YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Some local parishioners learned that their churches will be closing after an announcement was made by the Catholic Diocese of Youngstown.
They sent out a letter Friday that up to seven churches may be closing.
The closures include St. Cyril and Methodius, Holy Name, St. Stephen, St. Stanislaus and St. Anthony.
Christ, the Good Shepherd in Campbell, is made up of three churches–St. Lucy’s, St. Joseph the Provider and St. John the Baptist. A source within the Diocese says of those three churches, two will close. The churches closing have not been determined.
“It’s just going to be sad. We’ve had a legacy here for a long time,” said Mary Purton from the St. Stephen’s parish.
Parishioners from St. Stephen’s said they saw this coming when their church merged with Saints Peter and Paul church in 2012.
“It’s understandable. People can accept that. What we can’t accept is the lingering for so many years and we end up getting this,” said parishioner Jim Horvath.
The Diocese said the change is a way to limit the burden on priests.
They said five priests are retiring this year and 15 full-time priests are at least 70-years-old. Fourteen other priests are between the ages of 65 and 69.
The new plan includes 56 priests, who will be assigned regions to serve and three scheduled masses per week.
This plan will reduce the number of masses that are not filled by attendants, according to their release.
“Instead of celebrating Masses with churches that are less than half full, these changes in the Mass schedule can create more vibrant liturgies as more people come together to celebrate.“
There are currently 10 priests and 38-weekend masses. After these changes, there will be eight priests and 26 masses. One of those masses will be in Spanish.
The average number of parishioners per priest is 1,718. They say that will increase to 2,147.
The closing churches will become oratories, which are places for private worship.
One church, St. Stephen of Hungary in Youngstown is trying to save their church. They have created a Facebook page.
One post from that page says, “We all grieve together, and we WILL fight together. Much love to all affected.”
Another post said, “Be sad, get mad, realize this is a chapter in our story. I am prepared to fight this for YOU! Yes YOU, the churches are the glue to our communities. We WILL appeal all the way to ROME. St Stephen is the very last Hungarian church in our valley.”
Rev. Murry says these changes will be in effect as soon as possible and no later than July 1, 2020.