A young man volunteering with a group of Capuchin Franciscan friars in the nation’s capital has been killed in an apparent attempted robbery.
Ryan Realbuto, a 23-year-old member of the Capuchin Franciscan Volunteer Corps, was fatally shot just after 10 p.m. Jan. 18 while walking with fellow volunteers in the Michigan Park neighborhood of Washington.
According to media reports, the group was returning to their shared home following a young adult event at a local church. OSV News confirmed Realbuto, a native of Pittsford, New York, had attended a gathering that evening at Immaculate Conception Parish, located about a 10-minute Metro ride from the Brookland stop at which Realbuto and his companions were accosted.
The Metropolitan Police Department has offered a reward of up to $25,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible. OSV News has contacted the department’s public information officer for an update on the investigation and is awaiting a response.
A GoFundMe page created by Realbuto’s aunt, Lynn Fenicchia, raised more than $119,000 in donations as of Jan. 23 to cover “the unthinkable, completely unplanned costs of his medical expenses as surgeons tried desperately to save his life, the transportation of getting Ryan’s body back to Rochester, legal fees (his parents) will incur throughout the investigation, and the funeral costs of burying their son.
“These are overwhelming costs no parent could ever be prepared to pay on top of grieving their loss,” Fenicchia wrote.
In an interview with local media in Rochester, New York, Realbuto’s mother, Janet Realbuto, said “there’s no word in the dictionary” for the pain of losing her child.
She said her son had flourished in his role as a volunteer, and that “he would have found a way to get that guy money if that’s what he wanted, because he would have given him his coat, he would have given him the shirt off his back. That’s who Ryan was.”
Her son’s deeply held Catholic faith motivated his generosity and service, she said, and lamented that her son’s cross had been lost during his emergency transport to the hospital.
Tributes to Realbuto, who was midway through his year of service, have poured in on social media.
The Capuchin Franciscan Volunteer Corps posted a tribute page for Realbuto on its website, saying that Realbuto had “found community with his roommates and the friars and was really enjoying his placement” at Don Bosco Cristo Rey High School, a Catholic college-preparatory school in Takoma Park, Maryland, designed for families with low incomes, where Realbuto worked with ninth grade students.
In a Jan. 20 Facebook post, the school mourned Realbuto, who was “known by many of our 9th grade students as someone who was willing to help with any challenges,” and “will be deeply missed.”
It added, “We were truly blessed by his presence.”
In a Jan. 23 email sent to the Don Bosco Cristo Rey community, school president Mark K. Shriver noted that Realbuto had “wanted to stay at least one more year with us, after his volunteer assignment was over.”
Shriver also said in the email that he and his staff were “actively working to support our students and staff who are grieving from this loss,” and that “any gifts received in Ryan’s name will be used to continue his work” at the school.
“Ryan had a gentle soul and was a kind human being filled with nothing but innocence. Our hearts are completely broken by this devastating loss,” wrote Fenicchia, noting that her nephew’s “passionate” commitment to community service — which derived from childhood when he was part of his parish’s youth group — “was not motivated by making large sums of money, but instead thrived being able to help people in need.”
A funeral Mass for Realbuto, a 2019 graduate of St. Bonaventure University, is set for Jan. 27 at 11 a.m. at his home parish, the Church of the Transfiguration in Pittsford.
“Ryan had a gentle soul and was a kind human being filled with nothing but innocence,” Fenicchia wrote. “Our hearts are completely broken by this devastating loss.”