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Staying safe while sweltering at St. Ann's Novena

Hot summer weather and the annual novena in Scranton often go together.

SCRANTON, Pa. — The blazing sun was shining down on St. Ann's Basilica Shrine during Thursday's novena services.

Many people braved the heat and the sun by sitting in the shade outside or being inside the air-conditioned basilica.

Visitors we spoke with who regularly attend masses during the novena don't let a little heat wave deter them.

"I don't think it makes a difference," said Carol Laboranti from Lake Ariel. "They bring their blankets and their whatever, and they just sit outside and enjoy it."

Many who make the pilgrimage to St. Ann's are older, and the church prepares for the heat and the problems that could arise because of it.

"We make sure that the medic tent, which is done by Lackawanna Ambulance, is ready to go here during the solemn novena for the ten days, as well as our food stands are fully stocked with water, many drinks, other things like that," novena coordinator Brian Hallock.

While there was a nice breeze, folks say they have to come prepared if they plan to sit outside or under the tents during mass.

"Water!" said Sally Swarts of Olyphant. "I brought a wet washcloth. That's it."

Despite the heat, church officials are still getting thousands of people to attend the novena. It's just a matter of when they're coming to services.

"We see them coming in the evening. Yeah, particularly the 5:30 p.m. (service) or they come in the morning. 8 a.m. is always busy here, so before the heat comes," said Hallock.

During the pandemic, church officials had to adapt to keep those who attended the novena safe. That included playing mass over the radio, with the hot weather, that comes in handy.

"You're welcome to sit in your car, listen to the radio and come right through your car speakers. And enjoy the novena in your air conditioning," Hallock added.

The novena is also streaming online for those who want to stay in the comfort of their homes or can't make it there physically.

Check out WNEP's YouTube channel.  

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