Newly unified Catholic parish looks to the future

St. Barb, St. Louise parishioners celebrated final Masses on June 30

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July 1 will stand out in the life of Father Denis Condon for a number of reasons, but one that stuck out was that it was the day he became a commuter. 

For the past 10 years, Condon had served as pastor of St. Louise de Marillac Parish in LaGrange Park, walking down the hall from his private rooms in the rectory to his pastoral office.

But, on July 1, he got into his car and drove about a mile and half southeast to his new office in a building, which until that day had been known as the rectory for St. Barbara Parish in Brookfield.

"It'll take a little getting used to," Condon said in a phone interview last week. "It's nice here."

Condon is now pastor of the consolidated St. Barbara-St. Louise parish – Cardinal Blase Cupich announced the assignment in March – one of three newly consolidated parishes announced last fall as part of the Archdiocese of Chicago's Renew My Church initiative.

Two other nearby parishes, Divine Infant and Divine Providence in Westchester, also officially consolidated into a single parish on July 1.

St. Barbara's former pastor, Father Edgar Rodriguez, bid farewell to his parishioners at Mass on Sunday, June 30. In his pastor's message in the church bulletin from that day he said his next stop was home, to help his mother care for his ailing father.

So far, not a lot has changed in terms of daily Mass schedules, and the cardinal has assigned a new associate, Father Dave Pavlik, to the newly consolidated parish. Pavlik, who speaks English and Spanish, was still in the process of moving in late last week, though he was slated to say Mass on Sunday.

Asked if Pavlik would be a permanent associate, Condon said he wasn't sure.

"The archdiocese doesn't know," he said. "How long Dave will be with us, I can't say."

A shortage of priests throughout the archdiocese is a main factor driving the Renew My Church initiative, and every parish in the archdiocese will at some point go through the discernment process to see whether they will be subsumed into more regional parishes.

St. Louise and St. Barbara were among the first wave of parishes to go through the process in 2018, after the archdiocese piloted the process the year prior.

While the individual church buildings both remain worship sites and retain their names, the newly unified parish remains without a name, which has proven awkward.

For now, it's going by SS. Barbara and Louise de Marillac Parish, but that's just temporary.

Through July 15, parishioners will be submitting names for the new parish. Those submissions will be whittled down to less than a dozen, and that list will be sent to the archdiocese to be vetted.

That vetting process is necessary so that the new parish doesn't have the same name as an existing parish or school, to make sure the saint chosen has a feast day on the church calendar and to make sure there's a good reason for naming the new parish after a particular saint.

"That's why the rationale is so important," Condon said. "What's the connection to our community?"

After the vetting process, the archdiocese will send the list back to the parish, whose members will vote to whittle the list down to three finalists. The cardinal will choose the parish's name from that short list.

Condon said the parish's new identity ought to be finalized by September.

Even then, said Condon, there will be plenty of work to do joining the two parishes operationally. A transition team of parishioners from both St. Louise and St. Barbara started work in June and will work throughout the next year.

"It's not just like moving books from one room to another," Condon said. "The real coming together is for the people, and that takes longer to wrap the mind around."

Mass on June 30 was bittersweet. Condon said he acknowledged the founders of St. Louise de Marillac Parish – some still living – and thanked them for the sacrifices it took to establish the LaGrange Park parish.

"They built what St. Louise has grown to become, but at the same time we look to the future,' Condon said. "It's sad to say goodbye, but it's not a total end. The mission continues, the same mission that was given to us 2,000 years ago."

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