Bishop Conlon Message April 08

Triumph of the Cross Cathedral and Parish Move foward
A Message from Bishop R. Daniel Conlon
04/04/2008

 

 
On April 15 we will observe the thirtieth anniversary of the death of our first bishop, the Most Revered John King Mussio. It will be honor for me to offer Mass for him that morning in Holy Name Cathedral.

 
The lore of our diocese celebrates the enthusiasm with which the people received their equally enthusiastic new bishop in 1945. It was a time of economic prosperity and promise in the Ohio valley, and Bishop Mussio had a vision of expanding the Church’s institutional presence to meet those good times. New parishes, missions and schools, as well as a college, hospital and seminary came into being.
 
Even before Bishop Mussio left office and died shortly afterward, the economic and demographic circumstances of the thirteen counties comprising the Diocese of Steubenville began to decline, and with them, the circumstances of the diocese itself. Many of the parishes, missions and schools established by Bishop Mussio have closed, as has St. John Vianney Seminary. We are approaching only fifty percent the number of Catholics he found in his flock in 1945.
 
Yet, something must be made very clear. Bishop Mussio was not all about institutions and buildings. He was about faith   And so are we today—the same faith. Furthermore, that faith is not measured in the tokens of this world, things like income statements, square feet under roof, and membership rolls. Faith is made possible by the Holy Spirit and by the generous response to the Holy Spirit by people of faith, no matter their number, age or economic strength.
 
Faith is the only proper context for viewing the next developments concerning Triumph of the Cross cathedral and parish. 
 
We will continue the “Lift High the Cross” capital campaign, with the goal of building a fitting cathedral church for our diocese when the needed funds are available. 
The project will, therefore, need ongoing prayer support, and it will be critically important for donors to fulfill the pledges they have already made. In addition, Monsignor J. Michael Campbell, Pastor of St. Mary Parish in Marietta, has agreed to provide leadership in laying the foundation for Phase II of the “Lift High the Cross” campaign. 
 
We might have moved ahead with a less expensive cathedral building. But I accept the wisdom of those who have advised me over the past few months that staying with the original design will express our faith better in the long-term.
 
On the other hand, the faith of the members of the six parishes to be combined into Triumph of the Cross Parish requires that the consolidation occur as soon as possible.  As the members of the Consultation pointed out, these parishioners have experienced considerable awkwardness and tension over the past three years, since the Pastoral Plan for Steubenville was adopted. So, on April 15, the anniversary of Bishop Mussio’s death, I will sign the document making the consolidation of the six parishes effective on September 14, 2008, the Feast of the Triumph of the Cross. 
 
Most obviously, this will mean the closing of St. Anthony, St. Stanislaus and St. Pius X churches. Even though Holy Name Cathedral and Holy Rosary Church will remain to house the combined parish temporarily, the parishioners there will experience significant change as they too become members of a larger and more complex parish. Everyone in the six parishes will feel the pain of the familiar dying away. But we are people of faith. We believe in resurrection, life after death. 
 
The Church that Christ gave to the world is alive in these thirteen counties of southeastern Ohio not because of the number of Catholics or the number of parishes or the speed with which we can build a church. It is alive because of our faith. We will move confidently into the future because we believe. Among other things, perhaps above all things, we believe that Jesus triumphed over sin and death on the cross.