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Youngstown cracked down on domestic violence

This week in history

125 years ago, 1895

The Youngstown Vindicator ran a series of stories that highlighted recent rulings in domestic violence cases. At a time when women’s rights were few, spousal abuse was often overlooked as a crime and considered more as an acceptable part of marriage. Youngstown’s Mayor Isaac Barclay Miller was behind a push for more serious and impactful sentences. Jerry Reardon received one of those sentences.

Reardon was quite surprised to hear that he had to pay a fine of $200 (nearly $6,200 in 2020) and spend six months in prison at a workhouse in Cleveland. When asked by the judge if he had anything to say, Reardon replied that the women in his neighborhood were no better than his wife and that he was unfortunate in having for a wife a woman who simply talked too much. The physical abuse he inflicted on his wife was the worst that Mayor Miller had ever seen. “If there was any way to give you a much longer sentence, I would do so as you certainly deserve it,” Miller commented. The court’s door had to be locked to keep the growing crowd of spectators at bay throughout the trial. This was the third domestic violence case that week, with a fourth coming the next day.

100 years ago, 1920

A bitter and potentially dangerous situation was unfolding at the Holy Trinity Slovak Roman Catholic parish in Struthers in response to a sudden leadership change. The Rev. Joseph Zalibera had been the parish’s pastor for the past six years when Bishop John Farrelly of Cleveland called for the Rev. John Frena to replace him. The change prompted 15 armed men to stand guard round the clock at the church in an effort to prevent Frena from entering the property. A clash occurred when Frena arrived and the guards set off an alarm that prompted more than 200 people to gather in front of the church and parish house. The group, armed with stones and clubs, did not recognize Frena’s authority and threatened to use force to prevent his entry. Frena made a quick retreat and headed toward Cleveland to confer with Bishop Farrelly.

Political upheaval in Europe was behind the tension, as a small group of Czech priests worked closely with the Bishop to have Zalibera removed. The Rev. Oldrich Zlamal, the former pastor at St. Cyril and Methodius Church, led that group. The opposition, led by the majority of the church’s members, refused to recognize the authority of Zlamal and Farrelly. Those parish members and trustees believed that Zalibera was a good Slovak who was opposed to the absorption of upper Hungary into Czechoslovakia. He wished for an autonomous Slovak country and fought back against Czech support in the local area.

Parishioners also noted Zalibera’s impact in the church and community, citing his success in uniting the church’s factions, paying the parish debt, building a school and a community house, and acquiring a home for the nuns who taught at the parish school. When word of his impending removal arrived, they pleaded with the bishop to change the decision. The bishop’s office refused and the parish asked for explanation which had yet to be received. The parish trustees stated that it would only accept the appointment of Frena if the bishop could prove wrongdoing. The controversy and stand-off continued.

40 years ago, 1980

Sister Mary Ann Coz, director of the media library of the Youngstown Catholic Diocese, received an award from an unlikely source. Admiral Ross Trower, the Navy’s Chief of Chaplains, awarded Sister Mary Ann with an Award of Commendation for her service to the country’s sailors. Lt. Cmdr. Robert Reidy, also a Navy chaplain, presented the award at the diocese library. The award honored Sister Mary Ann’s dedication in sending audio tapes and films to the Navy, which offered the service men and women a chance to see and hear famous speakers and discussions about important moral and ethical issues. Sister Mary Ann was presented with a commemorative medal that marked the Navy’s 200th anniversary. She was also made an honorary Navy chaplain.

Reidy was a former classmate of the Rev. Philip Conley, the diocesan vicar of education. It was this friendship that sparked the connection between the diocese library and the Navy. The library’s well-stocked collection provided plenty of content for Sister Mary Ann to send to Norfolk. In addition to the tapes and films, she also loaned several books to be used aboard ships including the USS Nimitz, Eisenhower, and America.

Sister Mary Ann entered the Ursuline Sisters Convent in 1949 and earned a bachelor’s degree from Youngstown State University. She earned a master’s degree at the University of Notre Dame before taking her vows. She taught at several Youngstown area elementary schools, including St. Charles, St. Rose, and St. Luke. She joined the diocesan staff in 1966 as the supervisor of CCD classes. She established the media library in 1969 and oversaw its growth into a community resource used by many religious and secular organizations.

All sourced from the Youngstown Vindicator by Traci Manning, MVHS curator of education.

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