On the weekend of 17/18 March 2018 parishioners, at both St. Patrick Parish and Sacred Heart Catholic Church, were informed that Bp. Nelson J. Perez, bishop of the Diocese of Cleveland, had granted early retirement to Fr. Robert Cole (pastor of Sacred Heart Parish in Oberlin), effective 1 July 2018.  It was further announced that Fr. David Trask, pastor of St. Patrick Parish in Wellington, would serve as pastor of both parish communities effective 1 July 2018.

In the days following the announcement, representatives from the Diocese of Cleveland (Fr. Dan Schlegel at Sacred Heart Catholic Church and Sr. Rita Mary Harwood SND at St. Patrick Parish) spoke about this new model of pastoring in the Diocese.  While a shared pastorate will require each parish to embrace adaptation (specifically with regard to weekend and weekday Mass schedules, as well as pastoral availability and/or expectations), it was clearly emphasized that the shared pastorate does not involve merging or closing.  In fact, the diocesan representatives highlighted that the relationship between Sacred Heart & St. Patrick has historical roots: from 1903-1907 Fr. Peter Dietz served as pastor of Sacred Heart Catholic Church as well as administrator of St. Patrick Parish.  Just as the two parishes remained separate-and-distinct in the early 1900’s while sharing a pastor, so too will they remain in this currently envisioned shared pastorate.

At subsequent Town Hall gatherings, held simultaneously at each parish (Fr. Cole and Deacon Daw facilitating the discussion at Sacred Heart Catholic Church and Fr. Trask facilitating discussion at St. Patrick Parish),  a process of appreciative inquiry was utilized to solicit parishioner input on a number of topics – but most specifically input on Mass times.  The question asked was: “What can you live with?” → and several options were presented.  While some had specific preferences, the predominate response was that most could live with almost all options present.

Five weeks after the announcement of Fr. Cole’s retirement, and four Town Hall Meetings later, Fr. Trask spoke at a combined Town Hall Meeting at Sacred Heart Catholic Church to answer many of the questions raised at the prior Town Hall Meetings, as well as to apprise both parish communities of the new Mass schedules.  Topics he broached in his presentation included:

♦ The shared pastorate has many similarities to a blended-family; as a blended-family takes time to settle in and adjust, so too the shared-pastorate will require similar adaptations.
♦ Both parishes will have a resident pastor.  Fr. Trask sees himself splitting time between each parish, and intends to spend overnights at both parishes over the course of the week.
♦ The Mass schedule needs to be such that a single priest can handle it.  While there may be occasions when the assistance of a visiting priest is an option, the Mass schedule must be such that Fr. Trask can do all Masses himself – because most often that’ll be the only option.
♦ Special Masses/Liturgies (such as Holy Thursday, Good Friday, the Easter Vigil, Easter Sunday, Christmas, etc) will be addressed seasonally.  Some celebrations, such as Holy Thursday or the Easter Vigil, are of such a character that it’s appropriate that both parishes come together in celebration … a lot like the disciples joined together at the Last Supper.  But just because Holy Thursday is celebrated at a particular parish one year does NOT mean it’ll be at the same parish the next year.
♦ While the new Mass times might require that one drives to the neighboring parish for a Mass that better fits into our schedules, Fr. Trask asked all to remember why it is that they might have to drive from Oberlin to Wellington or Wellington to Oberlin.

• We drive to Mass to encounter the Lord in Word and Sacrament!
• Fr. Trask then asked all to consider the countless times they get into the car and:
→ Drive to use a 50¢ coupon
→ Drive to Cedar Point
→ Drive to practice & sporting events
→ Drive a (grand)child to a dance, etc.

♦ The shared pastorate actually gives parishioners at either parish more options to celebrate Sunday Mass with their pastor.  Thus, even with the change in times (and the loss of a Mass at St. Patrick Parish) members of both parishes will experience a net increase of opportunities to celebrate a Sunday Mass with their pastor as presider!

With many foundational points established, Fr. Trask unveiled the new Mass schedule.  The schedule of Masses, under the shared-pastorate model, affords two weekend and two weekday Masses at each parish.  And since each parish had expressed an option for a weekday evening Mass, that desire was incorporated into the final schedule.