Holy Name celebrates 100 years as a parish

It was founded 100 years ago to help meet people’s spiritual and physical needs on the outskirts of a growing Omaha. And today, it is welcoming a growing Hispanic community in its now-urban neighborhood.

Throughout its history, Holy Name Parish has been known as a welcoming, faith-filled and generous community.

"I use the words of my mother. It’s family. Everybody is so welcoming," said Teresa Burks, a lifelong parishioner whose 96-year-old mother, Gertrude McAndrew, has been a member for 92 years.

"It’s been a home for us," McAndrew said of the parish of 2,106 people, including 938 families.

Archbishop George J. Lucas and Father Vitalis Anyanike, pastor of Holy Name and nearby St. Benedict the Moor Parish, will help celebrate the parish’s 100th anniversary with a Sept. 23 Mass and dinner. The parish’s annual Fiesta celebration will be held the next day, with games and other activities.

"It’s rich in tradition, family, excellence, strong faith, and it’s very community oriented," Father Anyanike said of the parish. "It’s a very special place to be."

"Welcoming" also is the word used by Liz Joyce, who moved into Holy Name in 2007 with her husband, Deacon Kevin Joyce, and by Tom LaHood, who grew up in the parish, moved away for a year and a half but came back to raise his own family two blocks from the church.

"Everybody said, ‘Oh, you must be the deacon’s wife," Joyce said. "It’s a very welcoming parish."

"It’s been my life," LaHood said of Holy Name. "First of all, it’s hard to live without your faith. And support from the parish makes it easier."

It’s also a diverse parish. LaHood said Father Frank Baumert, pastor from 2005 to 2012, once asked parishioners after Mass to raise their hands if they were immigrants and to say from what country. Parishioners called out at least 11 nations, LaHood said, including Russia, Sudan and Vietnam, and countries in western Europe, Africa and Latin America.

The Latino influence has grown in recent years, including Holy Name welcoming Hispanic members of St. Therese of the Child Jesus Parish when that church and parish closed in 2013.

And one of McAndrew’s seven children, Redemptorist Father Michael McAndrew, helped with that process when he served in Hispanic outreach at Holy Name from 2013 to 2014.

Father McAndrew also reflects a longtime Holy Name tie to the Redemptorist order of missionary priests. Redemptorists served as pastors of Holy Name from 1918 to 2005, a tradition that began when the first pastor, diocesan Father Steven Dowd, was accepted as an Army chaplain to serve in World War I, and a replacement was hard to find.

Among other influences, the Redemptorists helped inspire vocations, with 24 of 35 Holy Name parishioners who have been ordained priests going to the Redemptorist order, including two elevated to bishops.

Redemptorist priests also stressed prayer and service. In 1918, the order introduced a Solemn Novena to Our Mother of Perpetual Help that brought comfort to parishioners and others around the city, particularly during World War I and the Great Depression.

And in 1982, two Redemptorists and a parishioner helped found Holy Name Housing Corp., a nonprofit that continues to build and renovate homes for low- to moderate-income families in north Omaha. The parish reaches out to the community in other ways, including its Humble Jumble thrift store, founded in 1986 by LaHood and his wife, Jane, and Men’s Club fish dinners that date to 1981 and draw about 2,500 people each Friday of Lent.

Holy Name School has been an integral part of the parish, and will celebrate its 100th anniversary next year. Religious sisters from the Servants of Mary helped open and staff the school, and they, too inspired vocations, with half of 42 women parishioners who have responded to a call to the religious life entering the order. The parish supported a high school from 1923 to 1989.

Changes to Holy Name have included several sites for the church and wings to the school, and a field house for sports and other activities that seats 2,000 people and was the largest in the city when it was built in 1950.

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