He may have the most unusual vocation in his diocese.
It was the murder of 75-year-old Tom Repchic that was the final straw for Father Greg Maturi, a Dominican priest in Youngstown, Ohio.
Repchic and his wife, Jackie, were shot right outside Saint Dominic’s Church in September. Jackie Repchic had to have a leg amputated because of her injuries and is recovering.
“We’re a very close-knit family and try to help each other out however we can. You can go to Tom for anything,” said his sister-in-law Rita Blasko. “It was a terrible day. Very hard. You’re trying to mourn for Tom and you still have Jackie. It’s very difficult. …We just miss him, and he will never be replaced.”
Surrounded by family, the pain of their loss still evident in their faces, Blasko said, “I don’t think any of us will ever get over this.”
Police investigators say it was a case of mistaken identity. Tom Repchic’s car looked similar to the person the killers were looking for. Repchic was the second parishioner in just eight months to be killed right outside Saint Dominic’s.
“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.”
So he stepped off the pulpit and into the streets to take on the crime where it lives.
He took a list of 20 homes to Mayor Jay Williams, saying the vacant properties needed to come down immediately. Williams agreed and added seven more to the list.
“I will not allow, we will not allow, these crimes as heinous as they are to define the city,” Williams said.
They call the plan Operation Redemption. The initiative is simple but aggressive – battle the recent violence by tearing down the abandoned homes that have become havens for criminal activity, then hope to stem the tide of residents fleeing the city.