral of his great grandmother in the church.

“As we recall events that have taken place within our lives in relationship to this church building, we recall certain people far more than a building, don’t we?” the bishop said. “Perhaps a pastor, a sister, a relative, a friend, and at the heart of such memories are likely to be found the deepest mystery of our faith – what we will do today in celebrating the Eucharist – the presence of Jesus among us.”

Bishop Bambera also rededicated the church’s altar as part of the Mass.

The parish community of Saints Peter and Paul wanted to celebrate the twelve churches that have come together over the last few decades that now make up its community of believers.

The churches include Saints Peter and Paul, Sacred Heart, Saint Joseph, Saint Francis of Assisi, Saint Dominic, Saint Christopher, Holy Saviour, Saint Stanislaus Kostka, Saint John the Baptist, Blessed Sacrament, Sacred Heart of Jesus and Saint John the Evangelist.

In addition to remembering, Bishop Bambera challenged those in attendance to go forth and continue serving.

“Jesus commands us to use what we have been given in service of our brothers and sisters as He has given us an example. So go, at the end of this Mass, to do the work of God, as faithful parishioners of Saints Peter & Paul Parish have done as they left this church for 100 years,” he said.

Father John C. Lambert, pastor, thanked Bishop Bambera for helping the parish celebrate its important milestone.

“I just really want to thank you bishop for joining us today, it meant a great deal to all of us,” Father Lambert said.

(OSV News) – A new study indicates Americans are pleased with virtual religious services, but more prefer to attend in person now that the COVID-19 public health emergency has officially ended.

About a quarter of U.S. adults regularly watch religious services online, with 21% using apps or websites to aid Scripture reading, according to a report released June 2 by the Pew Research Center.

Parishioners attend Mass at the Cathedral of Saint Peter in Scranton on Sunday, June 11, 2023.

Pew surveyed more than 11,000 respondents in November 2022, well after the pandemic’s peak but before the U.S. government officially declared it over. Over half (57%) said they do not generally attend religious services, either in person or virtually.

Researchers said the online and television worship driven by COVID lockdowns remains popular with 25% of those surveyed. Two thirds of those polled said they were “extremely” or “very satisfied” with the experience.

“When asked why they watch religious services online or on TV, many regular viewers cite multiple reasons,” Pew stated in a summary of the survey data. “But as the COVID-19 pandemic recedes, convenience is the most-commonly selected option — not fear of catching or spreading any illness.”

Worshippers who opt for a mix of in-person and online worship strongly favor the former by a margin of 76% to 11%. Black American adults were found to be “more engaged with digital technology in their religious lives,” with 48% saying they watched religious services online or on television at least once a month, according to the study.

Yet respondents who attended in person expressed even greater enthusiasm for their experience, with 74% extremely or very satisfied with the sermons and 69% with service music.

The preference for in-person attendance is “not shocking,” said Father Thomas Dailey, professor of homiletics and social communications at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Wynnewood, Pennsylvania.

Post pandemic, the challenge is to use livestream worship creatively as a tool for driving authentic community among the faithful, he told OSV News.

“The number of people who said in the survey they watch online because they can’t otherwise get there is, to me, the reason for continuing to livestream,” said Father Dailey, an Oblate of St. Francis de Sales.

Of Catholic adults who regularly watch religious services online or on TV, 16% said an illness or disability preventing them from attending in person was a “major reason” for watching religious services on TV or online, and 23% identified it as a “minor reason.”

Father Dailey stressed that “the fullness of liturgical participation is hearing the word and receiving the Eucharist.”

“Obviously, you can’t receive the Eucharist online,” he said. “But if there is some mechanism by which we can provide the Eucharist to those not physically present at the celebration of Mass, that’s something that enables people to participate more fully.”

Livestreamed liturgies, combined with extraordinary ministers of holy Communion for the homebound, can do just that, he said.

“The person who can’t get to church can participate in the worship online, and then receive the Eucharist from that Mass with an extraordinary minister bringing it to them,” said Father Dailey. “Obviously, there’s a time gap, but you facilitate participation in the Mass as best one can.”

The same arrangement can benefit merged and rural parishes, where priests are stretched thin to cover the celebration of Mass, Father Dailey said.

“You can imagine Mass being celebrated in the nearest city or deanery church, livestreamed to the distant rural churches, where the faithful gather and can receive the sacrament” from permanent deacons or extraordinary ministers of holy Communion, he said.

That approach avoids “sitting at home watching Mass,” he added.

“Our worship is by definition communal,” said Father Dailey. “It’s about communion with God, yes, but also with one another.”

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.