WILKES-BARRE – We are stronger together.

That is the message that Father Joseph Verespy hoped to instill in his parishioners on the weekend of Oct. 7 & 8, 2023, as the new parish he now leads, Saint Nicholas-Saint Mary Parish, was officially formed.

After two years of discussion and consultation using the Vision 2030 Pastoral Planning Process, the parish communities of Saint Nicholas and Our Lady of Fatima were officially brought together in a consolidation.

“I said this is a chance for us to hit the reset button, to take a good look at who we are,” Father Verespy said. “We are located right downtown (in Wilkes-Barre) and it is a chance to bring new life together as one parish and look at the talents that we have and examine how welcoming we are.”

The front cover of the first parish bulletin for Saint Nicholas-Saint Mary Parish.

Saint Nicholas Parish and Our Lady of Fatima Parish were originally linked in 2021 under the leadership of a single pastor, Father Verespy. After examining many of the priority drivers in the Vision 2030 Process, including demographic changes in the community, Mass attendance, sacramental participation, financial obligations and the availability of clergy, the recommendation was brought forward to create one parish out of the previous two independent entities.

“When people see us now, hopefully it will be a parish people want to be a part of, but that is only going to be because we’re in this together,” the long-time pastor said.

In early September, in preparation of the consolidation, a new weekend Mass schedule was implemented. There is a Saturday 4 p.m. Vigil Mass in English and 6 p.m. Vigil Mass in Spanish. Both are being held at Saint Nicholas Church.

On Sunday, there are Masses at 8 a.m. (English), 10 a.m. (English) and 12:15 p.m. (Spanish) at Saint Nicholas Church and a 12:10 p.m. Mass (English) at Saint Mary of the Immaculate Conception Church.

Father Verespy indicated that the schedule is provisional and will be evaluated as time goes by and the new Saint Nicholas-Saint Mary Parish comes into formation.
One of the most obvious changes for parishioners was a new consolidated bulletin on the first weekend of the new parish. The design of the first bulletin was simple and featured only the name of the new parish and the date it was established, Oct. 7, 2023.

“I started my homily by saying, ‘Take a good look at the bulletin. It’s pretty empty, pretty bland, pretty vanilla … but we are going to fill the blanks in here together,’” Father Verespy stated.

Because of the discussions and consultation that has taken place, the first weekend of the consolidated parish was not anything out of the ordinary.

“We are going to bring our common faith, our talents, our time, and our personalities together so when people see the words Saint Nicholas-Saint Mary Parish, they will see us, our shared life, but it’s going to be up to us to do that together,” Father Verespy added.

Because of the consolidation, the new Saint Nicholas-Saint Mary Parish will have one new parish office located at 226 S. Washington Street, which is formerly the office of Saint Nicholas Parish. Office hours will be Monday – Friday, 9 a.m. to noon and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. The phone number is (570) 823-7736.