Youngstown bishop inducts new pastor at the University Newman Center

Samantha Laros

Students and families filled the seats and lined the perimeter of the sanctuary in the Newman Center yesterday for the induction of its new pastor, the Rev. Christopher Luoni.

The congregation rose to greet Bishop George Murry of the diocese of Youngstown, who gave the sermon and performed the induction.

“I now present Father Christopher Luoni,” the Bishop announced. The congregation applauded.

The Newman Center, a parish of about 280 families and 800 students, received Luoni July 1 after former pastor John Jerek was offered a position in the diocese. Luoni took on full pastoral duties as soon as he arrived.

“He’s an amazing guy,” senior nursing major David Klacik said. “He keeps himself busy while always trying to connect with the students.”

The Newman Center is Luoni’s first pastorship. He graduated from the University of Akron in 1988 with a degree in business. After about 11 years, he left for Cincinnati in 1999 to attend seminary. He was ordained in 2005 and served his first associate pastorship at Holy Family Parish in Poland, Ohio.

He said he felt called by God for about seven years, but it took him a while to make the first step toward becoming a pastor.

“Almost all of us have changing vocations,” he said. “But when you become a priest, you know it’s for life.”

Luoni said his time as pastor at a college campus has given him a unique first experience.

“It’s a beautiful community with a beautiful blend of students and non-students,” he said. “The families who attend church here are in service to the students, to give them sort of a home away from home while they’re in college.”

Mark Bartholet, pastoral associate to campus ministry with the Catholic Student Association, said the students are responding well to Luoni.

“He looks like Ferris Bueller. He brings a humor and energy that our students thoroughly enjoy,” Bartholet said.

Contact religion reporter Samantha Laros

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