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The Pennsylvania Province
Like most religious orders, the Oblates of St. Joseph is broken down into geographical units, called either "provinces" or "delegations." (Between the two, a province has a greater degree of autonomy, whereas a delegation is more dependent upon central government of the Congregation, in Rome.) Within the United States of America, the Oblates of St. Joseph have two provinces, one in California (the Guardian of the Redeemer Province), and one in Pennsylvania (the Our Lady of Sorrows Province). Naturally, not every province of the Congregation is able to fulfill the entirety of the Oblate apostolate. Let's explore the Pennsylvania Province in some more detail:
Since all of the United States and Canada is covered by only two OSJ provinces, their geographical "territory" is quite large. The Our lady of Sorrows Province could be said to cover the entire eastern half of the continent, from the Rocky Mountains to the Atlantic coast, while the Guardian of the Redeemer Province could be said to cover everything to the west, including Alaska and Hawaii. In practical terms, however, the Oblates are only present locally. In the case of the Pennsylvania Province, the actual work of the Oblates is limited to the Diocese of Scranton, in Northeastern Pennsylvania. In the past, the Our Lady of Sorrows Province has had additional presence in Middletown, CT, Washington, DC, and Ontario, Canada, though all of those apostolates have now ceased, largely due to a decrease in vocations.
One might wonder, why did the Oblates choose to name the Pennsylvania Province after Our Lady of Sorrows? There are multiple reasons. For one thing, devotion to Mary under the title-3 "Our Lady of Sorrows" has long been a dear part of Oblate spirituality. In addition, it was on the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows that the Congregation received Pontifical approval, for which reason Our Lady of Sorrows is considered the patroness of Oblate vocations, and it is on her feast day that Oblates make their perpetual vows. Lastly, devotion to Our Lady of Sorrows is especially important to the Oblate laity served in the province, many of whom come from Italy, where that devotion has always had the strongest following.
A Brief History
In the early 20th Century, the area surrounding Scranton, PA,
was flooded with immigrants, most of whom were coming from
Europe and found work in Scranton's vast coal mining industry.
Many of these immigrant groups formed communities together, so
that they could live and work with people from the same culture.
Italian immigrants in large concentrations gathered in the small
city of Pittston. There was a problem. The Italian immigrants
spoke no English, and the diocesan clergy spoke no Italian. As a
result, the immigrants had no way to effectively communicate
with their priests. To resolves this issue, the bishop of
Scranton sought an order of priests from Italy who would be able
to come to Pittston and minister to the immigrants there. He
found the solution to his problem in Asti, where he met with the
superiors of the Oblates of St. Joseph. The Oblates said that
they would be willing to come to the United States and care for
the Italian-speaking population there.
What do you do?
The Our Lady of Sorrows Province is numerically small, but we
try not to let that stand in our way. The Oblates provide
pastors and associate pastors for the parishes of St. Rocco, Our
Lady of Mt. Carmel, St. Anthony, and Holy Annunciation, all of
which are full-time apostolates with challenging demands. In
addition, the Oblates staff their own Provincial House, St.
Joseph's Oblate Seminary in Laflin. At present, the seminary is
used for the formation of seminarians (who receive education at
the University of Scranton), and also as a center of prayer for
the laity of the area. The seminary is well-known as a place of
devotion, for daily Mass, for the weekly Novena to Ss. Joseph
and Joseph Marello, for the monthly First Thursday Holy Hour for
Vocations, the monthly Blue Army First Friday Vigil to the
Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and
periodically for other groups and activities, such as the
monthly meetings of the Secular Franciscan Order and the
Diocesan Ministry with the Deaf and Persons with Disabilities.