SCRANTON – Born and raised just one street over from the Basilica of the National Shrine of Saint Ann, Kathy Dennebaum feels a deep connection to the annual Solemn Novena. She makes it a priority to attend services each year.

“I’ve had three major intentions that I’ve brought to the Novena and all three of them came to fruition so I’m a firm believer,” she explained.

Crowds gather on the lawn of the Basilica of the National Shrine of Saint Ann on July 26, 2023.

An estimated 8,000 to 10,000 people attended Novena services each day this year.
“This has been a very sacred place since I was a little kid. My grandmother and grandfather had nine children that came here and were all members of this parish until they died,” Dennebaum added. “I just like to come and listen to the priests when they speak. A lot of times it’s very meaningful.”

The West Scranton native, who has been married to her husband Mark for 45 years, now bring their own grandson to experience the peace that comes from the prayerful place.

“I think it goes back to the fact that we grew up here and we’d like to have him be part of what we were part of when we were young,” Mark Dennebaum said.

This year marked the 99th year for the annual Novena that began July 17, 2023. The Novena concluded July 26, the Feast of Saint Ann.

“We never miss it, my whole family of eight sisters and brothers,” Patricia DeNapoli, a parishioner of Saints Anthony and Rocco Parish in Dunmore, said. “No matter what I ask, somehow, someway, it gets answered. You have to believe. If you don’t have faith there is nothing else!”

Very Rev. Richard W. Burke, C.P., rector of Saint Ann’s Shrine Basilica, said the annual Novena remains popular because Saint Ann is such a powerful intercessor.

“Every week we get letters and calls and have conversations with people who had their prayers answered one way or another through the intercession of Saint Ann,” Father Richard said.

With the centennial anniversary of the Solemn Novena quickly approaching, Father Richard believes its importance and relevance is just as important as when it started in 1924.

“Just think about all the major issues that we have to pray about. We can influence them through the gift of our prayers that God gives to us, we can influence the events of the world,” Father Richard stated. “The end of the hostility in Ukraine is a prayer that is on everybody’s mind. When they send in their petitions to put at the Altar of Saint Ann, nine out of ten of them have peace in Ukraine on those petitions.”

Jacob and Matthew Metzger, twins who grew up in West Scranton, began attending the Novena at a young age.

“This is the holiest ground I could be on,” Matthew said. “It is the greatest time of the year. It brings us a lot of peace and a lot of happiness to come down here.”

At 20 years old, the twins, who are both pre-med students, now volunteer every year at the food stand at the Solemn Novena to Saint Ann.

“It is such an amazing place to be. Everyone is kind and loving and filled with the Holy Spirit,” Jacob said. “It’s a family environment here. We all love what we do. We all love helping the people and putting a smile on people’s faces every day.”

With the 2023 Novena just having wrapped-up, coordinators say they will not waste any time in getting ready for next year.

“We’re going to get a committee going in August to begin planning what is going to happen next year. We already have some suggestions,” Father Richard hinted. “It will be very special.”

SCRANTON — On the cusp of its centennial-year celebration in 2024, the 99th annual Solemn Novena to Saint Ann at the Basilica of the National Shrine of Saint Ann in West Scranton, in honor the mother of the Blessed Virgin Mary, will open on Monday, July 17. It will continue with nine days of Eucharistic worship, devotional prayer and preaching, culminating with the celebration of the Feast of Saint Ann on Wednesday, July 26.

Very Rev. Passionist Father Richard Burke, rector of the Saint Ann Passionist Monastery and director of the Saint Ann National Shrine Basilica, announces the guest preachers for this year’s Solemn Novena will be Passionist Father Melvin Shorter and Passionist Brother Andre Mathieu.

The clerical speakers will focus their messages of devotion and inspiration on the 2023 Novena theme: “Intimacy with Jesus.”

A native of Baltimore, Md., Father Melvin currently serves as rector of Our Lady of Florida Spiritual Center in North Palm Beach, Fla. After entering the Passionist Novitiate in Pittsburgh more than 40 years ago, he made his first profession of vows as a member of the Congregation of the Passion and eventually earned his Master of Divinity degree from the Catholic Theological Union.

Upon graduation, Father Melvin was ordained to the priesthood for the Passionist order in New York, after which he returned to Pittsburgh for his first ministerial assignment. Within a year, he was requested to join four other confreres to establish a Passionist presence in Greenville, N.C., where he served at Saint Gabriel Parish.

Father Melvin subsequently became a member of the parish staff at Saint Paul of the Cross faith community in Atlanta, where he would assume the pastorate of the parish in 1990. While stationed in Georgia, the priest was elected to the congregation’s Provincial Council as a Consultor and also participated in Passionist media ministry.

In 2010, Father Melvin transferred to Europe, where he joined the staff at Saint Joseph Parish in Paris — the only all-English speaking parish in France. Ministering with an ecumenical commission in Paris, the American Passionist spiritually supported members of various faith communities whose worship celebrations were offered in English.

While serving at the parish, Father Melvin also conducted Bible study groups, prepared families for the Sacrament of Baptism, and served as chaplain for the Missionary Sisters of Charity.

Brother Andre, a native of Hartford, Conn., professed his religious vows as a member of the Passionist congregation in 1962. During the past 60 years, he has served in various pastoral, formation and leadership positions in the Eastern Province region of his religious order.

As a member of the Passionist Preaching Ministry for 18 years, Brother Andre has directed parish missions and retreats for clergy, religious and laity in the United States, Canada and the Caribbean.

He holds a master’s degree in pastoral theology from Boston College, as well as a master’s in gerontology from the College of New Rochelle, N.Y. His certification in thanatology (death studies) has enabled the Passionist Brother to direct workshops and retreats on the spirituality and dynamics of grief and loss.

For the past 11 years, Brother Andre has served among the Passionist community at Saint Ann Monastery in West Scranton. During that time, he has served for eight years as a Consultor on the Provincial Council and as assistant superior for the Basilica of Saint Ann.

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 Sunday, and the 3:30 p.m. Novena service is always offered inside the main Basilica church.

Sacramental confessions are available before and after each service.

Special spiritual offerings highlighting this year’s Novena to Saint Ann include the Divine Liturgy of the Byzantine Rite on Tuesday, July 18, at 5:30 p.m., celebrated by Bishop Kurt Burnette of the Byzantine Ruthenian Catholic Eparchy of Passaic. 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 20, 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 22, a Children’s Mass and Novena prayers will be celebrated at 10 a.m., with a special blessing service for all infants and children.

The following day, Sunday, July 23, the Eucharistic liturgies will honor and bless all grandparents in observance of World Day for Grandparents.

Bishop Joseph C. Bambera will celebrate the Solemn Closing of the Novena on the Feast of Saint Ann, Wednesday, July 26, at 7:30 p.m.

The feast day Mass schedule includes liturgies and Novena prayers beginning at 4:30 a.m., with Eucharistic celebrations following every hour from 6 through 11:45 a.m. and at 5:30 p.m. Novena devotions (no Mass) will be offered at 3:30 p.m.
The Mass in Polish and Novena prayers will be celebrated at 1:30 p.m., featuring Polish hymns.