With about six weeks experience in shepherding the Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish in Aurora, new pastor Father Shawn Conoboy said he’s pleased with his new post.
"Because things are moving in a positive direction, it makes it easy to continue that work," he said. "I don’t need to change and innovate and reinvent."
He said the parish has strong lay leaders, staff and a well-established place in the Aurora community. The strength of the lay leadership and staff at the parish helped tide the parish over from January, when Father James Daprile retired, through September, added Conoboy.
"It’s a great credit to the parishioners here who have continued to be involved in leading active, vibrant lives," he said.
Conoboy, whose first service with the parish was Sept. 1, said he doesn’t plan to make major changes in how the parish worships or lives in the footsteps of Jesus Christ, but he does hope to bring more introspection to the flock.
"If there is anything I would change, I would want to direct the process of reviewing who we are and what we’re doing," he said, explaining he would like the congregation to have more time for self-reflection as a group.
He said he would like the parish to regularly re-evaluate its activities and how well it reflects the tenets of members’ faith.
Conoboy said he was ordained in 2006 and has served in several Diocese of Youngstown parishes since then, first as an associate pastor and later as a pastor. Some of those include St. Charles in Boardman, Christ the Good Shepherd in Campbell and most recently at St. Mary/St. Joseph Parish in Newton Falls.
He received his calling an early age.
"By age 11 — I just knew, knew I was going to be a priest," he said. "I was born and raised Catholic, and I do have an uncle who was a priest, but he was in California."
He said he enjoys the variability of the post.
"One of the things that’s most attractive to me about the Catholic priesthood is, it’s different every day," said Conoboy. "It’s not a 9-5 job; it’s a vocation."
His least favorite aspect of the job: keeping up with all the minute, administrative details of running a parish.
"I don’t like going through one piece of paper at a time or one email at a time; I find that tedious," he said.
One of the challenges he acknowledged is a retreat from the church nationwide, adding that the clergy’s responsibility in that regard is to help people "connect themselves to Christ."
"It’s faith that keeps individuals religious and active in church life," he said. "I won’t be here forever, but what is constant is Jesus Christ."
Helping the youth feel part of the parish community is critical in any congregation, he added.
"One of the things we have to do is let the youth know they are a priority and share the message that they aren’t the future of the church; they’re part of its present," he said. "It’s making sure we communicate not just in words but that we’re connected and offering good things for them."
He also said Our Lady of Perpetual Help, which has a "stable" population, is not facing the types of challenges parishes face elsewhere.
The parish does a great job staying engaged in the wider community, which he said is critical.
"As an entity here in the city, that connection with other civic and religious activities, those are important relationships to maintain," he said.
Currently, he said the parish includes about 1,500 families, and many members are engaged in the community, which was one of the factors that attracted him to the parish.
"There’s so much that we do by way of social justice and charitable work that’s done in different forms," he said. "It’s such important work. That’s certainly one of the things I would want to see continue."
Reporter Bob Gaetjens can be reached at 330-541-9440, email@example.com or @bobgaetjens_rpc.