What’s next for fully downsized Diocese of Youngstown?
A traditional celebration of the Feast Day of St. Anthony of Padua recently also marked the merger of St. Anthony of Padua and Our Lady of Mount Carmel churches in Youngstown. The event included a Mass, a procession with a statue of St. Anthony, music and food.
By LINDA M. LINONIS
The “R” word of reconfiguration is giving way to the “E” word of evangelization in the Catholic Diocese of Youngstown for the Rev. Nicholas Shori, director of the Parish Implementation Plan.
He said the diocese of Mahoning, Trumbull, Columbiana, Ashtabula, Portage and Stark counties has consolidated 113 parishes to 87 and attained the goal of the reconfiguration plan announced by Bishop George V. Murry on May 28, 2010.
As the reconfiguration plan heads into its third year, Father Shori said the emphasis will be evangelization. “Evangelization is the ongoing examination of what’s going on in parishes ... evaluating growth, needs and financial status,” he said. Keeping closer tabs in these areas will maintain the overall health of parishes and give church councils important operating information.
The reconfiguration process has had some “tender spots,” Father Shori said previously, but overall the downsizing has been “transparent.” There is one appeal, which is in the hands of the Vatican. Two situations of churches with schools are being re-evaluated.
Father Shori said evaluations will continue of the mergers and collaborations, deanery meetings and focus on evangelization. “That’s an imporant piece of the process,” he said.
Father Shori already has spoken to half of the priests involved in 17 mergers and nine collaborations in the diocese. “We’re doing well overall and addressing issues,” he said.
He noted new parish configurations are working out Mass schedules, need for buildings and appropriation of funds. The 87 parishes currently have 101 worship sites. Father Shori said as time goes on, parish councils of merged churches with multiple worship sites may make adjustments. “This will be more internal downsizing,” he said.
“Helping each other for the sake of time and quality is the goal,” he said. “Churches have to come together to work together.”
Father Shori said an example of working together would be clergy and lay people from Catholic churches nearby volunteering to help St. Charles Borromeo in Boardman, which has about 12 nursing homes and a hospital to cover.
A pilot evangelization program will be implemented in 10 parishes in the diocese in April 2013. The project will train seven to 10 parishioners in evangelization.
Father Shori described this as “Evangelization 101” and each parish can tailor it to what will work for them.
“What works at one parish sometimes doesn’t elsewhere,” he said.
A cultural and historical advisory committee was formed to offer input on the importance of closed church buildings and their contents.
The diocese sold St. Pius X Church in Warren to Summit Academy, a charter school, for $705,000. There is interest in St. Elizabeth in Campbell and Immaculate Conception and St. Casimir. The diocese does have restrictions on use of former churches – they can’t be used for profane or sordid purposes, Father Shori said.
Spiritual Collections in Hubbard and Henninger’s in Cleveland are handling the marketing of items such as statues. As for stained-glass windows, Father Shori said the market is limited because most depict saints or religious themes.