The future of the Youngstown Catholic Diocese will likely mean fewer Masses and, possibly, fewer churches because there are fewer Catholics and an even smaller number who regularly attend.
Numbers released on Friday show Catholic participation in the diocese is way down — in some cases, nearly 70 percent.
“I was surprised when you see the decline over 20 years,” said Pete Schafer, who compiled the numbers showing a steep drop in participation.
Since 2000, the number of Catholics attending weekend Mass in the six-county Youngstown Diocese dropped 62 percent. Of the 234 masses, 77 percent were less than half full.
There have been 25 percent fewer funerals, 61 percent fewer first communions, 62 percent fewer weddings and 69 percent fewer baptisms than in 2000.
Schafer is most concerned about the decrease in baptisms.
“That’s the entrance into the church, into our faith,” he said. “The number of parents that are bringing their children to be baptized, the number’s so far down that it is pretty alarming.”
Lastly, the number of local priests will also pose a challenge. The number of priests in active ministry has decreased by 43 percent since 2000.
Right now, there are 73 priests in active ministry within the Youngstown Diocese. About 40 percent of priests in the diocese have multiple ministries, parishes and/or worship sites on their list of responsibilities.
Over half of the priests in the diocese are 61 years and older. Ten are over the retirement age of 70.
“We do have about six retirements this summer and we have one ordination,” Schafer said.
The diocese estimates that by 2025, there will only be 55 priests.
The declining population in the Youngstown area due to job loss and a difficult economy means there are also fewer parishioners in general. The diocese said there are more deaths than births in our area. It also said the population is projected to continue declining over the next ten years.
In light of these issues, the diocese has created a plan moving forward, which includes the creation of pastoral regions. Multiple parishes will be located in each region and they will share priests, deacons and other clergy.
The pastors within each region will decide the next steps to take, including changing Mass schedules and, potentially, closing parishes.
“Ultimately, the final decision rests with Bishop Murry, so there will be a couple rounds of meetings with the priests and then with the laity. They’ll submit proposals back of how they see the plans actually playing out, the specifics of the plan within that region,” Schafer said.
Bishop Murry stated that under church law, no priest should celebrate more than three Masses a weekend and it’s the bishop’s intention to follow the law.
There are 17 regions and it’s hoped the diocese has the initial plan from the pastors by Easter. It will then head to various councils for debate.
Proposed list of parishes within each region:
Region 1 – Portage North; Weekend attendance – 1,830; Registered parishioners – 8,655
– Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Aurora
– St. Joseph, Mantua
– St. Joan of Arc, Streetsboro
– St. Ambrose, Garrettsville
– St. Michael, Windham
Region 2 – Route 59; Weekend attendance – 1,688; Registered parishioners – 5,697
– Immaculate Conception, Ravenna
– St. Patrick, Kent
– KSU Newman Center Parish, Kent
Region 3 – Portage South; Weekend attendance – 1,333; Registered parishioners – 3,665
– St. Joseph, Randolph-Suffield
– St. Peter of the Fields, Rootstown
– Holy Spirit, Uniontown (Stark)
Region 4 – Stark West; Weekend attendance – 2,615; Registered parishioners – 8,972
– St. Barbara, Massillon
– St. Mary, Massillon
– St. Joseph, Massillon
– Ss. Philip and James, Canal Fulton
– Holy Family, Navarre/Brewster
Region 5 – Stark North; Weekend attendance – 5,653; Registered parishioners – 24,227
– Basilica of St. John the Baptist, Canton
– St. Peter, Canton
– St. Michael, Canton
– Christ the Servant, Canton
– Little Flower, Middlebranch
– St. Paul, North Canton
Region 6 – Stark South; Weekend attendance – 2,333; Registered parishioners – 7,917
– St. James, Waynesburg
– St. Joan of Arc, Canton
– St. Joseph, Canton
– St. Anthony/All Saints, Canton
– St. Mary/St. Benedict, Canton
Region 7 – Stark East; Weekend attendance – 1,911; Registered parishioners – 5,018
– St. Joseph, Alliance
– Regina Coeli, Alliance
– St. Joseph, Maximo
– Sacred Heart of Mary, Harrisburg
– St. Louis, Louisville
– St. Ann, Sebring (Mahoning)
Region 8 – Ashtabula North; Weekend attendance – 1,664; Registered parishioners – 8,547
– Assumption, Geneva
– Corpus Christi, Conneaut
– Our Lady of Peace, Ashtabula
– St. Joseph, Jefferson
– St. Andrew, Sheffield
Region 9 – Ashtabula South; Weekend attendance – 355; Registered parishioners – 1,133
– St. Mary, Orwell
– Sacred Heart, Rock Creek
– Our Lady of Victory, Andover
Region 10 – Trumbull North; Weekend attendance – 1,563; Registered parishioners – 4,971
– St. Thomas the Apostle, Vienna
– St. Robert, Cortland
– St. William, Champion
– St. Patrick, Kinsman
– Queen of the Holy Rosary, Vienna
Region 11 – Warren City; Weekend attendance – 1,842; Registered parishioners – 8,044
– St. Mary
– St. Elizabeth Ann Seton
– Blessed Sacrament
– St. John Paul II
Region 12 – Trumbull South; Weekend attendance – 3,559; Registered parishioners – 15,871
– St. Patrick, Hubbard
– St. Rose, Girard
– Our Lady of Perpetual Help, McDonald
– St. Stephen, Niles
– Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, Niles
– St. Mary, Mineral Ridge
Region 13 – Mahoning West; Weekend attendance – 2,106; Registered parishioners – 11,159
– St. Joseph, Austintown
– Immaculate Heart of Mary, Austintown
– St. Michael, Canfield
– Our Lady of the Lakes, Lake Milton/North Jackson
– St. Mary/St. Joseph, Newton Falls (Trumbull)
Region 14 – Youngstown City; Weekend attendance – 4,597; Registered parishioners – 16,427
– St. Columba
– St. Edward
– St. Stanislaus
– St. Christine
– St. Brendan
– St. Angela Merici
– Christ the Good Shepherd
– Our Lady of Sorrows
– Holy Apostles
– Our Lady of Mt. Carmel/St. Anthony
– St. Patrick
– St. Dominic
Region 15 – Mahoning South/Southeast; Weekend attendance – 5,210; Registered parishioners – 23,940
– St. Charles, Boardman
– St. Luke, Boardman
– Holy Family, Poland
– Christ our Savior, Struthers
– St. Paul the Apostle, New Middletown
– Our Lady of the Holy Rosary, Lowellville
Region 16 – Columbiana North; Weekend attendance – 1,250; Registered parishioners – 5,453
– St. Jude, Columbiana
– Our Lady of Lourdes, East Palestine
– St. Paul, Salem
– St. Patrick, Leetonia
Region 17 – Columbiana South; Weekend attendance – 503; Registered parishioners – 1,605
– Holy Trinity, East Liverpool
– St. George, Lisbon
– St. Philip Neri, Dungannon
– St. John, Summitville
– St. Agatha Mission, West Point