New names can renew life, spirituality of parishes

By Joyce Duriga | Editor
Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Parishioners from Holy Guardian Angels Parish, which was formed following the merger of St. Barbara in Brookfield and St. Louise de Marillac in LaGrange Park as part of the Renew My Church process, took part in a service project, eucharistic procession and Mass on Oct. 3, 2020, to celebrate the Memorial of the Holy Guardian Angels. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)

When parishes unify as part of Renew My Church, they have to figure out what to call themselves.

When just two parishes merge they often adopt a combination of the two parish names, such as such as Sts. Joseph and Francis Xavier Parish in Wilmette.

But when three or more parishes unify, they generally take a new name, and often that can have far-reaching spiritual and communal benefits for the congregation, said Father Jason Malave, the cardinal’s liaison for Renew My Church.

In many ways, a new name can “shock the Catholic system out of maintenance and into mission,” he said. “That is our whole journey, but I think a new name does that in a particular way when it connects the average Catholic in the parish to a larger mission in the church and a larger reality of the Catholic Church around the world.”

The naming process begins once a pastor for a unified parish is named. He leads the process of soliciting feedback on possible names from parishioners at all worship sites.

The unification committee also plays a part in forming a list of names with the pastor, Malave said

“The unification committee works with the pastor on whittling down that list to the best possible names, which may be a list of 10 or so names,” Malave said.

They remove suggested names already in use in the archdiocese at a parish, mission, school or agency. The remaining names go back to the community for feedback.

Lastly, three finalists are submitted with the community’s rationale to Cardinal Cupich, who makes the final decision.

While the name of the parish changes, the physical church buildings retain their original names because the parish is the people and the church is a building. That is an important distinction, Malave said.

“For many years, it didn’t matter. Now it matters because there are so many more unifications of multiple parishes and a new parish worshiping at churches that have different names,” he said.

Reverencing a new saint, who may be more contemporary than the former parish patron, especially if the saint is from the same race, nationality or ethnic background as many of the parishioners, helps people feel a stronger connection to their faith and their faith community, according to Malave.

St. Josephine Bakhita Parish on the South Side is an example, he said.

“It’s been a joy to watch that, because it’s been a local devotion that has caught on,” Malave explained. “The local devotion maybe started in many African American parishes, but most profoundly it started at St. Adrian Parish on the South Side in Marquette Park.”

St. Josephine Bakhita Parish, 2132 E 72nd St., is the result of the merger of St. Phillip Neri, St. Bride, Our Lady of Peace and Our Lady Gate of Heaven.

Born in Sudan to a prosperous family, St. Josephine Bakhita was kidnapped and forced into slavery for more than 12 years. She eventually ended up in Italy, where she encountered some women religious and joined their community.

Parish name changes can help further the mission of Renew My Church, Malave said.

“It really does allow the parishes to take on a patron that they can identify with in multiple ways that allow them to connect themselves to the larger, beautiful Catholic world,” Malave said. “What I love to focus on is how people grow from not just disciples but to missionary disciples, as they saw their saint after who they are now named grow and live as a missionary disciple.”

That is taking place at St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta Parish, 218 W. Alexander St., which formed from the unification of St. Therese Chinese Catholic and St. Barbara parishes.

Since the unification and name change, the Missionaries of Charity, the community Mother Teresa founded, now teach the catechesis of the Good Shepherd to children and take walks through Chinatown and Bridgeport every week praying the rosary. They end the walks with a holy hour. The pastor, Father Francis Li, and some parishioners join them on the walks.

“Of course, they have a great love for the Eucharist,” Li said. “We did a few adorations with our school children before COVID. The sisters are really excited to teach our children to have more love for Jesus by spending time in adoration in front of the Blessed Sacrament.”

The sisters also join the parish to celebrate Mother Teresa’s feast day in September. This year, the parish will bless shrines to their patron at the two worship sites.

“More than that, on a deeper spiritual level, I think parishioners are challenged to do what Mother Teresa was inspired and called to do, which is the mission of Jesus Christ to serve the poor and the needy and to have a greater love for the Eucharist, for Jesus,” Li said. “Hopefully, by doing that we can bring more people closer to Jesus and bring more people to know Jesus.”

When St. Barbara in Brookfield and St. Louise de Marillac in LaGrange Park unified, parishioners chose Holy Guardian Angels as their new name, which is also bearing fruit, according to Deacon David Brencic.

“Several people have mentioned this, people have kind of rekindled their relationships and their devotion to their guardian angels as a result of the new name of our parish,” Brencic said.

Holy Guardian Angels was the top-voted name when parishioners were sharing their preferences, he added.

A new name can also help the healing process of Renew My Church.

“Renew My Church is a difficult process,” Brencic said. “I think it helps the parish and the people to turn the page.”


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  • parishes

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