St. Ann's Dedicated as Basilica

by Lynne Black Shedlock - Scranton Sunday Times

St Ann'sOctober 19, 1997: The faithful packed into the dedication of St. Ann's Shrine Church as a basilica Saturday at a special two-hour Mass in which Cardinal Achille Silvestrini brought special words of greeting from Pope John Paul II.

"He is confident that through the prayer and worship offered in the Minor Basilica of St. Ann, through the preaching of the Word and the celebration of the Sacraments, ever deeper fellowship with Christ, and through Him, union with the Father and the Holy Spirit will be attained.

"With these sentiments, the Holy Father willingly imparts his apostolic blessing to all who gather for this happy occasion."

Silvestrini, prefect of the Congregation of Oriental Churches in Rome, was credited by the Rev. Richard Burke, director of the West Scranton basilica, with assisting in the efforts to designate the shrine. "He has the ear of our Holy Father," Bishop James Timlin said prior to the Mass. "He has played a very, very important role."

Designation as a Basilica

Designation as a basilica is a rare honor, according to Timlin. Of the 20,000 Catholic churches in this country, the Vatican has named less than 50 as minor basilicas.

"This is certainly a very important day for all of us in the Diocese of Scranton," the bishop said during his homily. But he noted that since the announcement of the designation was made, people have been asking, "What is a basilica?"

Timlin said that the Pope has recognized all the good work that has been done at St. Ann's and that he is telling those associated with the basilica to keep up the good work.

Basilica's Two Symbols

Two symbols come to St. Ann's as a result of the designation, Timlin said.They are a bell and an "umbrellino," or umbrella, bearing the Pope's coat of arms.

"These are telling us that this church is now a basilica,": he said.

The symbols represent the fact that, when the Pope would personally come to a basilica designation, the bell would be rung before him and the umbrella would be held over him by the papal entourage, Timlin explained.

Both symbols were blessed by Silvestrini during the Mass.

"When we see these two things, the bishop said, "it should remind us of his goodness. Being named as a basilica connects this church in a special way with Rome."

To Move People to Pray

Timlin reminded those present that one of the principal functions of a church is to move those who enter it to pray. A church can aid those weary of secular pursuits to a moment of God's grace, and then anything can happen -- even salvation.

"We marvel at the exquisite beauty of this church," he said. "How much of the beauty of heaven will it suggest to sinners?"

Still, he said, even as worshippers admire the pulpit, the confessional, the other parts that make up the church -- the bounty of God's grace at work within and around those parts is admired even more.

"Truly Sacred Ground"

Silvestrini said during his remarks that there were three questions to be answered when he was asked during a visit three years ago about the possibility of the Pope raising the shrine to a basilica. The questions were: Is this a holy place? Is it a place of special prayer and devotion? Is it a citadel of faith?

"I saw and heard the positive answers before, during and after the solemn Mass I concelebrated with you and for you on that Tuesday night in October some three years ago," he said. "This is truly a holy place. This is truly sacred ground."

Silvestrini thanked Timlin for his homily and congratulated the Passionist community of St. Ann's for its work to create the basilica, a $3.5 million renovation project.

"I realize it is the work of so many, so very many people," he said. "It is your work, and we praise you for your great faith."

St. Anns Media

The daily Mass from St. Anns Shrine in Scranton, PA is one of the highest-rated daily shows on the national cable network Odyssey." (David Briggs, Associated Press, October 19, 1996)

"One of the more popular programs" on the Odyssey Channel "is a Catholic Mass broadcast Monday through Friday from St. Ann's Shrine in Scranton." (Tracy Early, Catholic News Service, June 25, 1996.)

In response to a 30-second ad offering information on the Catholic Church during a two-week period in February, 1997, more than 2,000 people called seeking to know more about the Mass and the Catholic Church.

Sundays Since 1991

Saint Ann's Media has produced "The Mass" for the Odyssey Channel since 1991. The Odyssey Channel reaches 25,874,000 homes across the United States.

While the general audience for Odyssey is 53% women, the audience composition for the daily Mass is split between women and men -- 60% to 40%. Most viewers are age 35 and over.

According to one survey, the audience for the "Daily Mass" views the program, on average, "4.5 times per quarter, an above-average program frequency . . .Daily Mass viewers watch frequently and for a long length of tuning . . . far above the cable program average. Focus group research documents that Daily Mass viewers are devoted to the program."

The Scranton group uses television, radio and the Internet to bring the full impact of the Gospel message to people across the country and around the world. Its web-site (themass.org) provides readings, homilies, petitions, audio homilies and petitions every day. Its interfaith web-site (prayerline.org) provides a prayer outlet for people of every religious persuasion.

Six Cable Programs Weekly

St. Ann's Media currently produces six programs a week for national satellite cable TV on the Odyssey Channel: Sundays at 9 am., and Monday through Friday at 9 am. (all EST). The first daily Mass telecast was on April 4, 1994.

The Odyssey Channel is operated by the National Interfaith Cable Coalition, a consortium of more than 50 national faith groups, including Catholic, Jewish, Protestant and Eastern Orthodox traditions.

For additional coverage, every Sunday the Fox affiliate for Northeastern and Central Pennsylvania (Fox-38, WOLF-TV) beams the 10 am. Sunday Mass from St. Ann's Basilica to more than 1.8 million viewers in the region. And Catholic Television of the Scranton Diocese (CTV) airs the Mass to more than 175,000 viewers every Sunday at 7 pm.

Novenas and Rosaries

Besides the telecasting of the Mass, the Media broadcasts the annual 10-day Solemn Novena to St. Ann to northeastern and central Pennsylvania on CTV and Fox-38. It's been a most popular religious festival for over 70 years.

Since May, 1993 CTV and Fox-38 have been airing "St. Ann's Weekly Novena," now also available in the Rockville Centre diocese on Long Island, NY.

And every week, the Scranton-based group produces three radio programs for northeastern and central Pennsylvania: "Faith in Action," (Sundays 6:30 am) and "The Rosary from St. Ann's Basilica," (Sunday, 5 pm.)

St. Ann's Media is privileged to bring the Mass, Jesus' greatest prayer, to people all across the country. The Catholic Church, at the Second Vatican Council, described the Eucharistic sacrifice of the Mass as "the source and summit of Christian life." It also highlighted the Mass as a central means of bringing people to Christ:

"Missionary activity makes Christ present through preaching and the celebration of the Sacraments of which the Eucharist is the center and the summit."
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