Diocese of Steubenville To Close Two Parishes in Belmont County

STEUBENVILLE — Diocese of Steubenville Bishop Jeffrey M. Monforton announced that St. John Vianney of Powhatan Point will close Oct. 6 and Sacred Heart Parish in Neffs will close Oct. 7, due to the July 25 retirement of the Rev. Samuel R. Saprano, former pastor of St. Mary, Shadyside and St. John Vianney Parish.

The territory of the St. John Vianney Parish will become part of the territory of St. Mary Parish, Shadyside, while the territory of the Sacred Heart Parish will become part of the territory of St. John Parish, Bellaire. The Rev. Daniel Heusel will be pastor of both the St. Mary and St. John parishes, effective Oct. 7.

Monforton decreed the two closings following a diocesan deanery pastoral plan that was approved in 2009 by his predecessor Bishop Daniel R. Conlon (now bishop of Joliet, Illinois). The plan considered parish reconfigurations within the context of numbers of available priests; Mass times and Mass attendance; church seating capacity; the fiscal condition of parishes; condition of parishes; conditions of physical plants; and ministerial collaboration.

Sacred Heart was built in Neffs in 1905. The first resident pastor, the Rev. Valarian Fligier, was appointed in 1907. In 1910, a tornado struck the village, and the church at the foot of Dixon Hill Road was destroyed. A school building was built first and served as a church and rectory until 1913, when the current brick church was built on the foundation of the original church. Men of the congregation are credited with the construction of the church.

St. John Vianney was built in Powhatan Point in 1937, and was the first church in which Diocese of Steubenville’s first bishop, Bishop John King Mussio, administered the sacrament of confirmation. All sacramental records will be transferred from St. John Vianney and St. Mary to the central office that will be established at St. John, Bellaire.

Monforton said, “I am well aware that this will be a difficult time for all of you, and I share in your sadness. So that I may be with you in this time, I will be celebrating the final Masses at the two closing parishes. I will celebrate Mass at St. John Vianney, 6 p.m. Oct. 6 and at Sacred Heart, 8:30 a.m. Oct. 7.”

The bishop added, “We give thanks to God for the blessings and graces He has bestowed on these parishes over these years, and I thank you for the time, talent and treasures, the very tools of missionary discipleship that you have devoted to these parishes. I pray that we all may see in this necessary change the opportunity to grow closer to the Lord Jesus.”

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