Retired YPD chaplain honored at luncheon
By Sean Barron
Regardless of the trauma and stress many city officers encountered on their daily beats, the difficulties of their jobs were often mitigated in significant ways, thanks to having the Rev. Edward J. Neroda in their corner.
“He often ministered to officers and folks they came across in their regular interactions,” police Chief Robin Lees of the Youngstown Police Department recalled about Father Neroda, who retired Sept. 1 after having served 13 years as the department’s chaplain. “He really enjoyed police work. I think he would have been a police officer if he hadn’t been a priest.”
Father Neroda, who’s also the former pastor of St. Stanislaus Kostka Church on the South Side, had a “calming and soothing” demeanor, which was effective in helping diffuse many volatile situations, Lees said during the Youngstown Police Chaplaincy Corp.’s meeting and Christmas luncheon Friday afternoon at the Catholic Diocese of Youngstown offices on Rayen Avenue downtown.
The gathering also was to thank and honor Father Neroda for his service.
Detective Sgt. Carl Davis, who’s served 31 years with the department, recalled the chaplain also enjoyed riding with officers on patrol several times each week. He sometimes counseled the officers to help them better deal with cumulative stress. In addition, Father Neroda, if asked, tried to assist residents who had been assaulted or were victims of domestic violence and other crimes, Davis continued.
Father Neroda, who was ordained May 25, 1957, recalled having intervened on behalf of several people who had been contemplating suicide. In one of the situations, a man held a knife to his body, he said.
“I’ve been instrumental in three or four occasions thwarting a possible suicide,” added Father Neroda, who received training at a chaplaincy school in Greensburg, Pa., and served with the Ohio State Highway Patrol’s Hiram Post from 1971 to 1978.
Father Neroda added one of his core focuses was to build strong relationships with police officers “and other people I encounter while associated with the police department.”
“He’s always been my hero, someone I’ve looked up to my whole life,” said John Novak, a nephew.
Novak explained he and his uncle shared a passion for reading books and listening to records, which whetted Novak’s interest in literature and classical music. Father Neroda also was adept at offering sound advice and listening to others’ problems and concerns, both of which he did consistently while with the police department, Novak continued.
Before starting his career in chaplaincy, Father Neroda worked in a downtown coffee shop many years ago then for Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. Afterward, he began as pastor for St. Stanislaus Church in 1980.
Now that he’s retired, what are some of the plans one of the longtime priest and chaplain?
“I may ride with the police department again,” he said with a chuckle, adding, “They’re in my prayers every day.”