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Horizon Science Academy recognizes St. Dom's Father Maturi - Vindicator

Horizon Science Academy hosted a goodbye luncheon to recognize the community contributions of the Rev. Greg Maturi, pastor of St. Dominic Church.

It was the third such party for the priest, who served six years at the church at 77 E. Lucius Ave., and is awaiting reassignment.

But, if Victoria Allen, president of ICU Block Watch, has anything to say, she’ll take her appeal to Pope Francis to have Father Maturi stay.

“He’s my partner in crime,” said the Lucius Avenue resident Thursday with a smile and a bit of irony. She has worked with the priest in the neighborhood to make it a better place to live.

“I went to the church one day to talk to him. I told him we had to do something in the neighborhood to make it a safer place,” she recalled of their meeting. This came after the murder of Angeline Fimognari as she left the 8 a.m. Mass on Jan. 23, 2010, and eight months later, the killing of parishioner Thomas Repchic and wounding of his wife, Jacqueline, on Sept. 25 by gun violence in an incident of mistaken identity near the church.

Since October 2011, Allen has partnered with the church to sponsor the Neighborhood Harvest that attracted 600 to the first event. It continues annually along with other community outreach programs that engage children.

Father Maturi’s activism in the community evolved out of these tragedies. He began his pastorate at St. Dominic on Nov. 1, 2009.

Father Maturi said a province meeting is planned this month. The provincial (leader) of the Dominican Friars of the Province of St. Joseph has not yet reassigned him. “He could have me stay another three years,” Father Maturi said. He speculated that because he has not been reassigned and his replacement hasn’t been named, that might happen.

As for the goodbye events, Father Maturi said, “It’s kind of strange. ... I was supposed to be going. But it’s nice to know what people think of you.”

The priest said he has followed Pope Francis’ suggestion to clergy. “Get out in the neighborhoods and be involved ... be active,” he said. “This is about reaching and stretching over the divides ... and interdenominational cooperation.”

About 50 people attended the event at the school, 3403 Southern Blvd. Eighth-graders Theapus Redmond and Tiffany Douthitt spoke briefly about Father Maturi’s work, and Dynasti Boykin and Keasi Weeden presented gifts from the school. That included a jacket with the Horizon logo. “I can wear it when I ride my motorcycle,” Father Maturi said.

Photos of Father Maturi and quotes from him appeared on a screen, including “I decided to get more involved with the neighborhood because as goes the neighborhood, so goes the church.”

Father Maturi also spoke briefly, noting a partnership between the church and the city cleaned up the neighborhood and made it a better place. Operation Redemption demolished 65 derelict homes. “That was fighting crime and blight,” he said. “Youngstown Police Department helped with more patrols and great response time. ... It’s safer here.”

The priest also credited Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corp., which helped “change and reinvigorate the neighborhood” and the Difference Makers, who financially supported events for youth. “My job is to give hope so that people can solve their problems,” he said. “The key is collaboration, and this happened because people worked together. I’m thankful God allowed me to be part of it.”

Ian J. Beniston, executive director of YNDC, said, “Father Maturi was relentless in getting things done. It wasn’t a flash-in-the-pan involvement; he stayed at it. He got a huge amount of things done.”

Marcia Harris, Youngstown Fire Department chief inspector, said she worked with the priest at the church and school on safety issues. “I would miss his kind spirit and warm presence,” she said.

Mayor John A. McNally said he credited Father Maturi with being “the squeaky wheel” that prompted a working relationship between the church and city, leading to neighborhood improvements. “People were the resources,” he said.

Police Chief Robin Lees described Father Maturi as a role model. “He has shown what a member of the clergy can do by being involved in the neighborhood and not only the congregation,” Lees said.

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