By LINDA M. LINONIS
The Rev. Bob Bonnot, president of Mahoning Valley Association of Churches, voiced a commitment to sustaining programs to the community, though the organization will operate on a “lean budget.”
He addressed about 35 members of MVAC who gathered Thursday for the annual assembly at Third Baptist Church, 1177 Park View Ave. The occasion also marked the last meeting as executive director for Elsie Dursi, who had the post for 23 years, and the installation of officers and board members. She retired at the end of 2012.
The Rev. Dr. Morris Lee, pastor of the host church, conducted the installation. He urged all to “share ideas, resources and interests” and “pray for strength.”
The Rev. Dr. Lee also noted that each officer and board member is a “spoke in the wheel” that keeps the organization operating and “each has a unique contribution to make.”
“Through Christ, you can do all things,” he said.
Father Bonnot said he felt Dursi “was the hub” that held the spokes together for more than two decades. He praised her for leadership and dedication. But, he noted officers, board members and members must now collectively be the hub.
Dursi echoed that idea, noting “there wouldn’t be an MVAC without the people who come forth,” adding there were dedicated members and leaders before her tenure and others will follow.
“Serving as executive director has warmed my life in ways I never expected,” Dursi said.
The former executive director said she sees MVAC as a “ministry of presence.” Dursi said MVAC has impacted people “inside and outside” of the church through the multitude of programs it has sponsored throughout its history.
She specifically cited the prison ministry of the 1990s at Northeast Ohio Correctional Center, where most inmates were from the Washington, D.C., area. She noted volunteers from many faiths met the visitors’ buses on Saturday mornings, handing out water and crayons for children. “We heard it was wonderful that ‘the church of Youngstown’ was there to greet them,” Dursi recalled.
“There will never be a time that you don’t need an ecumenical presence,” she said, adding that “unity is celebrated and enjoyed.”
MVAC members thanked Dursi with an icon of the nurturing Mother Mary and son, Jesus, and also recognized former administrative assistant, Monica Spelich.
Father Bonnot said MVAC has received applications for the executive director position. The part-time position wouldn’t be filled until the summer.
2013 officers are: Father Bonnot, president; Tom Sauline, vice president; Sister Isabel Rudge, treasurer; and Jim Illencik, secretary. Board members are: the Rev. Gena Thornton and Sauline, three-year term renewable; William Cooper, the Rev. William King and the Rev. Nora Telford Smith, three-year term initial; and the Rev. Ed Weisheimer, two -year term completion.
MVAC will sponsor its third annual ecumenical choral festival, “United We Praise: A Festival of Voice and Organ,” at 6 p.m. Feb. 17 at St. Christine Church in Youngs-town. A free-will offering will be taken; a reception will follow.
For information, visit the MVAC website at www.mvaconline.org.