The new parish center at St. Domi- nic Church stands in sharp contrast to the big push for the relocation of Cardinal Mooney High School to the suburbs. Both are now on Youngstown’s South Side.
St. Dominic Church, led by its parish priest, the Rev. Gregory Maturi, is deeply rooted in the inner city and last week dedicated a $1.4 million social hall and commercial kitchen to demonstrate its long-term commitment.
Father Maturi and the church’s congregation aren’t giving up on the South Side, despite the myriad problems. Crime and neighborhood deterioration top the list.
Cardinal Mooney has been on the South Side since the early 1956, but now influential alumni and parents want Bishop George Murry to approve a plan to build a new school in Boardman.
Bishop Murry had initially decided that the high school would remain in its current location on Erie Street and would be renovated.
However, Murry recently announced that he was reconsidering his decision after an asbestos study pegged the cost of dealing with the potential environmental hazard at $18 million.
Catholic diocese officials, including Superintendent Dr. Nicholas Wolsonovich and the bishop, have made it clear there is no danger associated with the asbestos and that the new school year will begin as scheduled.
But the cost of dealing with the asbestos is a challenge to the diocese, which is why Bishop Murry chose to reassess the situation. A recommendation from a study committee on Mooney’s future is expected any day now.
By contrast, St. Dominic Church is not only staying put, but Father Maturi has taken an aggressive stance against crime and the dilapidated structures that oftentimes are used as drug houses.
He has launched Operation Redemption, designed to change the physical appearance of the area around the church, and also to change the attitude of the people living in the neighborhoods.
His willingness to actually walk the dangerous streets of the South Side, talking to residents, and his unflagging push for a heightened law enforcement presence in the area has drawn national media attention. Maturi has been the subject of newspaper and television stories locally, statewide and nationally.
The ribbon cutting for the parish center — Bishop Murry conducted the dedication service — was more than just ceremonial. It delivered a strong message to the parishioners of St. Dominic, residents of the area and city government that the church is willing to do its part to turn around one of the more dangerous sections of Youngstown.
It should spur City Hall to do whatever is necessary to ensure that people using the center are safe.
Given the 2010 murders of Angeline Fimognari and Thomas Repchic, there are residents and non-residents who are apprehensive about venturing into the South Side.
Fimognari, a long-time member of the church who attended mass every day, was in her car that was parked in the church’s parking lot when she was shot at point-blank range.
Repchic, also a member of the church, had picked up his wife, Jacqueline, who answered the church office telephone, and was driving north on Southern Boulevard when shots rang out; Repchic was killed and his wife severely wounded.
Those crimes and other gang-related violence have come to define the South Side of Youngstown. St. Dominic Church is doing what it can to change that image by showing the criminals — now with the parish center — that it won’t be scared away.