By LINDA M. LINONIS
To celebrate the Feast Day of St. Dominic on Thursday, parishioners of St. Dominic Church paid homage to the patron saint and, together with the community, dedicated a new parish center.
Bishop George V. Murry of the Diocese of Youngstown said Mass for some 400 members and guests. Then the group walked over to the new $1.4 million parish center, now accessible directly from the church, 77 E. Lucius Ave.
The bishop blessed the center, noting it will be used by the parish and community. “It will be a place to get to know one another and give witness to faith,” he said.
The Rev. Gregory Maturi, pastor, admitted the dedication of the new parish center “was an emotional time.”
“This is a dream come true and a sign of hope,” he said. The priest credited Bishop Murry with “being a strong supporter for the parish project and the South Side in general.”
Father Maturi said the new parish center also is a sign of evangelization. Previously, the pastor had said the church’s involvement in a harvest activity in October, an alternative to Halloween that attracted some 800 participants, was part of evangelization. The church, an anchor of the neighborhood, is marking its 90th year.
Half of the 8,000-square-foot center features a reception hall. There is a full commercial kitchen, restrooms and large vestibule featuring a statue of St. Dominic. The 2-ton statue was moved from the church proper to the entrance of the center.
Father Maturi said the parish center will be used for church social events. It also is available for rental. The center could be a setting for wedding receptions and other gatherings.
Ground was broken last July; a ceremonial groundbreaking was April 25, the Feast Day of St. Mark, known for building churches. The center was finished in July; the dedication was set on St. Dominic’s Feast Day.
Joan Faunda, a lifelong member, and Betty Conway, a 79-year member, said the center is meaningful to the church and community. “This will be a big help to the church. ... Now there’s a nice place for social events,” Conway said, adding the center was matched perfectly to the church.
Faunda said she sees the center “as a hopeful sign” for the church and neighborhood.
Joe Illencik Jr., a lifelong member, said both and he and his father attended the church school. “It’s part of the rebirth of the South Side,” he said of the center. He took the day off work to be part of the event.
Jo Hurchik, a member of the diocesan Infant Jesus of Prague Guild and St. Angeli Merici Parish, said the new center would be a nice place for the guild, which rotates meetings among churches in the diocese, to meet.
John Pasternak, a member since 2010, said he saw the new center “as a way to fight the blight.” He added that the new building showed “an investment in the city” that is good for the community.
His wife, Georgia, said she attended the church school. “It’s always been close to my heart.”
Father Maturi also credited Mayor Charles Sammarone and his chief of staff, DeMaine Kitchen, with supporting the church. “This neighborhood is being transformed ... the city can’t do it alone,” Kitchen said. “It’s being done through the partnerships like this.”
Kitchen also thanked Father Maturi for his “vision, leadership and commitment” to the parish and community.
The celebration contrasted with sorrow that the parish experienced with the 2010 murders of members Angeline Fimognari and Thomas Repchic.