Two Catholic parishes in Portage County officially amalgamated, after operating as a “collaborative unit” for two years.
St. Michael in Windham merged with St. Ambrose in Garrettsville. Youngstown Diocese leaders said Bishop David Bonnar’s recent decree formalized a plan put in place in 2019.
Previously, the diocese said, Saint Michael moved to oratory status in 2019, meaning it was only open for special masses and prayer services, including weddings and funerals. The parish, leaders said, has been part of a collaborative unit with Saint-Ambroise in Garrettsville and Saint-Joseph in Mantua since the 2019 pastoral plan, with masses in Saint-Ambroise and Saint-Joseph. Reverend Edward Stafford oversees the three parishes.
“The parishioners of St. Joseph and St. Ambrose have been welcoming, and our region continues to be blessed with vibrant ministry,” said Stafford. “Beyond parish boundaries, parishioners in northern Portage County have a long history of working and praying together at neighboring regional levels.”
Since regular Masses ceased at Saint-Michel, parish and diocese leaders said, the parish has been available for weddings and funerals. However, requests have been fewer than expected, with only one wedding and two funerals since 2019.
Parish and diocesan leaders say they will continue to study the resources available to support St. Ambrose and will soon make a final decision regarding the future of St. Michael’s Church in Windham. No immediate plan for the building in Windham has been announced.
The announcement regarding the Portage County parishes came among other announcements in the diocese, including that the St. Stanislaus Parish of Youngstown had been “canonically suppressed.” Youngstown Parish held its final service in June 2020.
Last month, Bonnar, speaking to local Catholics at The Overlook in Twin Lakes, urged them to adapt and embrace the change. He spoke of the closure of two parishes in Campbell in Mahoning County, which had merged years ago but continued to rotate services between the old parish buildings.
Portage County is one of six counties in the Diocese of Youngstown. It has 10 parishes, but only three – Immaculate Conception in Ravenna, Our Lady of Perpetual Help to Aurora and Saint Joan of Arc – have a priest who does not serve elsewhere. Church law, Bonnar recently told Catholics, prohibits priests from saying more than three Masses in a single day.
Journalist Diane Smith can be reached at [email protected]