Father embarks on new mission

Shori to lead diocese’s reconfiguration plan




Today, the Rev. Nicholas Shori ends and begins chapters in his vocation.

At a picnic today, he says goodbye as pastor of St. Paul the Apostle Church in New Middletown, where he spent the last 17 years. His new assignment, as director of the Parish Implementation Plan in the Diocese of Youngstown, is effective today.

As dean of the Mahoning County South Deanery, he was involved in the Diocesan Reconfiguration Plan. That pastoral planning process was led by Monsignor John Zuraw, former vicar of administration and now pastor of St. Rose Church in Girard. The process began in the fall of 2008; Bishop George V. Murry released the plan at a news conference May 28.

Father Shori said he knew he was on the “short list” of clergy being considered to lead the plan. He said priests’ assignments of today are a process of being interested in a position, applying for it and discussing it with the bishop.

“For me, it seemed like all the ducks were in a row. ... I like this kind of work ... and the challenge,” he said.

Father Shori admitted he was sad to leave St. Paul, where “the liturgy is vibrant, spirituality is a high priority, and the grounds are striking.”

He said he “has a lot of irons in the fire,” but he likes the challenge and diversity.

Father Shori is Springfield Township police chaplain, teaches diversity and medical ethics at Mercy College at St. Elizabeth Health Center, is involved in prison ministry at the Ohio State Penitentiary and is taking on the role of director of Continuing Education of Priests.

Father Shori, ordained in 1974, also was as assistant pastor at St. Luke Church in Boardman, pastor at St. Robert Church in Cortland, a faculty member at Cardinal Mooney High School and the chaplain and director of the pastoral-care department at St. Elizabeth’s.

Father Shori will implement the Diocesan Strategic Plan for Parishes and will work with pastors, parish staffs and councils. He will be involved in the preparation of all canonical decrees and documents and all civil documents for mergers and collaborative units.

What does that mean? Father Shori must be well-versed in church law. This comes into play when mergers of churches take place.

“You can’t eliminate the name of a church that exists,” he said. “It’s a technical thing. A church was dedicated under that name, and it is protected by canon law.”

The new parish may take a new name, for example, All Saints, but the building retains its previous name.

Father Shori said there is a two-year time frame for the plan. But, he noted, the process already has begun for some.

For example, in the Trumbull Deanery, St. Bernadette in Masury and St. Vincent de Paul in Vienna are slated to merge; neither church is large enough to accommodate the combined congregation, so there is discussion about building a new church. Father Shori also noted that some collaborations are already in effect and working.

“This isn’t an end but a new beginning,” Father Shori said of the church mergers. “We’re recreating a structure and identity ... and this is a challenge to the people.”

How quickly the process of mergers and collaborations moves also hinges on priests’ assignments. That is in a state of flux.

Father Shori said his leaving opens up St. Paul the Apostle. And the Rev. Donald King, formerly of Blessed Sacrament in Warren, was recently named pastor at St. Michael the Archangel in Canton, so his former position is open. Who applies where, leaving an opening elsewhere, all plays into which mergers and collaborations will move forward sooner.

What will happen to closed church buildings and religious articles concerns the laity, many of whose families have belonged for generations, and the diocese at large.

Father Shori said buildings will be evaluated by qualified people in terms of their condition and operating costs. This is where good stewardship of resources applies, he said. But, he noted, the diocese wants to be creative and practical in the use of church buildings.

“Some may be turned into museums, cultural centers for ethnic groups, charitable outreaches or sold to a congregation of another denomination,” he said.

Father Shori acknowledged that he “doesn’t have all the answers.”

He said he wants the plan for parishes “to create a strong Catholic presence in the counties ... that will work toward the common good of the community, diocese, laity and priests.”

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