Some Mahoning Valley parishes also will be examined, an official said.
By JULIE A. WAGNER
VINDICATOR RELIGION EDITOR
YOUNGSTOWN -- The Catholic Diocese of Youngstown has suspended services at a small parish on the south side of Canton.
The changes at the Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish stem from its size and the shrinking number of priests. The move is part of a long-range look at parishes throughout the diocese, including the Mahoning Valley, that began about 15 years ago, said Monsignor Robert J. Siffrin, vicar general of the diocese.
Sacred Heart, which has about 100 registered households and attracted between 50 and 70 people to Mass each Sunday, was Slovak in its ethnic heritage and attracted a congregation from a wide area, the monsignor said.
"There are so many other churches that are proximate to where they live," he said, adding that the diocese has been discussing the change with the congregation for at least four years. Also, many members are not active because they are elderly and homebound, he said.
Sunday Mass is no longer held, but the church remains open for services such as funerals, Msgr. Siffrin said. The diocese is studying plans for use of the building.
"We have to study whether the people who want to continue to identify with Sacred Heart can support it," he said.
Members of the congregation are disappointed, Msgr. Siffrin said, but they realized this day was inevitable. Two parishes in the area, All Saints, a Polish congregation, and St. Anthony, an Italian congregation, have invited the Sacred Heart parishioners to join them, he said.
Sacred Heart's pastor, the Rev. William Shipe, retired Sept. 1, and the diocese appointed the Rev. Thomas Bishop as administrator. Father Bishop is the pastor of St. Anthony and the administrator of All Saints.
Msgr. Siffrin said a parish should be more than just a place for services; it should educate the young, care for the sick and dying and be involved in the community. Sacred Heart hasn't had a religion education program for a number of years, he said.