STEUBENVILLE — The woman stood outside the Chancery of the Diocese of Steubenville on Sunday, fighting back tears as she spoke of plans to merge it with the Diocese of Columbus.
“There are many small towns and dioceses and this is not done to them”, she says.
Nearly a hundred parishioners, priests and nuns, rosaries in hand, gathered in front of the chancellery to pray for the diocese, for Bishop Jeffrey Monforton and their priests.
Monforton had told priests and staff at a meeting Oct. 10 that he had explored the possibility of merging the 13 counties of the Diocese of Steubenville with the Diocese of Columbus, citing declining parishioner numbers, attendance masses and active priests as well as population. He said the bishops of Ohio had already voted on it and that in November he would present it to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Once they vote, it will be forwarded to the Vatican so the pope can make his decision.
Sharon Conklin, Steubenville resident and member of Holy Rosary Church, admits she is troubled by the proposed merger.
“There may be a financial problem here, but there is no problem of faith. There is no problem with devotions and there is no problem with vocations. she says. “For me, that’s what’s important in a diocese — you always have financial problems in this world. It’s not the most important. It’s such a beautiful diocese, really.
Steubenville Mayor Jerry Barilla, one of the speakers, told the crowd it was mishandled.
“The people of the diocese had no say”, he said. “Our entire government was formed by the people, of the people and for the people. I think people should have a say.
“We the people must have a voice in our diocese,” he said to the crowd.
Jefferson County Commissioner Tom Graham, a deacon, said they were there to “Pray to God that this so called merger is stopped, we wanted an avenue to make it happen.”
“People don’t want to see the diocese merged – it’s always been a fight, but we’ll do what it takes to keep the diocese of Steubenville,” he added. said Graham.
Steubenville Councilor Tracy McManamon, General Councilor Kimberly Hahn and her husband, Scott, were among those who led a Rosary section.
Hahn pleaded for “new life and new strength” in the diocese, while McManamon asked that they be blessed with wisdom.
“We also pray, especially today, for our priests, our deacons and all those who are really affected by this”, McManamon told worshipers. “Most importantly, we ask for hope – hope that our diocese remains.”
Scott Hahn asked the “to preserve the integrity of the diocese and to renew the faithful, to extend and to bless our mission.”
A nun prayed for “our bishops, guide them and give them a shepherd’s heart”, while a priest was praying this, “God will preserve this diocese.
In closing, Hahn thanked those present “for getting your families out.”
“Families are really what makes up the diocese and no matter what, I think it’s about, frankly, acknowledging the sense of abandonment that we’re fighting against and at the same time acknowledging that grace is enough for us to see ourselves through. .”
Hahn told the group that “The integrity of this diocese can manifest itself in renewing the sense of mission that we all have.”
Contacted Sunday evening, a diocesan spokesperson said only that, “The bishop always encourages prayer.”