As a couple of dozen parishioners attended the daily Mass at Saint Columba Cathedral on Tuesday, clergy across Youngstown’s six-county Catholic diocese are struggling to find younger members and families to offset the loss of older ones.
Overall, participation in the Youngstown Catholic Diocese has dropped significantly over the past 20 years.
“How can they take their one day of rest…and spend the day trying to get to church? We’ve got to somehow find a way of ministering to them, too,” said Rev. Joseph Rudjak, pastor of Holy Apostles Parish, which includes St. Stephen of Hungary Church on the east side.
Rudjak said age is just one issue facing the diocese. Of the nearly 180 parishioners at Mass each weekend, he has another 30 or 40 who are homebound or in nursing homes and can’t attend.
There are also scandals like the cases of priest abuse in Pennsylvania.
“It’s just that it’s a depression. Kind of like their motivation was affected,” Rudjak said.
Although Rudjak thinks the impact of scandal is lessening slowly, he and his staff are trying to take advantage of social media.
“About four people, four or five people, said, ‘We’re here because we saw you on Facebook’ and so it has its impact,” he said.
Others believe social media can only do so much.
“Where is the interaction? And I think that that’s the important thing of the gospel,” Monsignor Peter Polando said.
He said the diocese needs to do more than spread messages over the internet.
“When you come to the Eucharistic celebration, it means participation personally with one another.”
Clergy admit putting more people in the pews is a problem churches everywhere are trying to resolve.