Bishop of Steubenville diocese visits community

Published 12:00 am Sunday, December 7, 2003

Sixteen months ago, the Most Rev. R. Daniel Conlon became the Bishop of the Steubenville diocese of the Roman Catholic Church.

This week and next, the new bishop will spend time getting better acquainted with some of the local members of his flock.

Conlon is on a 10-day visit to Lawrence County. While he is here, he will visit the county's four Catholic churches: St. Lawrence O'Toole, St. Joseph, St. Ann in Chesapeake and St. Mary's in Pine Grove. This is part of a larger effort to learn about the parishes throughout the diocese.

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"I feel that spending longer periods of time in different parts of the diocese will give me a better feel for the parishes," Conlon said. "Strengthening bonds within the diocese is the important thing. This is also an opportunity for me to let people know what some of my priorities are."

Conlon, former pastor of Holy Redeemer Catholic Church in Cincinnati, said his tour of the area he now serves has left him with images of a region that, though economically challenged, still has a strong faith in God.

"There is a significant population drain here as a result of young people leaving. As an indication of that, in the 2002-2003 year, the diocese lost 40 percent more people through death than it gained through baptism. The economy here is largely based on coal and manufacturing, especially steel and those industries are under severe stress," Conlon said. "The parishes in our diocese are, by and large, small in size but there is a lot of activity and vitality. And the diocese has an excellent core of priests."

During his visit, Conlon will be celebrating Mass and taking part in other services at each of the four churches. He also plans to visit homebound Catholics and other individuals in the congregations, and speak with local civic groups and business people.

He said he hopes his visit will encourage church members to strengthen their own personal ties to the church.

"The grace they have received from God through baptism and gifts of the Holy Spirit that they have received are alive and important to the life of the church and the church's effort in preaching the gospel to the larger community," Conlon said. "I invite them to recognize these gifts and put them at the disposal of The Lord."

Conlon made a brief visit shortly after he became bishop. He also visited in June for the ordination of Ironton native Mark Moore as a priest.