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A hearty welcome to our area’s new bishop

Welcome to our diocese, Bishop-elect David Bonnar. We are pleased to have him join the fold! We are especially pleased at the timely appointment, given that we had been led to believe it might have taken several months for the selection of our new religious leader.

Bonnar, 58, has been appointed to take over as the sixth bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Youngstown which includes nine parishes in Columbiana County. He is relocating from Pittsburgh where he has served in the religious life for more than 30 years, including time as chaplain for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The bishop-elect will fill the vacancy here that was created when former Bishop George Murry resigned for health reasons and subsequently passed away in June of leukemia.

Bishop Murry was much loved and is sorely missed. Indeed, Bishop-elect Bonnar will have big shoes to fill. Especially during these trying times in our country with the holiest of seasons beckoning.

His first day in the Mahoning Valley this week included introductions, greeting some parishioners as he celebrated Mass and spending time paying homage at Bishop Murry’s final resting place.

Those are all admirable ways to start his time at his new home.

During his introduction, Bonnar said this of Murry: “He displayed time and time again a true pastor’s heart. I hope to emulate his example. He was a true gift to the church who left us too soon. I promise to build on his foundation.”

We welcome his excellency, and urge him to work toward unity. He already has pledged to focus on “oneness” among the parishes and the community, welcoming both Catholics and non-Catholics.

While we expect that he will come offering prayers and love, we also know that his tasks here will not always be warm and easy. We urge him always to also work toward openness and transparency in the church and in the local Catholic schools.

He will face challenges, like we all do, in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. We will look to him for careful and logical actions.

Like most Catholic dioceses across the country, he most certainly also will deal with dwindling number of priests and others called to serve in the religious life, along with likewise falling numbers of practicing Catholics, which of course, translates into fewer volunteers and reduced weekly donations counted on to keep the parishes operating smoothly and to help the needy.

And, of course, we would be remiss if we did not mention ongoing response to claims, both confirmed and alleged, of sexual abuse within the church.

For all these issues and for far more, we will look to Bishop-elect Bonnar for strength and faith.

Indeed, during these challenging times of strife, we need him and his leadership.

For these, and all issues and challenges that Bishop-elect Bonnar will face in the future, we pray for him and for our diocese.

“With God all things are possible,” the Bishop-elect said Tuesday. “God will lead us through this darkness.”

We wish him much luck and success in his move, and we welcome him to his new home with immense hope.

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