Aleteia logoAleteia logo
Aleteia
Monday 20 September |
Saint of the Day: St. Andrew Kim Taegon and Companions
home iconSpirituality
line break icon

How One Parish is Bringing the Gospel to the African American Community

Public Domain

David L. Gray - published on 06/28/13

Though many blacks remain suspicious of the Catholic Church as a white establishment, the Church and her Sacraments are desperately needed by everyone

When Angeline Fimognair, an 80 year-old woman was shot in the head in the parking lot of St. Dominic’s Church following the morning Mass on January 23, 2010, it wouldn’t be the last time that violence would visit this parish of Dominican Friars. Again, on September 25, 2010 twelve shots were at the car of Thomas, 80, and Jacqueline Repchic, 74, killing Thomas and wounding his wife.

By 1960 Youngstown, Ohio had emerged as one of the largest steel producing cities in the world. Republic Steel, U.S. Steel Ohio Works, Youngstown Sheet, and Tube’s Brier Hill Works were operating twenty-four hours a day and decorating the city’s skyline and the populace’s lungs with ‘pay dirt’. This region between Youngstown, Ohio and Pittsburg, Pennsylvania became known as the Steel Valley, and steel dominated every facet of the culture here.

Saint Dominic’s Church had been situated on the Southside of Youngstown since 1923, and since about the 1960’s seventy-five percent of the Blacks in the city have been forcibly relocated to the Southside, while the West side has become almost entirely White due to redlining.

With the substantial presence of the steel industry having long abandoned the Steel Valley, decades of mafia activity, and the highest crime and murder rates in the country for a city its size, today Youngstown is working  hard to find a new identity and economic base. Yet, in the midst of a growing downtown area, the poorest sections of the city, which happen to be predominately Black, also have thousands of vacant buildings. More on the economic rise and fall of Youngstown can be found here.

This is the type of neighborhood that Fr. Gregory Maturi, O.P. found St. Dominic’s in when he arrived there in 2009.  After having to bury two of his parishioners due to neighborhood violence, he decided to leave the rectory and become part of the solution. "After the second murder, I said enough is enough. And I decided I needed to get more involved with the neighborhood because as goes the neighborhood, so goes the church," Maturi said while strolling the snow-filled streets of Youngstown’s Southside, the center of the recent violence plaguing the town. "Whatever Youngstown has been doing up until now hasn’t been working," Maturi said. "We need to take another approach."

One of those approaches was to get involved with Mayor Jay William’s ‘Operation Redemption’ to tear down abandoned homes that had become haves of criminal activity. As a result, since 2011, several homes near St. Dominic’s have been torn down and turned into green spaces.

Yet, everything is not being torn down on the Southside of Youngstown. One thing that is rising out of the ashes is a new 4,700 square foot and $1.3 million parish center for St. Dominic’s parish. It will be dedicated on August 8, 2013 on the feast of St. Dominic and will be preceded by a Novena to Father Augustus Tolton for the Spiritual Welfare of the Black American Community.

When I arrived at St. Dominic’s I hadn’t known about any of this or Fr. Maturi’s nickname as the ‘Crime Fighting Priest’. I had been a roaming Catholic for a while, looking for a parish where I didn’t have to be spiritually disturbed by liberal stump speeches under the guise of a homily. A couple ladies who follow my blog recommend St. Dominic’s to me, so I visited there one Sunday. Being that it is on the Southside of Youngstown, I thought might find more than one or two Black Catholics. While didn’t happen, I admit that I’m still tickled by one older White gentleman there at weekday Mass who always thanks me for coming and tells me that the Church has too many White people. What did happen was that I found a parish whose outreach to the surrounding community is more than just providing food and clothing.

  • 1
  • 2
Tags:
FaithPovertySaintsVocations

Support Aleteia!

If you’re reading this article, it’s thanks to the generosity of people like you, who have made Aleteia possible.

Here are some numbers:

  • 20 million users around the world read Aleteia.org every month
  • Aleteia is published every day in seven languages: English, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and Slovenian
  • Each month, readers view more than 50 million pages
  • Nearly 4 million people follow Aleteia on social media
  • Each month, we publish 2,450 articles and around 40 videos
  • We have 60 full time staff and approximately 400 collaborators (writers, translators, photographers, etc.)

As you can imagine, these numbers represent a lot of work. We need you.

Support Aleteia with as little as $1. It only takes a minute. Thank you!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...




Top 10
1
ANMOL RODRIGUEZ
Domitille Farret d'Astiès
Attacked with acid as a baby, Anmol Rodriguez overcomes and inspi...
2
Kathleen N. Hattrup
Pope considers what to do with pro-abortion Catholic politicians
3
ARGENTINE CHILDREN
Esteban Pittaro
Argentine “Mother Teresa” was a former model and actress who embr...
4
RESURRECTION
Philip Kosloski
Your body is not a “shell” for your spirit
5
Kathleen N. Hattrup
On same-sex unions, Pope says Church doesn’t have power to change...
6
PIER GIORGIO FRASSATI
Cerith Gardiner
12 Habits of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati that every young adult...
7
Visalia CHURCH
J-P Mauro
The largest Catholic parish church in the US will soon be in Cali...
See More
Newsletter
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.