Editorial: What's the best name for Neponset parish?

There’s an election of sorts under way in Neponset this month and the outcome could have long-term implications for the identity of that part of Dorchester.

On July 1, the longtime Catholic parishes of St. Brendan and St. Ann were officially merged by order of Cardinal Sean O’Malley. The two parishes have been affiliated as sister parishes over recent years, but this canonical combination brings their union to a new level. The individual church buildings will continue to stay open and keep their original names, but only for the worship space. By church rules, the “new” parish requires a new name. And it will not be “St. Ann-St. Brendan” or “St. Brendan-St. Ann.”

Says Rev. Brian Clary, the pastor of the merged parish: “A new parish needs a new name, not a hyphen.”

Last month, Clary invited parishioners to submit their nominations for a new name. People responded with dozens of suggestions. This week, he circulated the options, with accompanying narratives making the case for each one, a requisite for those that will be seriously considered.

Parishioners have been invited to go online and rank their top three choices by July 31. Cardinal O’Malley will get the final call based on the three finalists chosen from the parishioners’ nominees, according to Clary.

Here’s a quick look at some of the nominees and brief extract from each narrative:

• St. John Paul II Parish— According to Clary, dozens of people submitted this name, noting that the Catholic school, housed in what was once St. Ann Grammar School, already bears the name, as does the 72-acre state park that is Neponset’s biggest outdoor space.

• St. Martin de Porres Parish— Supporters of this name note that it would— in part— recall the late Martin Richard, a parishioner who was killed in the 2013 Marathon bombing and who posthumously became a symbol for peace, healing, and community service. The actual saint in question would be Martin de Porres Velázquez, a Peruvian lay brother of the Dominican Order who became the first Black saint of the Americas when he was canonized in 1962. He is the patron saint of mixed-race people, barbers, innkeepers, public health workers, and all those seeking racial harmony.

• St. Michael the Archangel Parish— A reference to the patron saint of police, there is no church in the area that presently carries the name. “We need the protection he provides against the evil spirits that prowl around the world seeking the ruin of souls,” wrote one supporter.

• St. Florian Parish— “Patron of Firefighters. No parish bears his name. Given the majority of first responders on the combined parish, it’s a perfect choice,” wrote one supporter.

• Saints Florian and Michael Parish -- “Over the years, both parishes have had, and continue to have as members, a great many first responders, military personnel, and their families. These parishioners, who serve their community and country so courageously, are good and helpful neighbors and great assets to the parish,” wrote one supporter of this dual name.

• Corpus Christi Parish— Translated as “the Body of Christ,” this name would differentiate the new parish from others in Dorchester, in one person’s view, since “all are named after saints.” (In fact, the former St. Paul’s Church on Hartford Street in Dorchester is now named Holy Family Parish.)

• St. Josephine Bakhita Parish -- “For our moment, where so many are finally taking a stand against racism, and in a diverse Dorchester so much changed demographically from when St. Ann-St Brendan were founded, what better way to show the Church’s fundamental teaching on the dignity of all people, than honoring a Black saint and former slave?” argues one supporter.

• Our Lady of Knock Parish — One supporter writes: “This name would not only honor an important Marian shrine but would also reflect the deep Irish identity of many of the parishioners of both parishes - an identity which first led to the naming of St Brendan’s.”

Other names offered for consideration include: Come To Me All That Are Burdened Parish; Mary, Queen of All Saints Parish; Communion of Saints Parish; Faith and Hope Parish.

As Fr. Clary advised in his invitation to join the ranked voting effort: “Sometimes everyone’s ‘second’ choice is the most popular. We will compile the names, list our top three, let you know, and send them into the Archdiocese.”

We’ll let you know which names bubble up to the top next month.

–Bill Forry