By the first of July, the Albany Diocese had six "new" parishes, with at least four more to come before the end of the year.

As parishes came to the difficult decision to close or merge through the "Called to be Church" pastoral planning process, one less arduous task remained: choosing a new name.

Since merging parishes are incorporated as new entities and get new tax identification numbers, explained Elizabeth Simcoe, diocesan chancellor for pastoral services, "they're not the same parish they used to be."

In addition, she said, a new name helps parishioners to move forward together. Ms. Simcoe recalled a course she took on family systems in which the leaders used a mobile to demonstrate the effects of change: "If you touch one of the pieces on the mobile, everyone else moves. It's the same with this: There's a new identity, new leadership, sometimes a new location. Even if people are staying in the same church, they're going to have to move over in the pew to make room for somebody new."

In 2007, diocesan officials who spoke with The Evangelist about renaming parishes during Called to be Church hoped that most would not choose "Holy Trinity" and "Holy Family," since the Diocese could end up with too many similarly-named parishes.

But there is only one new "Holy Trinity" - the result of the merger of St. Mary's parish in Hudson and Resurrection in Germantown - and it's the only parish so named in Columbia County.

Ms. Simcoe noted that merging parishes submit their top three choices for names and Bishop Howard J. Hubbard makes the final choice, although he generally honors the parishes' number-one request. 

The Bishop did make a slight change to one new name request, Ms. Simcoe said: Immaculate Conception in Haines Falls and Sacred Heart in Palenville had asked to be renamed "Immaculate Conception/Sacred Heart," but the name was reversed to keep the "divine identity" first.

The merger of St. Joseph's in West Winfield and St. Joseph's in Richfield Springs also required a bit of tinkering: To provide a new identity, the merged parish is named "St. Joseph the Worker."

"It helps take the point of view that it's something new going forward, and it's a different image of St. Joseph," Ms. Simcoe explained.

Rev. Charles Gaffigan of Immaculate Conception parish in Corinth and Holy Infancy in Lake Luzerne, soon to become Holy Mother and Child parish, reported he'd heard only positive reactions to the merged parish's chosen name. 

"We're excited about this. We're going to ritualize it July 19 with a joint picnic," he stated, adding that the fact that both worship sites will remain open when the two churches become one parish helps.

Father Gaffigan believes the new name - unique in the Diocese - "is going to bring us closer together. A name defines who we are, and we're going to become one." 
Some more unusual names put forth by diocesan officials have yet to get top votes from parishioners, like "Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha" and "St. Elizabeth Ann Seton." 

Instead, the Blessed Mother continues to get top billing: Of the 10 new parish names, four and a half (including Sacred Heart/ Immaculate Conception) relate to Mary.

"It demonstrates that people still have a close sense of identity with the Blessed Mother," Ms. Simcoe said. 

Several more parishes are scheduled to merge in 2009-'10, but new names have not yet been made official for those, she said.

The new parishes are:

• Holy Trinity, Columbia County (merger of St. Mary's, Hudson, and Resurrection, Germantown, with both remaining open);

• Sacred Heart/Immaculate Conception, Greene County (merger of Immaculate Conception, Haines Falls, and Sacred Heart, Palenville, with both remaining open);

• Our Lady of the Valley, Middleburgh (merger of St. Catherine's, Middleburgh, and St. Joseph's, Schoharie, with St. Joseph's closing);

• Holy Mother and Child, Warren County (merger of Immaculate Conception, Corinth, and Holy Infancy, Lake Luzerne, with both remaining open);

• Holy Spirit, Gloversville (merger of St. Mary of Mount Carmel, Gloversville, and Sacred Heart, Gloversville, with one worship site to be determined);

• St. Joseph the Worker, Herkimer/ Otsego Counties (merger of St. Joseph's, West Winfield, and St. Joseph's, Richfield Springs, with both remaining open);

• Our Lady of the Snow, Rensselaer County (merger of St. John Francis Regis, Grafton, and Sacred Heart, Berlin, with both remaining open);

• All Saints, Albany (merger of Holy Cross and St. Margaret Mary, Albany, with Holy Cross closing);

• Mater Christi, Albany (merger of St. Catherine of Siena and St. Teresa of Avila, Albany, with St. Teresa's closing); and

• St. Joseph's, Columbia County (merger of Nativity/St. Mary's, Stuyvesant Falls, and Holy Family, Stottville, with both remaining open). 

Also scheduled to merge in 2009 or 2010, but not yet renamed, are St. John the Baptist in Chestertown and Blessed Sacrament in Hague (both to remain open); St. John/St. Ann and St. James in Albany (both to remain open); St. Bonaventure in Speigletown and Holy Trinity in Schaghticoke (both to remain open); Ss. Peter and Paul in Canajoharie, St. James in Fort Plain and St. Patrick's in St. Johnsville (worship site/s to be determined); and Immaculate Conception in Schenectady and Our Lady of the Assumption in Rotterdam (with Immaculate Conception closing in 2011).