St. John Paul II is the new name of the merged St. Dominic Savio and St. George Parishes in Affton.
Parishioners had submitted choices for a new name for the parish along with a rationale for that name. A parish communications committee and pastor Father Paul Rothschild narrowed the choices to four and submitted the names to Archbishop Robert J. Carlson.
The two parishes will begin worshiping together at St. George Church on Sunday, May 20.
The parishes are merging with the goal of building a vibrant parish life centered on meaningful, transformative worship, faith formation for all ages and service to all, including outreach to needy people and those who have left the faith.
Archbishop Carlson approved the merger last month after consulting with the deans of each deanery, the Archdiocesan Finance Committee and Priests’ Council.
Father Rothschild, pastor of the new St. John Paul II Parish, said that parishioners involved in studying the parishes’ future reported they believe that through the cooperative efforts of all St. Dominic Savio and St. George parishioners, “we can build on our positive values, and reverse the negative trends, to create an atmosphere where the Catholic faith can not only survive, but thrive and grow.”
One of those parishioners, Linda Bakersmith of St. Dominic Savio, said “this has been an emotional decision and process for all involved, and our goal was to recognize that, and try to ease everyone through it. Communication about each step in the process was key, along with giving people a way to share their thoughts, concerns and opinions. As sad as it can be to feel like you’re losing a place that’s been your home for worship, and for many, that’s been such a long time, I can say that now I’m looking forward to worshiping with our new parish family.”
Father Thomas Robertson served as pastor of St. George Parish until Jan. 3, 2017, when he was named senior associate pastor of St. Dominic Savio and St. George and Father Rothschild added the pastorship of St. George in addition to St. Dominic, where he has served since June 2013. Father Robertson retired Jan. 1.
The two parishes had been operating as “twinned” parishes. A “vision team” created in a planning process studied trends in the Catholic population and registered parishioners, programs and facilities in both parishes to determine how to collaborate on a plan of growth. Data showed Mass attendance, offertory gifts and volunteers declining in both parishes. A proposal for a merger was presented at parish-wide meetings in September. Alternatives to the merger were sought and studied.
The week after Easter, 80 parishioners, evenly distributed from both parishes, came together in the St. Dominic Savio cafeteria for two days to learn about their shared spiritual gifts and the benefits of biblical stewardship.
“This is a moment in the life of both parishes when we can think creatively, think outside the box, about our life together,” Father Rothschild wrote in communicating with parishioners. “It is an opportune moment to reorganize our life, rethink how we carry out our apostolates and worship God. I know that most of us find comfort and security in regular routines, but those same routines can also become deadening. This is an exciting time when the Holy Spirit is as close to us as He was to the early Church as it was coming together in the beginning at Pentecost.”
A new parish council will continue doing the work of vision-making and strategic planning. And a parish leadership team will assist the pastor.
On Jan. 20, the twinned parishes had a third large parish planning meeting, this time with Msgr. Dennis Stehly, vicar general of the archdiocese, who listened to the cares and concerns of the people of both parishes.
At that meeting, there was equal representation from both parishes and every parishioner had the opportunity to speak. The concerns expressed, the questions asked and the responses shared were honest, frank and cordial, Father Rothschild reported. Several people from both parishes spoke of the benefits that came to them when they had to move and become new members of parishes during their lifetime. “Difficult as those changes were, each new parish experience enriched their lives,” the parish pastor said.