Youngstown church volunteers rescue, brighten blue spruce


Jim Snyder and Colleen Hendel, volunteers, hang onto a bow of an 18-foot-tall blue spruce tree as its anchored in a tree holder on the altar area of St. Patrick Church on Oak Hill Avenue in Youngstown. The tree is a focal point of Christmas decor at the church.


An 18-foot blue spruce is hoisted by Mashburn Tree Service after it was cut down at Southern Boulevard and Lucius Avenue in Youngstown. The tree was on property given to St. Dominic Church, which gave the tree to St. Patrick Church.


Volunteers at the Youngstown church work on steadying the blue spruce that will decorate the sanctuary for Christmas. The tree will be arrayed with some 9,600 white lights. It had been targeted for uprooting in the city’s Operation Redemption program to clean up the South Side neighborhood near St. Dominic Church.


If you go

What: A Christmas Eve Mass.

When: 4 p.m. today at St. Patrick Church, Oak Hill Avenue, Youngstown, with children as shepherds, and with Bishop George V. Murry of the Diocese of Youngstown and the Rev. Edward Noga. A choral concert will be at 11:30 p.m. Christmas Eve followed by midnight Mass. On New Year’s Eve, there will be a holy hour from 3 to 4 p.m. followed by Mass.



Divine providence may have intervened to give the Rev. Edward Noga a “perfect tree” for Christmas.

The pastor of St. Patrick Church said he admired the tree every time he drove past it at the southeast corner of Southern Boulevard and Lucius Avenue on the South Side. There, the blue spruce grew to 18 feet of natural glory amid urban surroundings.

At a recent Christmas gathering Father Noga attended, conversation turned to demolition in the city. Father Noga admitted he was all ears when someone mentioned that an apartment building near St. Dominic Church, 77 E. Lucius Ave., was on the demo list. Father Noga said he couldn’t help but wonder what would happen to the tree.

The priest tracked down the apartment building owner, who told him the property was transferred to St. Dominic’s.

Father Noga knows the Rev. Gregory Maturi, a fellow priest in the Diocese of Youngstown and St. Dominic pastor. Father Maturi confirmed the story and told Father Noga, “If there is something from the property you want, get it before the bulldozer arrives.”

Father Noga said he mentioned the tree, and Father Maturi told him to take it. St. Dominic and St. Patrick are a collaborative unit in the diocesan downsizing plan.

Father Maturi explained that a “generous parishioner” donated the property at Lucius and Southern to the church, which plans to turn it into a parking lot. Parking is needed, Father Maturi said, because the church is raising money for a new $1.2 million parish center to be constructed next to the church on the current parking lot.

The church had been using its former school on Southern Boulevard as the parish center but recently sold it to New Horizons Science Charter School, which has about 200 students.

Father Maturi said he sees the new parish center “as an investment in the South Side.” He noted that he also sees it as a contribution toward Operation Redemption.

The multi-pronged effort aims to:

Demolish 20 derelict structures, 15 of which have been razed already.

Work with Youngstown State University, Youngstown Redevelopment officials and the Wean Foundation to “green” the vacant lots

Increase police presence in the neighborhood.

Work with YSU on an economic development plan.

Father Maturi said some of the other evergreens and trees on the property will be saved.

On Monday, Mashburn Tree Service cut down “the tree” and delivered it to St. Patrick Church, 1420 Oak Hill Ave. On Wednesday, church members decorated it, enhancing its natural beauty with 9,600 white lights.

The sanctuary at St. Patrick is imposing with a soaring ceiling of 92 feet. So decorations can’t be small or they’d be dwarfed.

Jack Doran, whose family has been affiliated with St. Patrick for decades, coordinates decorations for the church and volunteers have worked like elves this week.

Doran said he learned the tricks of decorating from other church members who had a talent for it, Mary Kay Gribbon and Margaret Simon, now both deceased. “They taught me less is better than more,” he said.

The blue spruce dominates the left side of the altar. Statues of Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus are part of the display.

The blue spruce is more than a beautiful tree, though; it is a symbol of faith.

“The evergreen is a sign of God’s love ... that is constant,” Father Noga said. “The evergreen doesn’t die and grow back. ... It’s there throughout the four seasons.”

On the altar, 22 large white poinsettias are interspersed with three large red poinsettias for accent.

“The shape of the tree is just beautiful," Doran said.

On what Doran calls “fans,” wooden shelves on pillars in the church, are placed other figures from the nativity such as shepherds and large red bows.