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Diocese proposes church mergers

Published: Thu, February 25, 2010 @ 12:10 a.m.

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


1SickofJimbo(140 comments)posted 5 years, 9 months ago

Why are there 5 Catholic churches in Campbell? Who let that happen.

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2Aware(250 comments)posted 5 years, 9 months ago

The 5 churches resulted from primarily ethnic separatism many years ago. One already has merged (St. Lucy's). Two other churches already share a priest. Another one dropped a Mass. The examples cited are the churches in Struthers. If the Bishop sees that many of those parishioners to Holy Trinity come from areas closer to St. Nicholas, that would be a reason for merging to SN's. Many people closer to Campbell will probably join a Campbell (or Lowellville) Parish to avoid the distance to SN's - and the hill.

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3Millerh113(200 comments)posted 5 years, 9 months ago

The thematic line in this piece is the one attributed to Fr. Shori: "...make the decision quickly, or at some point the diocese will make it for them," Same old authoritarian,supercilious attitude the Church leadership has always had towards lay men and women.. The die has been cast. The decisions have been made. Go home people in the pews. We'll tell you what to do and when to do it.

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4northsideperson(366 comments)posted 5 years, 9 months ago

MillerH, that's always the way it's been with the RC church (and some other denominations) - top-down decisions, as if "The people are sheep, the shepherds have to make all the decisions".

We see how successful the historic churches are in retaining 18-30 age group's interest - see the books "UnChristian" (Kinnaman/Lyons) and "Quitting Church" (Duin)

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5a1belle(9 comments)posted 5 years, 9 months ago

I do not see ST. Matthias Mentioned in the news report. Our pastor alread goes to say Mass at Holy Name on the West side.

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6Aware(250 comments)posted 5 years, 9 months ago

Jerat: Or is it SS C&M and Holy Name 'merge' with St. Matthias? In other words, which will 'house'?

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7Aware(250 comments)posted 5 years, 9 months ago

I tend to agree that SM will 'house' all of them. Re: Struthers, SN's has the school and larger facilities/more activities and a younger crowd. Even more telling is that HT's DOY site is now listing Pastor as 'vacant'. It took them less than a week to update the absence.

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8kids2028(87 comments)posted 5 years, 9 months ago


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9here(17 comments)posted 5 years, 9 months ago

Campbell has so many churches not only because of the varying ethnic groups, but also because they were established during a time when having a place to worship within walking distance was very important.

I'm sure if you looked far enough into the history of where you live, you'll find plenty of previous churches that eventually closed down because of declining parishioners (and therefore financial contributions).

That said, the fact that they were able to sustain themselves for this long seems like more of an accomplishment than a criticism to me.

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10valleyred(1102 comments)posted 5 years, 9 months ago

I am sorry, but the Vindicator made this extremely confusing. Between single, collaborative, and merged, I am completely lost.

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11Aware(250 comments)posted 5 years, 9 months ago

To 'here': To put things in perspective: Several of those Churches were actually of the same 'ethnicity' - the parishioners could clearly 'walk' to the church. In fact, they were adamant that they wanted a church of their own - of their 'village'. There was conflict even of their own nationality. They lost touch that they were Roman Catholic. Your final sentence is sad: yes, they sustained 'themselves'. That was self-centered. They were filled with wronged determination which precluded concern over the betterment over the real purpose. Sad now that the same people they said they loved are charged with their short-sighted plan. They accomplished nothing. They built a myriad of Churches for their 'beloved' family to tear down. The Church is Roman Catholic - and by the way, I implore our Bishop to ascertain that no ethnic flags of any kind hang in our Parishes! It is disconcerting to walk into a Catholic Church and find a foreign flag hanging. An American flag is acceptable. Only.

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12timOthy(802 comments)posted 5 years, 9 months ago

St. Pat's is closed and merged with St John in Summitville ! Well I'll do my praying at home and I'll see the church twice a year Christmas and Easter! Good luck.

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13SickofJimbo(140 comments)posted 5 years, 9 months ago

I agree only on American flag should be hung in and on the grounds of a Catholic or any Church. It was revealing to hear that there were churches of the same nationality built within walking distance of each other in Campbell. The old time priests must have been dogmatic and patriarchs in the truest sense of the word.
Seems like they wanted their own revenue source. All of the existing Catholic churches in Campbell are beautiful. What formula will be used to shut 3 churches down. Seems like 60% of the people will be upset. My suggestion is to rename the 2 churches that remain with the name or combination of names of the 3 churches that close. So in a little way the people from the churches that close have a little bit of entitlement to the new environment.

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14GetReal1006(9 comments)posted 5 years, 9 months ago

Dear timOthy, yes, join the so very many others who only attend on Christmas and Easter and then think they deserve priority treatment. God and worship are only important to you if convenient. How sad!

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15ohio11pm(23 comments)posted 5 years, 9 months ago

These churches in Campbell and Struthers were started in a different time and place. There were no paved streets - if there were streets they were brick. These people did not go to church on Sunday and Holidays - they walked to church every day. They started these churches to worship God everyday with their entire families (that included Grandma who hardly walked and they had to help her along for 10 blocks). They also worshipped in their native languages.

I challenge you to walk to church on a cold winter morning with 14 inches of snow, before you walk to work (remember you walked home from work the night before) - and remember they went out in the morning and took care of their chickens and rabbits and fueled the fireplaces too.

As for the flags - those were not allegiance to a foreign country, but a remembrance of where they had come from and why they had come to this country. Many of them came for religious freedom and to escape persecution. Let us not forget the sacrifices of our forefathers (both the founding fathers of this country and our real grandfathers who left their homelands to come here).

I am deeply saddened by this because this is not just the closing of buildings, but the forgetting of our past.

People go to New York and San Francisco and see Little Italy and China Town and yet within the confines of a small community, you had Slovaks, Italians, Polish, Greeks, etc. maintaining their heritage while joining the "melting pot" that is our great country.

The fact that they sustained so many churches is a testament to their faith and the fact that church and worship was a part of their daily lives and not just Sundays - before you throw stones at people who just worship on Holidays, remember God calls you to turn to him everyday and these people who built these wonderful churches did just that.

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16Aware(250 comments)posted 5 years, 9 months ago

No one is forgetting our past. You may all benefit from reading 'Steelworker Alley' - this book will give you an insight as to just how 'holy' these people were. The shenanigans going on with cheating at work are unbelievable and hardly the kind of activities one would expect from a person who 'walked to church everyday'. It's an eye opener with real stories and easy name recognitions. Pretty appalling.

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17timOthy(802 comments)posted 5 years, 9 months ago

Get Real, I attend Christmas and Easter masses because it's a Mortal Sin to miss those days! I don't expect priority treatment and put money in the basket too. Don't talk to me about convenient ! You don't know me and my situation. Besides how many years did you walk to church to serve mass? I did for eight years through all weather conditions . Now is that convenient enough ? Two masses a year. And confession for the ones I missed. I'm sure you go to church everyday right !

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