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YOUNGSTOWN Diocese fares well in giving, drawing



Published: Wed, May 8, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



The bishop said there is strong spiritual and financial support for the church.

By D.A. WILKINSON

VINDICATOR RELIGION EDITOR

YOUNGSTOWN -- The Catholic Diocese of Youngstown has no new abuse complaints, and it reports increased giving and steady attendance.

The diocese has completed a review of the personnel files of all active and retired priests but there were no suspensions over past allegations of sexual abuse, said Nancy Yuhasz, the diocesan chancellor.

There have also been no new complaints against priests of sexual abuse, Yuhasz said Tuesday. The diocese has more than 180 active or retired priests.

The diocese, like others across the country, began such reviews after reports that some dioceses continued to allow priests who sexually abused children to continue serving as priests.

Allegations were made against two local priests in the 1980s. Both left the diocese after treatment. One was later defrocked after additional abuse and the second has announced he is quitting the ministry after an old, but previously unknown, allegation surfaced.

Good news

Also on Tuesday, the diocese released its own survey that showed Mass attendance has remained steady, collections are steady or increasing, and the ongoing Bishop's Appeal is on pace to break last year's record collection. The annual appeal funds diocesan programs and charities and gives rebates to parishes that exceed their goals.

Yuhasz said the survey and appeal numbers were "really good news."

In the statement, Bishop Thomas J. Tobin expressed gratitude to the people of the diocese for their support.

"Despite the recent downturn in the economy and national media headlines about sexual abuse by priests, Catholics in the Diocese of Youngstown remain strong in their spiritual and financial support of the Church," the bishop said.

Yuhasz said she could only concur with the bishop's comments.

Bishop Tobin asked for the survey after people asked him about the impact of the scandal, Yuhasz said.

Pat Palombo, the diocesan director of development and stewardship, called 20 churches of different sizes in different areas of the six-county diocese. Numbers weren't compiled to show the number of churches with increased collections. However, none of the churches reported a decline in giving.

Increased collections

The Rev. Stephen Popovich, pastor of Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in Austintown, Monsignor David Rhodes, pastor of St. Christine Parish in Youngstown, the Rev. Patrick Manning, pastor of Regina Coeli Parish in Alliance, and the Rev. Bradford Helman, pastor of St. Michael Parish in Canton, reported collections are up significantly, the statement said.

The statement said both Catholics and non-Catholics are also being emotionally supportive of the Church and priests.

The Rev. Thomas Eisweirth, pastor of St. Paul Church in Salem, told Palombo that a Presbyterian woman joined them at a recent Mass to demonstrate her support.

The statement quoted Monsignor James Clarke, pastor of St. Paul Church in North Canton, as saying, "People are going out of their way to express their support of our priests through cards, letters, telephone calls and kind words when they meet you on the street."

Bishop's Appeal

A few dioceses nationally have reported a drop in giving, but commitments to the local Bishop's Appeal are up $135,000 over a year ago.

Perhaps most telling, the number of Catholic donors in the diocese is up by 811 people.

The 2001 appeal was the most successful annual fund drive in the diocese's history. Commitments topped $3.9 million on the goal of $3.4 million.

Palombo said in the statement that if giving continues, the appeal will break its $3.9 million goal for this year.

wilkinson@vindy.com




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