March 20, 2022
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The Most Rev. David J. Bonnar, Bishop of Youngstown has accepted the recommendation of Rev. Michael Mikstay, pastor of Our Lady of Victory Parish in Andover and St. Patrick Parish in Kinsman, along with his parishioners, to merge the two parishes, effective March 17, 2022. In accordance with Church law, the decision was made after having also heard the advice of the diocese’s presbyteral council, which was favorable.
Bishop Bonnar had visited the parishes for Holy Mass in February, after which he was invited to a parish meeting where the request was made. In a letter addressed to parishioners this weekend (March 19 and 20), Bishop Bonnar commended parishioners for their initiative, noting that “This effort did not come from the diocese but from your work.” He also noted that the request by the two parishes is “a model for living the mission of the Church through collaboration and sharing.” He cited the merger as an example of parishioners embracing the diocese’s ongoing regional pastoral planning and Pope Francis’ vision of a Church driven by what Pope Francis calls a “missionary impulse capable of transforming everything, so that the Church’s customs, ways of doing things, times and schedules, language and structures can be suitably channeled for the evangelization of today’s world rather than for her self-preservation” (final quote from Pope Francis, Joy of the Gospel, #27 – quoted in Bishop Bonnar’s letter to parishioners).
The parish will now include both church buildings, which will continue to retain their names, and Bishop Bonnar has invited parishioners to recommend a new name for the parish to him, reflecting “one parish community with a shared mission.”
Additionally, on March 17th, Bishop Bonnar accepted the recommendation of Rev. Frantisek Katrinak, pastor of St. Mary and St. Joseph Parish in Warren, Ohio, together with the parish’s pastoral and finance councils, to officially close St. Joseph Church. In accordance with Church law, the decision was made after having also heard the advice of the diocese’s presbyteral council, which was favorable. St. Joseph Church had previously been the parish church for St. John Paul II Parish, which was merged with St. Mary’s Parish in November 2021, with St. Mary’s Church as the primary worship site. The March 17th decision formalizes a process over the past two years, with formal petitions in 2021, necessitated in light of the dire financial situation at the former St. John Paul II parish and the required maintenance and heavy debt that would be needed to maintain and provide security upgrades for St. Joseph Church.
In a letter addressed to St. Mary and St. Joseph parishioners this weekend (March 19 and 20), Bishop Bonnar affirmed the parish on their “journey of becoming one and living the mission of the Church.” He continued, “I am grateful to you and your pastor, Father Frantisek Katrinak, for your hard work, collaboration, and consultation over this past year, and for the sense of community you’ve built over the past two years.”
The Diocese of Youngstown continues to develop a regional plan over its six county diocese, with criteria that include number of parishioners and worshipers, parish finances, effective use of buildings, number of priests, and use of lay ecclesial ministers. Currently, the Diocese of Youngstown has 69 active priests, 39 of which have multiple responsibilities (in multiple parishes, diocesan leadership, schools, etc.), and 27 serving multiple parishes. Nine priests are retiring in 2022.
Regional planning also includes a “service needs assessment” to explore the needs for works of service and mission in each region. In addition to parish mergers and church closures, with consultation in accordance with Church law, parishes throughout the diocese collaborate with one another in various ways, including sharing of priests, lay ministry personnel, and programming.
Bishop Bonnar comments, “As the regional plan continues to unfold, I ask for your openness. We are committed to realizing the mission of the Church, but we do need to make some modifications. We are living in a time in which we need to collaborate and share more with one another.”