Diocese proposes church mergers

Other dioceses have been through the consolidation process, one priest said.

By William K. Alcorn

AUSTINTOWN — A large number of parishes are slated for merger under the proposed reconfiguration of parishes in the Catholic Diocese of Youngstown, and they are strongly urged to decide upon one place of worship as soon as possible.

Catholics across the diocese got their first look at the proposed reconfiguration plan at a series of meetings in each deanery Wednesday.

About 200 attended Mahoning County’s North and South Deanery meeting at Immaculate Heart of Mary in Austintown, where the plan was explained and committees from the parishes involved were asked to critique the plan with regard to the deanery and their parish.

Father Stephen Popovich of Immaculate Heart, dean of the North Deanery, and Father Nicholas Shori of St. Paul in New Middletown, dean of the South Deanery, led the meeting.

However, only new information will be considered, said Father Shori. He said Bishop George Murry will make a final decision on the plan by May 23.

Under the plan, the parishes are divided into categories: Single units, or stand- alone that remain as they are; collaborative units, where a grouping of two or more parishes are served by one or more priests and the parishes will retain their building, pastoral and financial councils; and merged units, in which two or more parishes form a single new parish with a common staff at a single location.

Although the parishes in the merged category have the option of working out for themselves which church will remain, they are urged to make the decision quickly, or at some point the diocese will make it for them, said Father Shori.

He described this as a historic time for the diocese, “as we chart the path for the future trusting God is with us. All of us realize we cannot continue on the same path. Other dioceses around us have done this; now it our turn,” he said.

Father Popovich said that in Mahoning County the suggested mergers and collaboration took into consideration the various ethnic populations. “One of the neat aspects of the plan is that it respects heritage,” he said.

Comments from the tabletop work sessions, for the most part, had similar themes.

“We knew this was coming,” said Bob Yankle of St. Elizabeth in Campbell.

The plan has St. Elizabeth, St. John the Baptist, St. Joseph the Provider, St. Lucy and St. Rose of Lima, all in Campbell, merging into one parish with two worship sites and one pastor.

Besides finances, one of the more serious problems facing the diocese is the shortage of priests. Nearly two-thirds of the 96 active priests are 60 or older and 36 could retire in the next five years. The numbers of seminarians now studying for the diocese is 14.



The proposed plan for the reconfiguration of the Diocese of Youngstown lists single, or stand alone parishes; collaborative units, which are a grouping of two or more parishes in which the parishes retain separate identities but share staff, resources and programming; and merged units, where two or more parishes form a new consolidated parish in which they are urged to as quickly as possible choose one worship site.

Columbiana (County) Deanery

Present number of clergy, 8; proposed number of clergy, 4.

Collaborative units: St. Jude, Columbiana and Our Lady of Lourdes, East Palestine. St. Paul, Salem; St. Patrick, Leetonia.

Merged units

St. George, Lisbon; St. Agatha Mission, West Point; St. John , Summitville; St. Philip Neri, Dungannon; St. Patrick, Salineville.

St. Aloysius and St. Ann, East Liverpool; Immaculate Conception, Wellsville.

Mahoning North and South Deaneries

Present number of clergy, 30; proposed number of clergy, 25, including parochial vicars. Numbers do not include St. Dominic, which is staffed by Dominican priests.

Single units: St. Columba, Youngstown; Holy Rosary, Lowellville; St. Edward, Boardman; St. Brendan, Youngstown; St. Patrick, Youngstown.

Merged units: St. Nicholas and Holy Trinity, Struthers; Immaculate Conception and Sacred Heart, Youngstown; St. Catherine, Lake Milton, and St. James, North Jackson.

Trumbull (County) Deanery

Present number of clergy, 17; proposed number of clergy, 13. Numbers do not include Queen of the Holy Rosary.

Single units: St. William, Champion; St. Robert, Cortland; St. Patrick, Hubbard; St. Mary and St. Joseph, Newton Falls; Queen of the Holy Rosary, Vienna; Blessed Sacrament, Warren; and Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Niles.

Collaborative units: St. Stephen, Niles, and St. Mary, Mineral Ridge; St. Rose, Girard, and Our Lady of Perpetual Help, McDonald.

Merged units: St. Bernadette, Masury, and St. Vincent de Paul, Vienna; St. James and Sts. Cyril & Methodius, Warren; St. Mary and St. Joseph; St. Pius X and Christ Our King, Warren.

Source: Youngstown Catholic Diocese

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