1895 - 1919
"Memories of Wilkes-Barre"
by Father J.J. Curran
First Pastor of Holy Saviour Church
1968 - 1995
Monsignor James T. Clarke, S.T.L. was named the sixth pastor of Holy Saviour Parish on September 1, 1968. A native of Scranton, Monsignor had been assigned to College Misericordia where he had served as chaplain and professor before coming to East End.
Soon after the arrival of Monsignor Clarke plans were begun for the observance of the Diamond Jubilee of the parish which was held in November 1970.
To commemorate the occasion a Pontifical Mass was offered by His Excellency, Most Reverend Bishop 1. Carroll McCormick. Concelebrants and officers of the Mass consisted of the former administrator, and former assistants and priests in residence at Holy Saviour: Monsignor William Donovan, Monsignor John J. O'Brien, Monsignor Andrew J. McGowan, Fathers Anthony Conmy, Hugh H. McGroarty, Francis Brennan, William Wheeler, Daniel Brown, James McAuliffe, William Kearney, and John C. Gilloegly, who delivered the homily.
Following the Mass a ceremonial dinner was held at the Treadway Inn. It was attended by many parishioners and former parishioners. Among those on the program for the dinner were Monsignor Francis Costello, VF., James P. O'Brien, John C. McKeown, James Ellman, Con McCole, Clair Roos, Francis McCabe, the Honorable Daniel Flood, Bishop McCormick, and Monsignor Andrew J. McGowan, who delivered the principal address.
Two years later members of the clergy and laity of Holy Saviour Parish were among those who were called upon for assistance, when on June 23, 1972, Hurricane Agnes drenched the Susquehanna watershed and the Wyoming Valley with torrential rains. The river rose to forty feet, flowed over and broke through the dikes. The devastation of the water brought unimaginable suffering to the lives of those residing in the flood plain.
Many victims of the storm sought refuge and were sheltered and fed in the Holy Saviour Parish hall, until they were able to return to their homes. Emergency workers were also served hot meals by the nuns, priests, women and men of the parish. The auditorium of the church was used also as a store house for clothing and food donated by the Red Cross and people living outside the flood area.
The offices of the Pennsylvania Department of Health, Education and Welfare, and the offices of Catholic Charities, flooded out of their downtown quarters, were relocated in Holy Saviour School. The official count of the victims serviced by Health, Education and Welfare in their temporary office in Holy Saviour on June 29, 1972 was one thousand four hundred twenty.
Monsignor Clarke served as pastor of Holy Saviour until December 1975, when he was assigned to the pastorate of Saint Ignatius Church in Kingston. The words of Bishop McCormick written on the occasion of the Diamond Jubilee are a tribute to Monsignor and to the people of his parish. He wrote, "The present condition of your parish attests to the fact that the faith has been maintained and is being transmitted from generation to generation. It tells of your genuine zeal for God's honor and glory, of your deep faith in a time of religious turbulence, and of your gratitude to God for the copious blessings He has showered on the parish for the past seventy- five years."
Monsignor Clarke's successor, Rev. John J. Green, Ph.D., a renowned Catholic educator and administrator, was assigned to Holy Saviour on December 15, 1975. A native of Honesdale, Father came to Holy Saviour from Scranton, where he served as principal of Bishop Hannan High School.
Soon after his arrival, a search was begun to find a different and more suitable residence for the nuns; and finally, in 1982, a decision was made to buy a property on Scott Street. The nuns moved into the large home, where they resided until August, 1992, when they left the parish after having served with devoted and untiring zeal for sixty years. Three generations of children reaped rich spiritual benefits and a sound educational foundation through their guidance and instruction.
The old convent was razed and the ground on which it had stood was paved. The spacious area today is used for the parish bazaar and parking for parishioners attending Sunday Masses and church services.
During the eight years in which he was pastor of Holy Saviour, Father Green developed a close relationship with his parishioners, displayed by his concern and interest in their spiritual welfare. On February 1, 1984, Father was assigned as pastor of Holy Name of Jesus Church in Scranton.
Rev. Joseph T. Conboy was named the eighth pastor of Holy Saviour Church, succeeding Father Green. In February, 1984, he carne to Wilkes-Barre from St. Lawrence Church in Great Bend and was transferred to Saint Joseph's in Athens on September 6, 1984.
Father Robert Burnett, former pastor of St. Joseph's Church, Athens, and a native of Carbondale, assumed his pastorate at Holy Saviour in September 1984.
Once again monumental renovations had to be made to the church. Because of its location on top of the hill, years of exposure to storms and the ravages of the weather had taken their toll on the building. The question arose whether to build a new church, refurbish the existing building, or to merge with another parish.
A survey was mailed to parishioners and four hundred fifty-seven responses were received. The results of the survey indicated that two hundred ninety parishioners preferred refurbishing the old church or building a new structure on the old foundation. Fifty-eight voted to erect an entirely new structure, while twenty-four voted to merge Holy Saviour with another parish. Eighty-five replied that they would financially support the final decision - whatever it may be.
Since the final decision was to renovate the old church, an architect was engaged, and when the foundation of the church proved to be structurally sound, plans for the work, the cost of which was estimated to be five hundred fifty-six thousand dollars, were begun.
To finance the project, committee members visited each home and parishioners responded generously, as they had promised, to a campaign which asked for monetary pledges over a five year period, or a substantial increase in their Sunday offering.
Having received this financial endorsement, Father Burnett, John McKeown, and the architect met with Bishop Timlin and his Building and Finance Committee to seek a loan. Because of the uniqueness of the request, which included installing an elevator for the handicapped, and because the request did not meet the requirements to which pastors were to adhere, the Bishop and his committee were reluctant, but were finally persuaded, to lend the money to the parish.
Although renovations were delayed for some time, the parishioners were honoring their pledges, and as a result, much of the work, including a new roof and repair to the spires, was paid for in cash as it was completed. In the end, the amount borrowed from the Diocese was two hundred eighty-six thousand dollars.
When the renovations were finished they included an elevator and new entrance to the church, a new roof and repairs to the spires, complete painting of the interior, new carpeting throughout the church, new kneelers, and new front steps.
In 1984 and 1985, the parish participated in Synod II which his Excellency, the Most Rev. James C. Timlin, D.D. Bishop of the Diocese of Scranton, began in the Diocese. The Synod had a twofold purpose - education and spiritual renewal throughout the diocese, and proposal of statutes and policies. Pastors and their congregations were given an opportunity and a challenge to share in the mission of the Church by proposing changes which they felt would be desirable.
Father Burnett, with the help of Parish Synod Committees held hearings and meetings from March 1984 to May 1984. Each committee explored a specific topic and made recommendations.
The Synod was closed at a final ceremony in Scranton on November 17, 1985. Documents relating to twenty- four different areas of activity were formally presented to and accepted by Bishop Timlin.
Out of Synod grew Renew, another program to help make the Catholic Religion more spiritually rewarding for the laity. From October 1988 until November 1990 parishioners met in small and large groups, engaging in a study of the Bible, attending lectures, and participating in prayer groups and liturgical ceremonies with the purpose of strengthening their bonds of faith.
November 18, 1990, the Renew program ended with ceremonies at King's College and all participating parishes were represented. Individual banners identified groups as they processed in for the Pontifical Mass at 3:30 in the afternoon.
During the pastorate of Father Burnett conditions were changing in the diocese and a shortage of priests was becoming acute. Because of this shortage to staff all churches, many parishes were merged, but their parochial identity was preserved and left intact.
In September, 1987, the parish of Saint Christopher in Bear Creek Township was merged with, and is now served by priests stationed at Holy Saviour. A schedule of Masses and Confessions was arranged to accommodate the faithful in both parishes.
After ten years of faithful service Father Burnett was transferred in July, 1994, to Sacred Heart Church in Plains. The parish honored him with a farewell reception in the parish hall. The welcome news of the appointment of Father E. Francis Kelly as the tenth pastor of Holy Saviour was received in July, 1994, and Father assumed his duties on the sixth of the month. A native of Scranton, Father had served as pastor of the Church of Saint Anne in Freeland for nine years, and as pastor of Saint Francis of Assisi Parish in West Hazleton for three years.
The parish faced the serious problem at this time of the increased cost of education and the declining enrollment in the parish school, and while 1995 has been a joyous year with the celebration of one hundred years as a parish, a note of profound sadness was sounded by the announcement that after sixty-three years, our parochial school would close in June and the last eighth grade class would graduate on June 11.
The Commission for the Implementation of the Diocesan School Study Plan determined that the institution must close "because the school's limited enrollment and consequential high per-pupil cost prohibits the continued operation of the school in a financially responsible way."
The hundreds of young people who attended and graduated the school, and their parents, the nuns and teachers who have served on the faculty, and the priests who have guided and administered the sacraments to the students through these years will hold a fond memory of Holy Saviour School ever in their hearts.
On November fifth of this year Holy Saviour Parish will celebrate one hundred years as a parish. Under the able leadership of Father Kelly and the dedicated work of the anniversary committee plans are being completed for the Centennial Celebration. In April a historical marker was installed on Penn Street honoring the first pastor, Father John 1. Curran. Other observances of the Centennial will include a Labor Day Mass, a parish mission and Forty Hours Devotions, a Centennial Mass of Thanksgiving, to be celebrated by Most Rev. James C. Timlin, Bishop of Scranton, and a Centennial Dinner.
The history of the people of East End parallels that of other parishes in the Diocese. In the time after the Second World War until the present, many changes have come about. Our parish records have long reflected marriages between peoples of different national backgrounds. Ethnic differences have declined and the parish is truly territorial in nature. Education, health services, and light and heavy industries, attracted by the fertile labor field and the access of Wyoming Valley to modern super-highways now employ many of our parishioners.
Through the past one hundred years God has showered Holy Saviour Parish with many blessings. Eleven of our young men have been ordained to the priesthood, two to the deaconate, and eighteen young ladies have answered the call to the religious life. We have always been blessed with holy, dedicated spiritual leaders and religious educators. As the year long Centennial Celebration comes to an end, we thank God for the heritage of our Catholic faith, and pray that with the benevolence of God's grace, it will be passed on to the generations to come.