Parish Name: Will the Real St. Max Please Stand Up?

Posted on October 07, 2020 in: From the Pastor

Parish Name: Will the Real St. Max Please Stand Up?

Will the Real St. Max Please Stand Up?


You may have been noticing some changes to our parish name recently, like our new domain name, and maybe you are wondering what is going on. Here’s the short version: we aren’t changing anything, we just discovered what our name was all along. 


Here’s the long version: 


A few months back we at the office started to notice some incongruities with our name. In some places we were calling ourselves the Parish of St. Maximilian Kolbe, in other places St. Maximilian Kolbe Catholic Church, or St. Maximilian Kolbe Parish. It was different on our letterhead, our baptismal certificates, our website, our Facebook account… all seemingly different. Then we happened to be doing some official civil business and the State was having trouble finding our paperwork. We assured them that our business name was The Parish of Saint Maximilian Kolbe and they assured us that no such business existed on their records. 


So, we did some digging and discovered that our official name, from the moment of the merger of The Church of Saint Joseph with The Church of St. Peter, on June 26, 2014, hereby recorded by the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis in our articles of incorporation, and filed with the Office of the County Recorder, Wright County on 6/30/14, is The Church of St. Maximilian Kolbe. Who knew? (I mentioned it to one of the signing trustees at the time of the merger and he didn’t even remember!)


After discussing the matter with the staff and getting the support of the Pastoral Council, we decided for the sake of consistency, we should update our documents and signs to read The Church of St. Maximilian Kolbe, since that is, in fact, our legal name. This inevitably brings up the question about the names of the two churches. That’s even more complicated, but I’ll do my best to explain. 


Loosely speaking, a parish is a group of Catholics in a particular area. A church is a building where Catholics celebrate the sacraments. A parish is not a church and a church is not a parish, though we tend to use the words interchangeably. (E.g., both of our previous parishes used the official title of “Church of”.) Part of the reason for this misuse of words is that the State doesn’t really recognize the term “parish”, and they do recognize the term “church”. So even if in Catholic terms we should be “The Parish of”, in legal terms we are “The Church of”.


Of course, this is only problematic in written terms. I think most of us just say we belong to “St. Max”. This is how we speak. Point of fact, I grew up in a parish that had no church. We would actually rent out different halls and schools for weekend Masses. We didn’t build a church for 25 years or so. However, if someone were to have asked, “Where do you go to church?” I would have responded, “Christ the King,” even though that technically wasn’t even a place. Another example: my first assignment was at Divine Mercy Catholic Church. That’s their name. They merged three parishes, sold two churches, and built a new one. The Parish and Church are Divine Mercy Catholic Church and the other remaining church building is Immaculate Conception Church, which is attached to the offices and used for school Masses, but not a parish.  


Similarly, The Church of St. Maximilian Kolbe is a parish and it has two churches. Most people just call us Saint Max. Most kids think that St. Peter’s Church building is equal to St. Max. I met someone this spring who didn’t know that St. Joseph’s Church existed (and he grew up here!). If a visitor looks us up on Google Maps, he will never make it to Mass on time, because he won’t know where to go. All that is confusing, and it isn’t any less confusing if we were to go by “The Parish of” because I’d hazard a guess that most people don’t know what a parish is.


The solution that I have seen enacted at other parishes in a similar situation to ours is as follows. In Hopkins, MN there were two parishes, St. John and St. Joseph. They merged and became a new entity (just like us), and now go by St. Gabriel the Archangel Catholic Church. They refer to the two locations as St. John Campus and St. Joseph Campus. I think this is actually a very good solution for us. It still retains our historic names and also gets away from doubling the term “church” or “parish”, which seems to be confusing. 


Currently we are in the process of slowly updating our name in the many places it can be found. Officially, we will use our legal name and refer to the two campuses as St. Joseph Campus and St. Peter Campus. Colloquially, I suspect we will just keep calling it what we have always called it, which is totally fine. I really don’t think this has to be a big deal, because nothing is actually different in the practical sphere. To cite a line from Catholic Young Adults: The Musical, “It’s just a parish. A building that will turn to dust like the rest of us.” Wise words, Maggie!


In the end, we have two great campuses with two beautiful churches and both are useful and necessary for the continuation and thriving of our parish known as The Church of St. Maximilian Kolbe!


I’ll conclude with something that St. Paul said to the Corinthians 2000 years ago. (Apparently this isn’t a new problem.) It’s good to keep things in perspective. 


While there is jealousy and rivalry among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving in an ordinary human way? 4 Whenever someone says, “I belong to Paul,” and another, “I belong to Apollos,” are you not merely human? 5 What is Apollos, after all, and what is Paul? Ministers through whom you became believers, just as the Lord assigned each one. 6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God caused the growth. 7 Therefore, neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who causes the growth. 8 The one who plants and the one who waters are equal, and each will receive wages in proportion to his labor. 9 For we are God’s co-workers; you are God’s field, God’s building. (1 Cor 3:3–9)


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