By LINDA M. LINONIS
“Ideas of the past won’t take us to the future,” the Rev. Nicholas Shori told the First Friday Club of Greater Youngstown during a program Thursday at Antone’s Banquet Center on Market Street.
The director of the Office of Evangelization in the Diocese of Youngstown said parishes in the six-county Diocese of Youngstown will be asked to assess the strengths and weaknesses in their parishes during a General Assembly this month through November.
The purpose of the assembly, he said, is to define a “clearer vision” for the diocese in regard to deaneries, parishes, finances, staffing and Mass schedules.
The diocese went through the Parish Implementation Plan from 2010-12 and downsized from 113 parishes to 87 in Mahoning, Trumbull, Columbiana, Ashtabula, Portage and Stark counties.
In the plan, there were mergers, collaborations and closures. There are about 201,401 registered Catholics in the diocese. Father Shori said that reconfiguration is an ongoing process.
An aspect of the General Assembly is an online survey on the diocese website, www.doy.org. The survey will be available online during September. Copies also will be available at parish offices or by contacting the Office of Evangelization at 330-744-8451. Results will be discussed at deanery gatherings in October.
Father Shori’s topic was “Evangelization and What Really Happened in Las Vegas.” He referred to a conference he attended in Las Vegas at which participants complimented the Youngstown Diocese on the success of its reconfiguration. Father Shori said “talking was critical to the process.”
That will hold true with church members who fill out the surveys, then participate with priests, lay leadership, youths and young-adult groups, Catholic high schools and colleges.
Already, Father Shori said he has a glimpse of the information that includes challenges and concerns. He said among general concerns were aging congregations, lack of young people, poor music, lack of participation in Catholic schools and Confraternity of Christine Doctrine classes, finances, leadership and boring Masses.
Strengths mentioned by parishes included adult education, outreach programs, youth activity and liturgy.
Father Shori said that the way in which parishes have achieved success in certain areas must be information that is shared among churches in the diocese. He acknowledged there is a tendency to be focused only on one’s church. But he said the General Assembly will be about worship and prayer, Christian service, faith education and schools, evangelization, administration and family life and how the Catholic church can make a “collective effort to make changes.”
He said studies have shown that “door-to-door evangelization is most effective.” Evangelizing is sharing the news about Jesus. Moving out of a comfort zone and sharing this belief is vital. “Christianity has to become a lifestyle,” he said.
There should a sense of pride among Catholics. “We need to recapture that,” Father Shori said. He added the Catholic church overall is a global charity that helps people worldwide. In the Youngstown Diocese, churches must get the word out on ministries that benefit local people, he said.