What began as the summer home of Bishop William J. Hafey became a “mission” chapel of Our Lady of the Snows (Clarks Summit) and eventually a parish church in 1967. Our Lady of the Abingtons had its roots on the “Sweeney Estate'' of the 1940s, which the Sweeneys nicknamed “Barberry Heights.” The Diocese of Scranton purchased the 286-acre estate following World War II. It was there that Bishop Hafey would celebrate Mass for farm-hands at first and later neighbors in the area. The “bishop’s Sunday Mass” grew more popular, thus in 1950, he built a larger “chapel” with an activity hall attached. He named it Our Lady of the Abingtons. Over a decade later, the Sweeney home was torn down, but the grotto, greenhouse and chapel remained on the estate.
The “chapel” officially became a church and a separate parish in 1967 when Father William F. Hines was appointed by Bishop J. Carroll McCormick to be the first pastor of Our Lady of the Abingtons. A house, located on West Main Street in Dalton, only a short walk to the church and purchased by Bishop Hafey some years earlier, became the parish rectory.
Parish get-togethers in 1968 and 1969, organized by the Yasinskas and Shimkus families turned into annual Chicken BBQs (1970-1992) and eventually the Fall Festivals (1993 to the present), which the community has come to know and love.
Located near the rectory, the barn had been used over the years to hold up to eight horses, lawn equipment, a snow plow in addition to larger supplies used for the big annual fall events.
Parishioners assisted Father Hines in development and care of the “Our Lady of the Abingtons golf course,” situated east of the church. The parish grounds had everything!
Renovations in the church and hall took place in the autumn of 1981 during Father Joseph J. Hickey tenure as pastor.
Father Joseph M. Boles (1983-2001), the parish’s third pastor, served the longest of any priest during its history – eighteen years. During this time, the parish formed a prayer group ministry. Rectory renovations were also underway in 1998, including the addition of two new office spaces, as well as restoration of the grotto in 1999.
An encounter with Saint Padre Pio in 1959, propelled Monsignor John A. Esseff*, the parish’s fourth pastor, with the help of talented craftsman Bill Emmanuel, to build Saint Pio Eucharistic Adoration Chapel (2002). Bill constructed the altar along with the woodwork in the chapel. Twelve-hour coverage is provided each day from 8 AM to 8 PM in the chapel by regular and substitute adorers, many who are parishioners. When the Adoration chapel opened in 2003, a special 911 memorial in honor of those lost in the terrorist attack on September 11, 2001 was placed in front of the rectory/chapel.
The parish celebrated Neocatechumenal Masses on Saturday evenings under the direction of Father Dave Cramer, who served as the parish’s fifth pastor. He was also administrator of Saint Patrick’s Parish in Nicholson. The Gentile Family managed development of a new BBQ pit and pavilion for the annual Fall Festival in appreciation for Father Cramer’s service in 2005. The pavilion was erected in place of the longstanding greenhouse.
In 2010, Father Edward Michelini became the parish’s eighth pastor and was also assigned Saint Patrick’s Parish – the two parishes were officially linked.
In 2015, the bell from Saint Pius X Seminary (closed in 2004), across the road from the church, was acquired and added to the church’s bell steeple. During that same year, Mark DeBree created the Stations of the Cross as his Eagle Scout project. The stations are exhibited in a semi-circular arrangement around the grotto. These changes took place during Father Thomas J. Petro’s assignment as pastor.
In 2016, Bishop Bambera appointed Father Arbogaste Satoun the tenth and current pastor of Our Lady of the Abingtons Parish.
In 2017, the parish celebrated its fiftieth anniversary.
In 2022, Our Lady of the Abingtons, Saint Mary of the Lake and Saint Patrick's parishes were linked to form a single faith community.
From its humble origins as a summer retreat for the bishop to a vibrant house of worship nestled on sloping terrain, this gorgeous fifteen-acre site continues to thrive in our diocese. Our Lady of the Abingtons Church welcomes everyone to their community, even the lost, with the hope that each and every person will discover the Real Presence of our Risen Lord.
* Monsignor Esseff also served as a confessor to Saint Teresa of Calcutta, who encouraged him to pursue the creation of an Adoration chapel.
In the summer of 1931, Mass was first celebrated at Lake Winola at the LaRue cottage on the Wilkes-Barre shore. Cottagers would paddle to Mass in canoes and rowboats and stand on the porch or sit on chairs inside.
In 1956, with the guidance and support of Father Joseph Nallin, Saint Mary of the Lake Church was completed and dedicated as a mission of the Nativity of the Blessed Mary Church in Tunkhannock.
In 1968, a pledge drive was organized for a much needed hall for the growing Catholic community. Members of their parish donated their time and skills to assist in the construction of the hall, which was dedicated in 1970.
Saint Mary of the Lake Church was designated as a full parish community by Bishop James Timlin on September 1, 1986.
In 1993, Deacon Raymond Pieretti, a parishioner of Saint Mary of the Lake, was ordained in the first class of permanent deacons in the diocese.
In 2004, Saint Mary of the Lake and Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary parishes were linked to form one community.
In 2006, Father Robert J. Kelleher, a parishioner of Saint Mary of the Lake, was ordained to the priesthood. He was a resident of Lake Winola from the age of seven.
The year 2011 marked the 25th anniversary of Saint Mary of the Lake Parish. Bishop Joseph Bambera celebrated the 25th Anniversary Mass of Thanksgiving in September of 2011.
In 2022, Saint Mary of the Lake, Our Lady of the Abingtons and Saint Patrick's parishes were linked to form a single faith community. They also welcomed Father Arbogaste Satoun as their eighth and current pastor.
As the newest and also one of the smallest parishes in the Diocese of Scranton, the parish family of Saint Mary of the Lake today maintains a vibrant and enthusiastic Catholic presence at Lake Winola. With a keen appreciation of their past, they look confidently toward the future, as they work to carry out their parish mission: “To know, love and serve the Lord and one another, in imitation of Mary."
The Dugan’s (Patrick and Margaret) play an integral role in establishing Saint Patrick’s Parish. Beginning in 1854, the Dugans’ home was used as a place in Nicholson where Mass was celebrated by Father Vincent O’Reilly, the Vicar General of the Diocese of Philadelphia, as well as other priests. On September 19, 1864, the Dugans deeded 0.66 acres of land to the Diocese of Philadelphia. This became the eventual home of Saint Patrick’s, named by the many Irish immigrants who helped erect the building, which was located between the Dugans’ home and Wesley Sloat’s sawmill.
On March 3, 1868, the current Diocese of Scranton ceased being a missionary outpost of the Diocese of Philadelphia and was established. Father J.P. MacManus became the first pastor in Nicholson (1883), followed by Father M.H. Dunn (1887) and then Father Bartholemew V. Driscoll (1888), who was the first resident priest of Saint Patrick’s. The parish officially launched in 1888. Nicholson was the headquarters of its deanery with Clarks Summit and Tunkhannock as mission stations.
On November 22, 1890, a devastating fire destroyed the church.
The present day church was built in 1891 with its cornerstone laid on June 14, 1891 and was dedicated on September 24 of the same year by Bishop O’Hara of Scranton.
Saint Patrick Church has been improved over the years with its first parish hall being built in 1942. In 1972, Father Dunleavy, the pastor with the longest tenure at the parish over its history (fifteen years), doubled the size of the parish hall. A garage and adjoining classrooms were built. The rectory was extended and redecorated.
Father John Walsh, pastor of the parish in 1985 oversaw the beginning of the music ministry in addition to the inclusion of lectors. He also initiated the education committee and conducted the adult education program.
In 1987, Father Joseph Kopacz (now bishop of the Diocese of Jackson in Mississippi, since 2014) served as pastor of the parish and hired their first director of religious education (D.R.E.): Bobbie Wright. As years passed Mary Smarkusky oversaw the CCD program, followed by Maria Perez and Julie Harvatine (our present day director).
The interior of the church was extensively remodeled in 1988: the side walls were moved out several feet, all the pews were replaced and the choir loft was eliminated. This same year marked the 100th anniversary of the parish commemorated by a Mass with Bishop Francis DiLorenzo as celebrant.
During Father Evanofski’s pastorate (1992-1996) a new hall was erected with the top floor housing the kitchen and multi-purpose room and the lower-level with classrooms for CCD.
In 2010, Our Lady of the Abingtons and Saint Patrick’s parishes were linked to form one community.
During the 125th anniversary of the parish (2013), the pastor, Father Thomas Petro undertook the renovations of the church’s sanctuary.
In 2016, Bishop Bambera appointed Father Arbogaste Satoun the twenty-third and current pastor of Saint Patrick Church.
In 2022, Saint Patrick's, Our Lady of the Abingtons and Saint Mary of the Lake parishes were linked to form a single faith community.
With its rich history, Saint Patrick Church once coined the “Welcoming Church of the Scranton Diocese” by its then pastor, Father Joseph Conboy (1991), continues to live up to that name as a house of God, where fellowship, support for the community and reverence for the Eucharist are paramount.