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The Suburbanite
  • Priest dedicates life to peace

  •   Many people express a passion for doing good works such as helping to feed and clothe those in need, teaching adults to read, saving abused or neglected animals or spreading goodwill and happiness to all they meet. Father Edward Gretchko of St. Mary's Roman Catholic Church in Massillon is one of those people.

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  •   Many people express a passion for doing good works such as helping to feed and clothe those in need, teaching adults to read, saving abused or neglected animals or spreading goodwill and happiness to all they meet. Father Edward Gretchko of St. Mary's Roman Catholic Church in Massillon is one of those people and has a passion to bring peace to those around him. He carries his message beyond Sunday morning masses by speaking of peace throughout even the most general of conversations.
    Many parishioners from Jackson Township worship at the 136-year-old church with the two tall dark brick towers visible from many blocks away. Gretchko is celebrating his 40th year of ordination and his 14th year back at the St. Mary's parish. He was born and raised in Massillon and has been a member of the parish for most of his life.
    “I know every nook and cranny from the top of the tower to the dirt basement,” Gretchko said. “You might say I was hatched out and raised here in Massillon. I attended St. Joseph's Elementary School and graduated from Central Catholic High School. My first move away was to attend Athenaeum of Ohio Mount St. Mary's Seminary in Cincinnati.”
    Gretchko was a newspaper carrier for the Canton Repository and worked for Pick's Food on Amherst throughout high school. He later worked at Union Drawn in Massillon during his college years.
    The oldest of three, Gretchko has a sister in Massillon and a brother in Navarre. Both his mother and father had 14 people in their families. His mother's family was born and raised in the Massillon area, and his father's family came from Newton Falls.
    He has served parishes in Alliance, Ashtabula, Struthers, Lowellville and Conneaut before returning to his home in Massillon. Today, in addition to his duties at St. Mary's, he's an administrator of a Greek Catholic Church in Pleasant City, OH and the chaplain of the National Shrine of St. Dymphna, which is now located on the grounds of St. Mary's.
    He is actively involved with the community, opening the doors of the historic church to ecumenical events, including the recent Community Candlelight Walk, where he was the honoree lighting this year's candle. He is also a member of the Massillon Area Clergy Association and serves with other area religious leaders. He is active with Habitat for Humanity and the United Way.
    “Working with the community also means helping parishioners in need and helping with weddings and funerals,” Gretchko said. “This is a large parish with a lot of activities.”
    Robert Sanderson, president of the Massillon Chamber of Commerce, said Gretchko’s ministry is about his compassion for those who are less fortunate.
    “He goes out of his way to help people in need and to work to find them shelter, clothing, food and other items,” Sanderson said. “He has a deep compassion for helping. It's truly his vocation.”
    Page 2 of 2 - Gretchko believes in promoting thoughts of peace. For the past 30 years, he's had a custom license plate on his vehicle with the word “PAX”, which is Latin for “peace.” He's known since 3rd grade he wanted to be a Catholic priest.
    “I saw a priest say mass as a kid, and I thought it a nice thing to do because I saw the priest as a leader. Then, when I was delivering newspapers while in high school, I experienced many people trying to avoid paying for the newspaper by saying they had already paid and in other ways,” he said. “I thought then that someone has to teach the truth, so I went from wanting to be a celebrant of the mass to the minister of the gospel with the desire to teach.”
    Rick Chapis, business manager at St. Mary’s, said serving the people in his parish is Gretchko’s main priority.  
    “Father Ed is very dedicated and is always busy providing services to the parishioners and doing service projects,” Chapis said. “He's tireless and continues to find time to talk with, call or visit with people from St. Mary's or those that are sick in the nursing homes and hospitals.”
    During his training for priesthood, Gretchko found that priests are called on to be a preacher, a teacher and a holy person as well as celebrate all of the sacraments.
    “One of the Pope's titles is the servant of the servants of God. He is the servant of every servant of God. The priesthood is very akin to any good religious leader, we all serve the needs of others,” Gretchko said.
    He believes that peace is not as much about the absence of conflict as it is about living together in harmony.
    “Peace is about respecting each person's faith, dignity, good works and pursuit of happiness,” Gretchko said.
    His lifelong service has brought many wonderful moments to his own life. He has been a teacher to both youth and adults, counseled young people considering marriage and comforted the sick and the dying.
    “As priests, we must live the Ten Commandments and the beatitudes...,” Gretchko said. “If I had to do it all again, I would. I'm still trying to give my all to people as best I can.”

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