Three Omaha churches prepare for last liturgies
May 15, 2014
George and Dolores Homic have been members of St. Rose of Lima Parish in Omaha for more than 55 years – even after moving out of the neighborhood and farther west – and they are among hundreds of people who plan to attend the last Mass at the church at 9 a.m. June 8, a final step in its merger with St. Bridget Parish.
"It’s very hard," Dolores said of seeing the church close that she and her husband helped raise money to build in 1960, for a parish that was established in 1919. "We’ve baptized, married and buried our children there."
But Dolores said it’s also time to look ahead – with prayers and hope, including at the final Mass, with Father Frank Partusch, pastor, presiding.
"We have to say ‘Sacred Heart of Jesus, I place my trust in thee’ and just move on," she said.
That kind of loss, history and hope will be mourned, remembered and celebrated during final Masses next month at two other Omaha churches also closing as part of Promise 2020, a broad archdiocesan restructuring plan for parishes and schools in east Omaha.
Archbishop George J. Lucas will preside at the 11 a.m. June 8 final Mass at Blessed Sacrament Church, a final step of that 95-year-old parish’s merger with St. Philip Neri Parish, and at the 10 a.m. June 15 closing Mass at St. Patrick Church – which was founded in 1883 – in that parish’s merger with St. Frances Cabrini Parish.
The archbishop also will preside at a 10 a.m. June 14 Mass at St. Anthony Church, which was founded in 1907 and has merged with Ss. Peter and Paul Parish, but will remain open for occasional Masses, feast days and other special celebrations.
St. Anthony will celebrate combining the two parishes with a 9 a.m. June 15 Eucharistic procession from St. Anthony to Ss. Peter and Paul Church and a 10:30 a.m. Mass.
Father Partusch, pastor of the newly merged St. Bridget-St. Rose Parish, said former parishioners, priests who served at St. Rose and others are invited to the final Mass at St. Rose Church, and a reception will be held in the church basement with cookies, coffee and punch.
"It’s a time to experience the fellowship of the past and the present," Father Partusch said. "I expect to see a full house."
Bringing together former pastors of each parish, parishioners and others to pray, celebrate and mourn is the idea behind each of the final Masses, said Deacon Steve Luna, archdiocesan coordinator of pastoral planning.
"This is the last step of the formal merger process of these churches," Deacon Luna said. "It will be the culmination of the mergers planned within this time frame of Promise 2020."
Each of the churches that are closing will be available at parishioners’ request for funerals and weddings, until another use is made of the properties, Deacon Luna said.
Father John Andrews, pastor of the merged St. Philip Neri-Blessed Sacrament Parish, said the closing Mass will be the end of a chapter, but not the book of the two parishes, which have shared a pastor for several years and began sharing an elementary school in the 2011-2012 school year.
"This is another chapter in the parishes’ history," Father Andrews said.
And parishioners have been invited through bulletin announcements and letters to former parishioners to share their own memories of Blessed Sacrament Church in what will become a memory book of the parish, Father Andrews said.
Members of St. Philip Neri also have created a welcoming environment, an effort that will include the annual parish picnic May 26, Father Andrews said.
St. Philip Neri parishioner Bill Cheese, a member of the transition committee that worked on the merger, said people are ready to look ahead.
"It’s a difficult thing for Blessed Sacrament," he said. "But this has been a two-year process – and we’re getting to know one another."
At St. Patrick Parish, which has taken on St. Frances Cabrini Parish’s name, about 300 people recently packed the parish gymnasium at a "memory party" that included a band, Irish dancers and a dinner, said Father James Buckley, parochial administrator.
"That was a celebration," he said.
In addition, altar clothes, vestments and two angel statues from St. Patrick Church will be used at St. Frances Cabrini, bringing items from that church into the newly formed parish, Father Buckley said.
And a wall of framed photographs could grace the parish center at St. Frances Cabrini, marking the history of both parishes, Father Buckley said.
"It will take a while to do that," he said. "But it will be a wall of remembrance."
Announced in June 2012, the broad archdiocesan restructuring of parishes and schools in east Omaha was developed through a comprehensive study commissioned by the archdiocese and more than a year of meetings with parishioners, parish and school leaders.
Prompted by aging facilities, a projected decline in the number of priests and demographic changes in the area, it has led to seven parish mergers, the closing of four churches and three schools and creation of a five-school consortium in the south Omaha area.
» The first parish merger took place last year, when St. Therese of the Child Jesus Parish joined with Sacred Heart Parish, St. Therese’s ministry to Spanish-speaking members was invited to join Holy Name Parish and St. Therese Church closed.
» Six parish mergers took effect Jan. 1 – including three with church closings: St. Rose of Lima and St. Bridget parishes combined to become St. Bridget-St. Rose Parish, St. Rose Church will close; Blessed Sacrament and St. Philip Neri parishes became St. Philip Neri-Blessed Sacrament Parish, Blessed Sacrament Church will close; and St. Patrick and St. Frances Cabrini parishes became St. Frances Cabrini Parish, St. Patrick Church will close.
» One of the six parish mergers, St. Anthony with Ss. Peter and Paul, includes St. Anthony Church closing for all but occasional Masses, feast days and special celebrations.
» Two other mergers do not include church closings: St. Adalbert and Our Lady of Lourdes parishes combined to become Our Lady of Lourdes-St. Adalbert Parish and Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary and Our Lady of Guadalupe-St. Agnes Parish became Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary-Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish.