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Name that church: new names for parishes point to the ‘Saints of Tomorrow’

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Deacon Greg Kandra - published on 05/07/17

The Archdiocese of Hartford in Connecticut, like many places in the northeast, is facing parish closures and mergers: 

Cheers erupted through Holy Trinity Church in Hartford Saturday night at the moment worshippers learned that their beloved and historic building would not be closing, something parishioners feared for months would happen under a church reorganization plan. But in Cheshire, the mood at the 4 p.m. Saturday Mass was much different: Parishioners at the Church of the Epiphany heard that theirs would be among the 59 parishes slated to merge with other parishes under the Archdiocese of Hartford’s reorganization plan, released Saturday. Their church will close. “I’m going to minister to you as best as I can,” the Rev. John L. Williams Jr. said in his homily to Cheshire parishioners. “The nearest thing I can compare this to would be ministering to people who have suffered a death in their family. There’s going to be pain.” The emotions inside the churches in Hartford and Cheshire Saturday will likely mirror what parishioners will experience Sunday morning at Masses celebrated across the archdiocese. The areas hardest hit by the changes were parts of New Haven County, including Waterbury where four church buildings are slated to close.

But as part of the process,, the diocese asked parishioners to weigh in on the names of the new parishes:

During the pastoral planning process, our parishioners have voiced a desire to be involved in the naming of the newly-formed parishes. As a result of this input, Archbishop Leonard P. Blair is calling upon all members of the Archdiocese of Hartford to let us know which saints’ names are your top choices for our newly-formed parishes, a result of the merger of two or more existing churches/parishes. The parameters for naming a parish, as dictated by Rite of Dedication of a Church and An Altar (administered in conjunction with Canon Law #1217 and #1218) include: the name of the Trinity, a name for Christ (invoked in the liturgy, or a mystery of His life), the name of the Holy Spirit, a name for the Blessed Virgin Mary (invoked under a title for Her used in the liturgy), the name of a holy angel, the name of a canonized saint (as it appears in the Roman martyrology, or appendix), or the name of a “blessed” (beatified person; only provided the Apostolic See has given its permission). The proposed names will be for new parishes under which some already-existing churches will operate. Ideally, we are looking for names that are not already represented within the Archdiocese. When making your suggestions, you may want to keep in mind the words of Robert Ellsberg, who reminds us in his recent article for America Magazine, “[saints] are not perfect people, much less superheroes. But in their own individual ways, they have shown what it means to be one’s true and best self. And in doing so, they inspire us to do the same.”

After considering the selections, the archdiocese announced the names this weekend.

Many of the new parishes will feature names of saints (or events) that are relatively new, including: St. Marianne Cope, St. Pio of Pietrelcina, St. Jeanne Jugan, St. Teresa of Calcutta, St. Faustina, St. Elizabeth of the Trinity, St. Josephine Bakhita, St. Kateri, Tekakwitha, St. Junipero Serra, St. Maximilian Kolbe, St. John Paul the Great, St. Gianna, St. John XXIII, St. Damien of Molokai, St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross.

The list also includes churches named Divine Mercy and Christ the Bread of Life.

The selections, I think, point to a Church that is continually being renewed—and suggest that the faithful are looking to new models of holiness to inspire, educate and foster devotions for coming generations. Several of the new parishes will bear names of people who died in the last century—new saints who, perhaps, speak in a powerful and compelling way to our own time.

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