Special church service, luminaria vigil honors those impacted by cancer

By Geri Gibbons - For Times Leader
Luminarias, which were placed by members of the congregation, are dedicated to loved ones who died of cancer during a candlelight vigil Saturday at Our Lady of Hope Parish in Wilkes-Barre. - Sean McKeag | Times Leader
Pastor John Terry conducts a service dedicated to those who have died of cancer Saturday at Our Lady of Hope Parish in Wilkes-Barre. - Sean McKeag | Times Leader
Members of Our Lady of Hope Parish in Wilkes-Barre drop off luminarias dedicated to those who have lost their lives to cancer. - Sean McKeag | Times Leader
Ashley Wheeler, 15, of Kingston, holds a candle for her grandfather who died of esophageal cancer at age 83 during Saturday’s mini-luminaria candlelight vigil at Our Lady of Hope Parish in Wilkes-Barre. - - Sean McKeag | Times Leader

WILKES-BARRE — Members of Our Lady of Hope Parish took a moment on Saturday to remember those whose lives have been impacted by cancer.

The local Relay for Life team, known as The Fancy Little Team That Could, held a mini-luminaria candlelight vigil at the evening’s service.

The Mass, in its eighth year, included a procession with the luminarias in the midst of a darkened sanctuary in memory of those lost to the disease and in honor of those who have battled it.

In addition to inspiration and encouragement, the vigil was also a fundraiser, held in anticipation of next week’s main Relay for Life event.

To Melody Hargrave, the special Mass has become a family tradition as they pause to remember family members who have lost their battle with cancer, those who continue to battle the disease and others who have had the disease and are now cancer-free.

“When someone gets cancer, you feel powerless to really help,” said Hargrave. “But participating in Relay for Life is doing something in that it raises money to battle cancer, to improve cancer survival.”

Derek Hargrave, Melody’s husband, talked about improvements in cancer treatment that funding for research has made possible.

“Cancer is no longer a death sentence. Years ago, it was,” he said.

The Hargraves have attended Relay for Life with their children for over five years and they say it’s all about having fun for a good cause.

“When you attend, you do spend money. But it’s really not ‘spending money,’ it’s putting money toward a good cause.”

Church member Sandy Boris also makes attendance and participation in the vigil a tradition and does so in honor of her sister, who beat breast cancer twice.

“When she was first diagnosed, she had three young daughters,” she said. “Treatment allowed her to survive and truly enjoy life.”

Sara Klinges, team captain for The Fancy Little Team That Could and a member of the church, said the mini-vigil was devised as a way to get the word out about Relay for Life while raising money to benefit those battling cancer.

“It has just worked and grown throughout the years,” she said. “People have come to look forward to it.”

First the first time, this year the Relay for Life of Wyoming Valley and of Lackawanna County have joined forces and will be sponsoring the main Relay for Life NEPA at PNC Field in Moosic beginning at 10 a.m. Saturday, June 2.

Individuals or teams spend 24 hours walking in honor of cancer patients.

Candles purchased at Saturday evening’s vigil will be re-lit at that event. ​

Luminarias, which were placed by members of the congregation, are dedicated to loved ones who died of cancer during a candlelight vigil Saturday at Our Lady of Hope Parish in Wilkes-Barre.
https://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/web1_TTL052718Luminary2.jpgLuminarias, which were placed by members of the congregation, are dedicated to loved ones who died of cancer during a candlelight vigil Saturday at Our Lady of Hope Parish in Wilkes-Barre. Sean McKeag | Times Leader

Pastor John Terry conducts a service dedicated to those who have died of cancer Saturday at Our Lady of Hope Parish in Wilkes-Barre.
https://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/web1_TTL052718Luminary3.jpgPastor John Terry conducts a service dedicated to those who have died of cancer Saturday at Our Lady of Hope Parish in Wilkes-Barre. Sean McKeag | Times Leader

Members of Our Lady of Hope Parish in Wilkes-Barre drop off luminarias dedicated to those who have lost their lives to cancer.
https://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/web1_TTL052718Luminary4.jpgMembers of Our Lady of Hope Parish in Wilkes-Barre drop off luminarias dedicated to those who have lost their lives to cancer. Sean McKeag | Times Leader

Ashley Wheeler, 15, of Kingston, holds a candle for her grandfather who died of esophageal cancer at age 83 during Saturday’s mini-luminaria candlelight vigil at Our Lady of Hope Parish in Wilkes-Barre.
https://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/web1_TTL052718Luminary1.jpgAshley Wheeler, 15, of Kingston, holds a candle for her grandfather who died of esophageal cancer at age 83 during Saturday’s mini-luminaria candlelight vigil at Our Lady of Hope Parish in Wilkes-Barre. Sean McKeag | Times Leader

By Geri Gibbons

For Times Leader