There is no timetable for naming Tobin's replacement.
YOUNGSTOWN -- Bishop Thomas Tobin, leader of area Catholics since 1996, is leaving to head the Diocese of Providence, R.I.
Bishop Thomas Tobin, who turns 57 today, will be installed at the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul on May 31. He leaves Youngstown for a diocese nearly three times as large. The Diocese of Providence covers the entire state of Rhode Island, where an estimated 64 percent of the 1.1 million residents are Catholics.
Tobin was in Providence on Thursday for the announcement of his appointment, and he will appear at a press conference in Youngstown today.
Monsignor Robert Siffrin, who has worked with Tobin since he arrived in Youngstown nine years ago, called Thursday's announcement "bittersweet."
"Of course, we are excited for Bishop Tobin," Siffrin said. "We must pause and give thanks to God for what he has brought to the church here and to this community. But there is sadness that he will leave us. ... For me, it's like losing an older brother."
There is no timetable for naming Tobin's replacement, said Diocese Chancellor Nancy Yuhasz.
"I really have no idea," Yuhasz said. "It could be three months, six months or a year. We just don't know."
According to Yuhasz, Tobin now becomes the diocesan administrator. He will retain that post until May 31. After he is installed in Providence, The College of Consulters, a group of nine church leaders from the Diocese of Youngstown, will meet and decide on a new administrator. That administrator will serve until a new bishop is named, Yuhasz said.
Process moves quickly
In Providence, Tobin succeeds Bishop Robert E. Mulvee, who resigned in February. Providence Diocese spokeswoman Karen Davis said she was "a little surprised" at how quickly Mulvee's replacement was named.
"I will do my very best. I will work hard. I will give my heart and soul to this diocese," Tobin said there, adding that his top priority in the next few months will be "to listen and to learn."
Mulvee introduced Tobin, a Pittsburgh native who previously served as an auxiliary bishop in the Pittsburgh Diocese, at a morning news conference Thursday at the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul. He called him a "young bishop" and said he had worked with Tobin in the past.
Tobin compared the diocese with the one he was leaving behind in Youngstown, a community that has struggled with issues of urban renewal, population decline, the viability of some Catholic schools and a declining number of men seeking to enter the priesthood. He said he expected to encounter many of the same problems in Providence.
The Providence Diocese is the 25th-largest diocese in the United States and includes 152 parishes and about 679,000 members.
The Youngstown Diocese includes six counties, Ashtabula, Columbiana, Mahoning, Portage, Stark and Trumbull. This area totals 3,404 square miles.
Tobin said he would continue to address the issue of clergy sex abuse, saying that the Providence Diocese "had an outstanding track record" on the issue. It reached a $14.25-million settlement in 2002 with 37 people who had sued the diocese over clergy sexual abuse.
Tobin also commented on the case of Terri Schiavo, the Florida woman who died Thursday after a prolonged struggle between her husband and parents.
"I think it's a moral disaster, not just for Terri and her family, but for our country," he said.
Tobin left his mark on the church in Youngstown as a "caring and pastoral" bishop who had a special interest in the youth of the church, Monsignor Siffrin said.
"He certainly invested time and energy in our youth," Siffrin said. "He valued our young people and really fostered the growth of their faith."
Under Tobin's leadership, the diocese gave church youths the chance to participate in a youth congress and World Youth Day.
Stepping up to a much larger diocese is quite an honor for Tobin, Siffrin said, but the bishop has proved to be up to the challenge.
"He's a very effective administrator, and that is certainly an important aspect of shepherding," Siffrin said. "And I do think that part of what he brought to us was his skill as a thoughtful and articulate teacher. He invested a great of time in his fresh and insightful writing."
Tobin's legacy also may include the diocese's ongoing capital campaign, Yuhasz said. The campaign, Today's Sacrifice ... Tomorrow's Church, has set a fund-raising goal of $34 million.
The bishop also will be remembered for his creation of an office for pro-life activities, Yuhasz said.