St. Patrick Church - Outreach and Leadership Change
St. Patrick Church
1420 Oak Hill Avenue, Youngstown OH 44507
St. Patrick Church is a multi-cultural inner-city parish located in a poor area of Youngstown, Ohio. The median income of this area is less than $20,000 per year and more than half of the people in the zip code live below the poverty line. St. Patrick’s is considered a destination parish as most parishioners live outside of the parish boundaries. The recently retired pastor had a heart for the city and a desire to connect with people, and as a result, outreach became the heart of parish life. Today, members of St. Patrick are dedicated to enriching the spiritual life of the community and are intentional about serving the neighborhood. Service is a way of life at St. Patrick Church.
As of March 2020, the parish has one priest, one Director of Faith Formation, one Evangelization Coordinator, two music ministers, and a secretary, bookkeeper, custodian, and housekeeper.
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St. Patrick Church focuses its evangelization efforts on outreach and faith sharing in the community. The following mantra is embraced by the community: “If your neighborhood isn’t doing better because your parish is there, you aren’t doing your job.”
St. Patrick Church collaborates with an organization called ACTION (Alliance for Congregational Transformation Influencing Our Neighborhoods), a regional faith-based organization of leaders and congregations from across the Mahoning Valley who work together to stand firm and take action against injustice in the community. The parish sponsors a monthly event that includes a meal (in association with 11 other churches and businesses) with the goal of helping people get to know each other and building trust in the community. They sponsor events for the community such as a Pumpkin festival and a health fair and bring in speakers to speak on topics relevant to the community. Parishioners come to these events to be present to the people in the neighborhood as well as receive the gift of their neighbors’ presence in the parish community.
The parish also participates in other outreach activities:
- The Oak Hill Neighborhood Association whose mission is to preserve and improve the safety, security, and appearance of the neighborhood
- Angel Tree Project, a national network which provides Christmas gifts to children who have an incarcerated parent
- Community Gardens, a two-acre plot of land, divided into plots for individuals and families. The parish offers gardening classes.
- Families On A Mission, an annual service opportunity at several community sites
- Grass Cutting Crew, an opportunity for parish volunteers to “adopt" a lot. The church provides mowers and gas.· Grounds Beautification, an opportunity for parish volunteers to plant and maintain flowers and shrubs on parish properties
- Prayer Shawl Ministry, an opportunity for parish volunteers to meet monthly to crochet and knit shawls, offering prayers for the individual who will receive each shawl when it is completed
Each of these touch points offer intentional moments for witnesses from parishioners to members of the community at large.
Leadership Transition and Planning Strategy
In preparation for his retirement, the pastor of St. Patrick Church formed a transition team two years before his anticipated retirement. The pastor, who had been there for over 34 years, wanted to prepare the parish for this change.
The parish dedicated a web page on the parish website to help the parish manage the transition. The webpage included the following:
- The letter that announced the upcoming pastor change
- A link to a Patrick Lencioni presentation on managing transition (from Amazing Parish)
- An explanation of the stages of transition
- Diocesan resources on lay leaders/canonical pastors for parishes who don’t have a pastor
- Information about ways parishioners can voice concerns and give feedback
- A summary of parishioner feedback on strengths and weaknesses of the parish based on a parish survey
- Focus questions for parishioners:
1. How do we continue to honor our 108 year legacy of faithful witness in this community, holding onto all that we have been taught and all that we have become?
2. How do we see this moment of change as an opportunity for growth and evangelization?
3. How do we prepare to welcome new leadership and be open to new ideas?
4. How do we inspire and challenge parishioners to stay committed to this parish during this period of transition?
Once the new pastor came on board, they decided to keep the transition team in place rather than dissolving it. The team’s focus shifted from transitioning to leading people to Christ and helping them embrace their baptismal call. Parish conducted a parish survey and based on the feedback they strengthened hospitality, community outreach, and youth and young adult ministry offerings.