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First Friday Club resumes in-person meetings

CANFIELD — After not being able to meet since early 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, the First Friday Club of Greater Youngstown has returned to in-person programs.

Bishop David Bonnar of the Diocese of Youngstown was the first speaker for the new season, which was held at Avion on the Water in Canfield. Bonnar’s theme was “That All May Be One.”

Mary Ellen Branigan, president of the series, said the last in-person event was in March 2020.

“We are excited to be back for our 15th season of speakers and welcome you back,” she said.

While the club is called First Friday, it typically meets at noon on the first Thursday of each month. Bonnar said his speaking at the First Friday Club adds to a long list of firsts for him since becoming bishop of the diocese in January.

“To be your bishop has been so humbling and overwhelming. I appreciate what all of you do for the Diocese of Youngstown,” Bonnar said.

He asked the audience if they could pray each day for one thing what would it be?

“What would you be willing to do in your life to make that prayer happen beyond just voicing the word? As Jesus prepared to leave the world he prayed for one thing, that we would all be one as he and the Father are. Jesus wants all people to be one with the Father and him. What is this oneness and what does it look like? This oneness is a spirit of unity of which everyone clicks and is connected in some way. This experience is often a bond that yields peace and joy,” Bonnar said.

He said as each person grows in life they are introduced to the concept of unity.

Bonnar said the first typical experience with unity begins within the family where everyone lives under one roof and goes to church together.

“It is part of enjoying each other’s company. The people in my neighborhood who were the parents of my friends and other children became like aunts and uncles to us and the friends more like cousins,” he said.

Bonnar said the families gathered regularly for tailgate parties and neighborhood block watches.

“There was a need for us to experience unity as a family being united. We became bridge builders. It is so important to be a connector and unifier,” Bonnar said.

In July 1988, Bonnar was ordained a priest.

“From that point on I was given a mission and a charge to act in the person of Jesus Christ, as a bridge builder and unifier. In all of my priestly assignments, that is what I attempted to do,” Bonnar said.

On Nov. 9, 2020, Bonnar received a life changing phone call that took that bridge building and unifying to a whole different level. Bonnar received a call from Washington, D.C., informing him he was being appointed as the sixth bishop of the Diocese of Youngstown.

“I had never received a phone call like that before. Being a bishop is at times like being an emergency room doctor being present and ready. You fasten your seat belt because you don’t know what is going to happen,” he said.

Bonnar said he worked on his coat of arms when becoming bishop with his motto, “That All May Be One.”

He said unity allows for differences and disagreements.

“We are all brothers and sisters. Chidren of the one God. We share a special bond and common denominators,” Bonnar said, indicating Jesus wants everyone to be one with the Father.

Bonnar said as for the violence in Youngstown “there needs to be more respect in the world.”

He said the violence is a sad sign of the times because of a lack of respect for human life.

“If everyone would step back and look at each person again. Even the church needs to work harder and help bring an end to prejudice and racism. We need to work together. We need to be a people of hope as we face all the injustice and violence,” he said.

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