Catholic Diocese of Youngstown to merge several Northeast Ohio parishes

St. Joseph School in Randolph. Photo by Jon Ridinger

St. Peter of the Fields Parish in Rootstown and St. Joseph Parish in Randolph are among the Northeast Ohio parishes slated to be merged by the Catholic Diocese of Youngstown.

The looming mergers, announced by the diocese in a press release Jan. 21, are the next stage in the ongoing Diocesan Pastoral Plan, which was put into motion in 2019 by the late Bishop George Murry and has continued to be developed since the 2021 installation of Bishop David Bonnar. The regional plan for the six-county Diocese of Youngstown has resulted in structural changes aimed at developing effective ministries and supporting missionary activity, according to the release.

As a result of the pastoral plan, almost all of the diocese’s 80 parishes are now part of a collaborative unit or exist as a multi-site parish. Since 2021, there have been five instances of merger between parishes (where two or more parishes become one parish community).

The Diocesan Presbyteral Council (comprised of priests) formally recommended at its Jan. 12 meeting that Bonnar merge additional parishes throughout the diocese who are already working together in ministry partnerships — sharing priests, deacons, diocesan pastoral associates, additional personnel, Mass schedules, and various parish programs and activities. Bonnar accepted the council’s recommendation and notified the relevant pastors and parishes to develop plans for parish mergers.

“I am grateful to the Presbyteral Council for making this important recommendation, which will help ease the burden of pastors who currently need to oversee the administration of separate entities and attend multiple sets of meetings, including parish pastoral councils, finance councils, and parish staff,” Bonnar said. “The time is right for these particular parishes to come together and form one community. We are better when we are together.”

Criteria for parishes considered for merger include:

– The number of parishioners and worshipers

– Parish finances

– Population shifts within the region

– Effective use of buildings

– Effective use of a limited number of priests and lay ecclesial ministers

The other Youngstown Diocese parishes that will begin the process of preparing for merger are:

Ashtabula Deanery: Orwell – St. Mary Parish; Rock Creek – Sacred Heart Parish.

Mahoning Deanery: Austintown – Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish and St. Joseph Parish; Boardman – St. Charles Parish and St. Luke Parish; Youngstown – St. Columba Cathedral Parish, St. Edward Parish and Holy Apostles Parish.

Stark Deanery: Canton – St. Peter Parish, the Basilica of St. John the Baptist, St. Joan of Arc Parish and St. Joseph Parish.

Trumbull Deanery: Niles – Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish and St. Stephen Parish; Warren – Blessed Sacrament Parish, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish, and St. Mary and St. Joseph Parish.

These newly merged parishes will be aligned with the structure of other multi-site parishes in the diocese, with Masses and other parish activities continuing to be offered in multiple churches and campuses to ensure more efficient operations.

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Tom Hardesty is a Portager sports columnist. He was formerly assistant sports editor at the Record-Courier and author of the book Glimpses of Heaven.