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Campbell churches to close

St. John the Baptist chosen as worship site

CAMPBELL — Two of the Catholic churches in “the city of churches” will close before the Christmas season nearly a decade after a merger of the city’s four Catholic parishes, according to the Diocese of Youngstown.

Signs on the city’s main thoroughfares — state Route 616, U.S. Route 422, Coitsville Road and Wilson Avenue — proclaim the city’s moniker because churches of every denomination dot the landscape. The city used to have four Catholic churches, including St. Joseph the Provider, St. Elizabeth, St. John the Baptist and St. Lucy / Sta. Rosa de Lima. Each had its own ethnic background.

St. Elizabeth closed in 2012 and the remaining parishes merged under the new name Christ the Good Shepherd Parish, with all three worship sites remaining open.

However, the continuing decline in the number of priests in the diocese and a growing debt at the parish has necessitated the closure of all but one worship site, according to a news release from the Youngstown Diocese. Bishop David Bonnar announced at Masses this weekend that the combined pastoral and finance councils of Christ the Good Shepherd Parish decided to keep St. John the Baptist on Reed Avenue as the parish’s sole worship site.

The change will take effect Nov. 28, which is the first Sunday of Advent. A closing Mass will take place at both St. Lucy and St. Joseph the Provider in November, the release states. Artifacts from both churches will be incorporated into St. John’s. The Palermo Banquet Center at St. Lucy will remain open for the time being, “so as to allow for continued fellowship and as a source of potential revenue for the parish.”

The recommendation by the parish’s councils to choose St. John the Baptist campus as the parish’s one worship site was communicated to Bonnar in an Aug. 29 letter from the Rev. James Korda, who was named special administrator of Christ the Good Shepherd in June, for the purpose of working with the parish’s councils to assess and strengthen parish viability in the face of an almost $850,000 debt, the release states.

Additionally, Korda and the council members were charged with implementing the 2019 Pastoral Plan promulgated by the late Bishop George V. Murry, S.J.,which called for one worship site for the city of Campbell, which previously had been recommended by parish leaders. The 2019 pastoral plan also called for regional planning throughout the diocese to foster parish vitality and ministry effectiveness. Bonnar visited St. Lucy on the Feast of the Assumption on Aug. 15 to celebrate Holy Mass and “strengthen parishioners as he awaited the recommendation of parish leaders.”

Bonnar’s acceptance of the recommendation for the parish’s worship site came after consultation with the Diocese’s Presbyteral Council.

“It is imperative that this matter be resolved for the good of the church and that a Catholic community continues to exist in the city of Campbell. As your bishop, I am committed to Christ the Good Shepherd Parish, however, we have to live in reality and accept the fact that there can be only one worship site,” Bonnar stated in his letter to parishioners. “I am grateful to Father Korda and all the members of the councils for the recommendation and their painstaking efforts.”

Bonnar said that since the merger, parishioners “have worked hard to form community in the name of Jesus Christ” and that he was humbled by the commitment and dedication of its parishioners.

“While the work of becoming one is seldom easy, it does have a way of stretching us into a deeper experience of the Kingdom of God. It is my hope that you will continue to work together as brothers and sisters and joyfully testify to the light of Christ,” Bonnar’s letter stated.

Other churches in the diocese have merged in the past decade, with some closing because of a dwindling number of priests as well as a shrinking Catholic population throughout the six-county diocese. In 2019, the diocese announced the closure of SS. Cyril and Methodius downtown, Holy Name on the West Side, St. Stephen of Hungary on Wilson Avenue in Youngstown, St. Stanislaus on Williamson Avenue on the South Side and St. Anthony de Padua Church in the Brier Hill neighborhood, which previously merged with the Basilica of Our Lady of Mount Carmel downtown. St. Casimir Church, also in the Brier Hill neighborhood, closed about 10 years ago, with some of its parishioners now attending SS. Peter and Paul on Covington Street on the North Side or St. Columba Cathedral downtown, which is the diocese’s mother church.

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