Colette M. Jenkins

St. John the Baptist is among the first five parishes on track to reopen in the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland.

The Akron parish — along with St. James in Lakewood and St. Adalbert, St. Barbara and St. Casimir, all in Cleveland — cleared the first hurdle Wednesday, when Cleveland Bishop Richard G. Lennon announced the appointment of pastors.

During his announcement last month that he would reopen 11 parishes (closed two years ago as part of a diocesan-wide downsizing plan), Lennon said that no real movement would occur until leadership was assigned at each parish.

He is expected to appoint pastors to the other six parishes — St. Mary in Akron, St. Mary in Bedford and St. Emeric, St. Patrick, St. Peter and St. Wendelin, all in Cleveland — within the next 10 days, according to Robert Tayek, diocesan spokesman.

It is the responsibility of each pastor to set the date for reopening his parish. Those dates could begin as early as this month, depending on how long it takes to gather parishioners and meet with them to work out details.

The five pastors assigned Wednesday are:

•?The Rev. Gary Chmura, appointed to St. Adalbert, effective July 2.

•?The Rev. Eric Orzech, appointed to St. Casimir, effective July 9.

•?The Rev. Joseph Hilinski, appointed to St. Barbara, effective July 16.

•?The Rev. Joseph Workman, appointed to St. James, effective July 23.

•?The Rev. Jonathan Zingales, appointed to St. John the Baptist, effective July 2.

Each of the five will serve in dual capacities.

Hilinski will continue as director for continuing education of ministers and delegate for interfaith relations in the diocese. The other four will continue serving as pastor of their current parishes in addition to their new assignments.

Zingales serves as pastor at Visitation of Mary, the parish formed in 2009 when St. John and Annunciation merged. He is no stranger to St. John’s parishioners, having served there for six months, beginning in July 2005, as temporary administrator. He remained in residence at St. John’s until being assigned administrator at Annunciation in November 2006.

Zingales, 65, was undergoing surgery Wednesday and could not be reached for comment.

St. John’s, at 1034 Brown St., closed in October 2009. While it was closed, the merged parish and diocese took care of maintenance at the property. A cleaning crew is expected to begin preparing the church for reopening next week.

Parishioners at St. John’s and St. Mary’s, at 750 S. Main St., were among those from 11 parishes who won appeals to the Vatican, asking that their churches be reopened. In March, the Congregation for Clergy in Rome, ruled in favor of the parishioners.

Rather than appeal the decision, Lennon decided to comply.

The parishes were among 50 closed or merged between August 2009 and June 2010 as part of a diocesan reconfiguration to address a shortage of priests, declining attendance and dwindling resources. As part of the plan, St. Mary’s merged with St. Bernard’s to become St. Bernard-St. Mary parish.

Once the 11 parishes are reopened, it will be the responsibility of parishioners and their pastors to satisfy financial obligations. Tayek said the bishop has no intention of closing the parishes again and will leave the decision of remaining open or closing to parishioners who find themselves in struggling parishes.

In a prepared statement, Lennon said “please join me in rejoicing with our brothers and sisters in faith during this blessed moment and pray for the success of these parishes in their mission to bring greater glory to God.”

Colette Jenkins can be reached at 330-996-3731 or cjenkins@thebeaconjournal.com