Community resources such as libraries and religious institutions are good for the mind and the spirit, and these establishments have long been at the center of Greater Hazleton life.
The Hazleton Area Public Library (HAPL) boasts one of the largest literary collections in the county, but you’ll also have access to numerous periodicals, reference materials, and video and audio tapes. With branches in Conyngham, Freeland, Nuremberg and McAdoo, the HAPL brings its valuable resources closer to residents across the region.
The local libraries are part of the Luzerne County Library System, which consists of 10 main libraries scattered across the region. HAPL is also part of the Interlibrary Loan System, which places books from every public library in the state within reach.
Since HAPL believes that children are our future, it has devoted an entire wing to the ongoing education of our youth. The main library on Church Street in Hazleton houses an outstanding children’s program. An entire wing is devoted to children’s books; reading education and youth reading programs are routinely held to encourage area youth to expand their knowledge.
For those looking to expand their world of learning, Penn State Hazleton offers a wide array of resources and provides a link to the vast university-wide library system. Our regional college libraries, like those at Wilkes and King’s, also stack up well against their big-city counterparts.
Our religious edifices highlight the broad ethnic and cultural heritage of the people of Greater Hazleton. English, Welsh, Germans and Scots originally inhabited the communities that are Greater Hazleton. The coal mines lured an influx of Irish, Eastern Europeans, Italians and others; the melting pot of the late 20th century added Africans, Asians and Hispanics to the strong ethnic mix. This diversity contributes to the strong ethnic and religious identities that prevail throughout the region.
Greater Hazleton boasts strong communities of Catholics, Lutherans and Reform Presbyterians, but you will also find congregations zealously celebrating just about every faith imaginable, from Episcopal, Jewish, Apostolic, Assembly of God, Baptist, Congregational, Jehovah’s Witness, Methodist, Reformed Baptist, Spanish and Unitarian.
While economic reality has necessitated the merging of several churches, the remaining congregations are active and strong. Because the spectrum of faith is so wide, it might be difficult for a newcomer to admire the architecture and carefully tended gardens at every place of worship.
Gaze out across the city from a hillside vantage point and you’ll get a good glimpse of the many church steeples and bell towers that dot the skyline of Hazleton. The same holds true for our surrounding communities. It’s a sight that lends a comforting presence of faith.
These very visible places of worship in Greater Hazleton significantly represent the culture and traditions of people who shared all different faiths with the Hazleton area. Eye-catching architectural styles include Gothic, Romanesque, Eclectic and Byzantine. St. Gabriel’s and Christ Lutheran churches both typify the Gothic arch and stonework architecture. The simplicity of the more contemporary design approach for churches can be seen at Faith United Church of Christ. Within Hazleton, there are two Jewish communities, the Agudas Israel Synagogue and Beth Israel Temple.
Greater Hazleton is home to the largest outdoor shrine in the United States. The National Shrine of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which sits just minutes from downtown Hazleton, annually attracts a steady stream of pilgrims from thousands of miles away. This attraction -- the largest outdoor shrine in America devoted to the Sacred Heart -- was built on the side of a hill and has five plateaus. The focal point is the statue of the Sacred Heart crafted from Carrara marble. Carrara marble has been famous since the time of Ancient Rome; the Pantheon and Trajan's Column in Rome are constructed of this beautiful marble.
Hazleton congregations of international interest also attract tourists, pilgrims and lovers of church history. These include St. John the Baptist church, which is associated with the Polish National Church, and Our Lady of Mount Carmel church, which caters to the oldest Tyrolean community in the United States. You can find America’s oldest Slovak Lithuanian congregation a few short miles away at St. Peter and Paul's Slovak Lutheran Church in Freeland.
The fastest-growing church communities are found near areas that are enjoying the greatest push for new businesses and housing. Good Shepherd Catholic Church in Drums, Christ Lutheran in Conyngham and Faith U.C.C. just off the Airport Beltway are examples of churches witness to this exciting expansion of faith and family.
On the flip side, fledgling flocks of creative worshipers are setting up shop in some unique locations. The Church Alive congregation took root in the basement of the PNC Bank in Conyngham.
With the established and newly emerging number of worship centers, you won’t have a problem finding a place that fits your needs or beliefs.
St. Gabriel’s Roman Catholic Church offers Mass in Spanish every Sunday to welcome the growing Hispanic community to prayer. A converted downtown storefront comes alive each Sunday with prayer and song, thanks to an active Latino congregation.
One of many missions that all faith communities share is a desire to offer economic support to the needy. Annual events like the Crop Walk have blossomed. This Crop Walk is a harvest walk-a-thon and garden produce pledge that nurtures Salvation Army meal programs.
The United Way has partnered with the Ministerium for Hazleton’s Christmas Day Dinner. A different community hosts the meal each year.
The Hazleton Food Pantries are supported year round by a slate of active churches. National tragedies like the New Orleans flooding following Hurricane Katrina are regular reminders that the need for fellowship is ongoing.
A simple commitment to openness and a welcoming spirit have inspired a number of community outreach projects. The Meals on Wheels program got its start because several restaurants are closed on Thanksgiving Day. Every Turkey Day, many local families and a significant number of men and women who live alone receive a complete dinner that’s neatly bagged for them to enjoy at home.
Heartwarming and fulfilling joint events are central to the goals of the Hazleton Ministerium. A number of interfaith activities are planned every year. It’s a great privilege for the host community to share its own particular approach to worship. This coming together of various religions is designed to highlight the formal experience one would have within a specific faith. The end result: a greater understanding and trust among members of the various faiths.
Key events include the Thanksgiving service, an annual Holocaust Remembrance, the National Day of Prayer and dates or observances specific to the Jewish and Christian calendars.
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