Monday, April 27, 2009

Youngstown’s bishop to go back where he belongs

The I Will Shout Youngstown blog reported today that Bishop George Murry of the Youngstown (Ohio) diocese has decided to move — wait for it — into Youngstown.

The bishop is taking two important steps. He is giving up a house on 2.5 acres, with five bedrooms and two family rooms. In terms of sustainability, a single man living in such a place is insupportable. While a bishop by definition has neither wife nor children, I suppose he has some sort of corporate ménage … but five bedrooms? Two family rooms? In a prestigious public school district? C’mon.

An equally praiseworthy step is: Bishop Murry is moving back into the city. The bishop’s home has been in Liberty Township, north of Youngstown in a different county. Many of the tycoons who once lived on Youngstown’s north side (within the mile immediately north of the cathedral) moved their families to Liberty Township years ago.

The bishop's new home will be on Gypsy Lane, the boundary between Youngstown and Liberty Township. Most Gypsy Lane houses look across a wide, tree-shaded street at a municipal golf course. I note that Bishop Murry rides a bicycle, and while it's something of a walk from Gypsy Lane to St. Columba's Cathedral, it would -- will! -- take no time at all for a cyclist.

Now comes the BUT. But -- wouldn't it be less symbolic and more real for the bishop's home to be truly in Youngstown? Gypsy Lane is, after all, as far away from the city as you can be and be in the city.

Wick Park, about a half mile south of the bishop's new home, is a glorious area of green that survived the worst of Youngstown's downturn. It has many grand houses and institutions surrounding it -- admittedly, grand houses that have seen better days -- but who better than the Diocese to take on the project of restoring a mansion to LEED standards? Imagine if the Diocese of Youngstown created a green rehabbing training program. It would put the energy of a large, rich institution, and the charisma of Bishop Murry (which I understand is considerable) into a job-training program that would be invested not just in Youngstown's future but in the whole country's future. It could be a model copied around the United States!

Nobody understands better than I how a person can hunger for green, open space. And rank hath its privileges. But rank hath its responsibilities too … and in my humble UU view, this bishop, any bishop, belongs close to the cathedral, in his city.

Youngstown is not a splendid diocese. It may be that the Liberty Township home is Youngstown’s diocesan equivalent to the treasures of the Vatican. But Youngstown (like Flint and Detroit and Buffalo and Erie and Cleveland) has been struggling since the 60s with the butchery of urban renewal programs that ripped out their cores. Quality lifestyles wait in those cities for people to go claim then. The Catholic Church in action can be an amazing force for good, and I hope that its enlistment in this battle is as meaningful as it seems to me this spring day.

And that 2.5 acres? It’s too much to hope that the diocese will turn it into a market garden. But Liberty Township is fairly flat … and imagine a diocese-wide composting program. Oh, the possibilities of it!

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Francee said...
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