Holy Family is the name given to a new parish formed from the former St. David and Immaculate Conception parishes in Arnold.
Archbishop Mitchell T. Rozanski issued a decree effective Feb. 2 announcing the name. Holy Family pastor Father Gerald Blessing and senior associate pastor Father John Brennell announced the name to parishioners at Masses Jan. 27-28.
In the decree, Archbishop Rozanksi quoted Pope Francis’ Angelus address on the feast of the Holy Family, the title given to Mary, Joseph and Jesus: “It is good to reflect on the fact that the Son of God wanted to be in need of the warmth of a family, like all children. Precisely for this reason, because it is Jesus’ family, the family of Nazareth is the model family, in which all families of the world can find their sure point of reference and sure inspiration.”
In the fall, parishioners submitted suggestions for the parish’s new name. The top six most suggested names were put to a general vote, and the top three were submitted to Archbishop Rozanski to make the final decision. Holy Family received the most votes and the archbishop’s blessing.
Father Blessing said that the two Arnold parishes have always shared history and close ties. St. David Parish was established in 1963 to accommodate the growing population of the Arnold area. St. David and Immaculate Conception schools merged in 1988 to form Holy Child School.
“I think it’s the most appropriate name for the parish. We need to see that we’re a family, and we always have been,” Father Blessing said. “And so the fact that it was on the hearts of so many people, even before I got here — well, that’s got to be the Holy Spirit.”
Following the All Things New announcement on Pentecost Sunday, a transition team of parishioners from Immaculate Conception and St. David was formed to help bring the parishes together as one community of faith and an “evangelical force in the community of Arnold.” The transition team is working with ministries from the two former parishes to determine the best ways to collaborate or combine. Father Mike Lydon, the episcopal vicar for the Southern Vicariate, has also been “an amazing resource,” attending transition team meetings and offering help wherever possible, Father Blessing said.
For now, Masses continue to be celebrated regularly at both Immaculate Conception and St. David churches. The goal is to build a new church on the Immaculate Conception campus to bring the parish together in one worship space; the high estimated cost to repair and update current buildings makes a new build a more sensible decision, Father Blessing said.
Beth Diveley, a parishioner at the former St. David and member of the transition team, was one of the many parishioners who suggested Holy Family as the parish’s new name. “We’re taking two parish families and bringing them together to make one strong, dynamic family…one large, holy family in the Arnold community,” she said.
The patronage of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph will also serve as a reminder of “the gift we have of Jesus in our lives, and that He came to earth for us through the Holy Family,” she said.
While bringing two parish communities together will take time, Diveley hopes the new name will bring a sense of unity to Holy Family parishioners. As they move forward, prayer will continue to be vital for both parishioners grieving the loss of their former parish and those who are excited about the changes, she said.
“There’s always going to be some sadness — for me, this is where I grew up, where my husband grew up, where I was married, where my children were baptized, at St. David. And those are wonderful memories to have,” she said. “But now I’m looking forward to making new memories, not just with my immediate family, but with my parish family going forward as Holy Family.”
Colin Doggett, a parishioner of the former Immaculate Conception and a parent of two Holy Child students, also serves on the transition team.
As a young adult and school parent, he tends to gravitate toward people in the same stage of life. As the parishes come together, he’s taking inspiration from the name Holy Family to focus on intentionally building relationships with people of all ages and backgrounds — and encouraging others to do the same.
“It’s reaching out, walking up to someone after Mass and just introducing yourself, asking them their name, asking them what they’re involved in. That’s critical for all of us to do,” he said. “…We’re all going to have to work hard to step outside out comfort zone and engage with people within our parish that we might not see every day just because of our different age or social activities. We have to look beyond those guardrails we put up and grow ourselves to be a family again.”