Earlier today The Pillar reported that Bishop Jeffrey Monforton sent a message to the priests of the Diocese of Steubenville which said, in part,

I have requested the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops to remove discussion of a merger and subsequent vote from the plenary session’s agenda at this time. There will be no vote next week … Further discussion regarding the Diocese of Steubenville’s future will be conducted at the diocesan level

This is enormous. But it does not mean that the extinctive merger is itself extinct.

First, a look at what happened, and then a look at what WE should do next.

As I mentioned the other day, JD Flynn and Ed Condon of The Pillar, both astute and connected observers of Church processes, opined that if the process had gotten as far as it already had then that meant it very likely was already a fait accompli.

But something changed, and the multitude of voices raised against the merger certainly had to play a part. THANK YOU to everyone who wrote letters, filled out the two surveys, and who respectfully let their thoughts and feelings be known. All of us certainly made a difference.

So now our task is to keep pressing for transparency, an honest discussion, and a say in whether we lose our diocese. Because as Bishop Monforton said, the process will now go to the diocesan level. This means the question isn’t dead, the merger may still happen. But it will not happen without proper consultation and consideration.

So be prepared to “make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, but with gentleness and respect” (cf. 1 Peter 3:15)

And our task is to be evangelizers in our diocese. We still have a smaller overall population than most dioceses in the U.S. We still are only about 30,000 Catholics — just a tad under. We still have lots of work to do to bring more of our neighbors into the fold — or BACK into the fold, if the recent financial scandal, pandemic, or sex abuse scandals have led to anyone falling away.

And above all, we must continue to pray. Continue to ask Our Lady and her Immaculate Heart to protect our diocese, and to guide her leaders into all wisdom.

Prayer to the Immaculate Heart for the Diocese of Steubenville