On July 1 of this year Oak Park’s four Catholic churches were merged into two parishes, following a process called Renew My Church. St. Giles and St. Catherine/St. Lucy became one parish and Ascension and St. Edmund became the other.

Now those two parishes are working through an archdiocesan process that will layer a new and shared name over the original parish names.

In a letter to parishioners on Jan. 29, Rev. Carl Morello, pastor of St. Giles; Rev. John McGivern, pastor of St. Edmund; and Rev. Rex Pillai, pastor of Ascension, acknowledged that when two congregations become one parish, establishing an equitable unity requires a lot of intentionality.

That’s why both new parishes are presently involved in a process to come up with a name that honors both the individuality of all congregational constituents and at the same also claims an identity for the “new parochial reality.”

In the Jan. 29 letter, the three priests wrote that they wanted to move forward in the selection of new parish names “in a manner that would honor our past, address current challenging realities and develop a blueprint for the future.”

In a follow-up letter a couple months ago, Pillai explained why the naming process is important. First, he noted, none of the former names of the four congregations will be permitted in the newly created parish name.

At the same time, he added, “Church buildings are consecrated spaces that keep their current names.” In other words, the building on Oak Park Avenue will still be called St. Edmund and the church at 808 S. East Ave. will continue to be referred to as Ascension.

Pillai said the new parish names should not be new for the sake of newness but should reflect the identity of the new relationship. “Names are important and can define us uniquely. The names selected will reflect the identity of our newly unified parish. Names symbolize who we are and what we want to be as a faith community.”

The naming process began as a bottom-up undertaking. Parishioners were invited to submit suggestions between Sept. 10 and Sept. 25. The suggestion survey stated that the rationale for the suggested name would be as important as the name itself, reflecting “who we are” and being “mission driven.”

After reviewing the suggested names that met qualifications, Morello said, “the Unification Team identified six candidates that best convey the spirit of our unified parishes and have the most potential to gain widespread support among parishioners.”

Ascension members then met on Sept. 18 and St. Edmund members on Sept. 22 to discuss the names as a group. The process, however, will become top down in October when the Presbyterial Council will screen the submitted names to Cardinal Blasé Cupich who will make the final selection of the parish names.

Morello “leaked” some of the leading contenders which “have the most potential to gain widespread support among parishioners [of St. Giles and St. Catherine/St. Lucy]: Beatitudes of the Lord Parish, Holy Wisdom Parish, Pax Christi Parish, St. Clare of Assisi Parish, St. Hildegard of Bingen Parish, and Saint Sophia Parish.

Current Mass schedules

St. Giles                 Saturday at 4:30 p.m., Sunday at 8 a.m. and 10:30 a.m.

St. Catherine/St. Lucy Saturday at 5 p.m., Sunday at 9 a.m.

St. Edmund            Saturday at 5:30 p.m., Sunday at 11 a.m.

Ascension               Saturday at 5 p.m., Sunday at 8 a.m. and 10:30 a.m.

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Tom Holmes

Tom's been writing about religion – broadly defined – for years in the Journal. Tom's experience as a retired minister and his curiosity about matters of faith will make for an always insightful exploration...