November 20, 2022
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After a period of consultation among parish representatives and review of pastoral statistics, The Most Rev. David J. Bonnar, Bishop of Youngstown, has accepted the recommendation of Rev. Maciej (Matthew) Mankowski, pastor of Massillon’s St. Barbara Parish, St. Joseph Parish and St. Mary Parish to merge the three parishes, effective January 1, 2023. In accordance with Church law, the decision was made after having also heard the advice of the diocese’s presbyteral council, which was favorable and unanimous. The new parish will include all three church buildings which will retain their names as customary in Church tradition, while the parish itself will be known as “Divine Mercy Parish.” The new parish name, which Bishop Bonnar chose from among three names put forth by parishioners, evokes the importance that both Pope St. John Paul II and Pope Francis have placed on God’s mercy and love, expressed in liturgy, service, and through popular “Divine Mercy” devotions.
In a letter read to parishioners this weekend announcing the merger, Bishop Bonnar expressed his gratitude for the ways parishioners have worked together to prepare for the transition, including a meeting he held with representatives from the three parishes in June of this year. In July, Father Mankowski, who had previously served for one year as pastor at St. Barbara Parish, was appointed pastor of all three parishes. Bishop Bonnar wrote to parishioners that, “Since that time, your parish communities, which were already taking important steps in coming together, have moved those efforts forward with passion and commitment. I am excited about the ways in which the Catholic community of Massillon is embracing a regionalized approach to Catholic life, with a shared Mass schedule, one school, new unfolding possibilities for creative programming and—most especially—a sense of being one family in Christ.” Bishop Bonnar also noted that, “One way in which God’s mercy and love is experienced in Massillon is through the work of the Shrine of St. Dymphna, which will continue with the same name and mission under the direction of your pastor, Father Maciej Mankowski.” St. Dymphna is the patron saint of those afflicted with mental and nervous disorders.
The Diocese of Youngstown continues to develop a regional plan for its six-county diocese, with criteria that includes: the number of parishioners and worshipers; parish finances; effective use of buildings; number of priests; and use of lay ecclesial ministers. The majority of priests in the Diocese of Youngstown have multiple responsibilities: in multiple parishes, diocesan leadership, schools, etc. In addition to serving the three parishes (soon to be Divine Mercy Parish) in Massillon, Father Mankowski serves as Pastor of Holy Family Parish in Brewster and Navarre. The Massillon and Navarre-Brewster parishes, like other regions in the diocese, are also served by shared clergy and lay ecclesial ministers, including Deacon Brook Benedict (a transitional deacon in final preparation for the priesthood), Ms. Patricia Condello as Diocesan Pastoral Associate, and additional ministry personnel. A Diocesan Pastoral Associate is a lay person or deacon appointed by the bishop who serves on a leadership team and shares in administrative responsibilities. Regional planning also includes a “service needs assessment” to explore the needs for works of service and mission in each region.
See also: Official Decree – Divine Mercy Parish, Massillon – effective January 1, 2023