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Holy Family Church merger; what it means for Omaha community

The church has been operating for over 130 years
Posted at 6:33 PM, Jan 13, 2020

OMAHA, Neb. — It's a bittersweet farewell. Parishioners at Holy Family Church will have to find a new place of worship as the church is closing its doors after more than 130 years. But while one door closes, another one opens. St. Vincent de Paul Society in Omaha is going to continue the Holy Family legacy of philanthropic work by using the building as a place that can help the community in a number of ways.

The church, located on 17th and Izard in Omaha, has prioritized volunteer work and helping the less fortunate since their beginning in 1883.

On weekday mornings volunteers at the church hand out lunches. But it's more than just a sandwich and a water.

"Because they have nothing and just a sandwich and a drink made him happy," longtime volunteer Pat O'Neill said as she delivered out the food.

Holy Family has welcomed volunteers like O'Neill, the less-fortunate and parishioners with open arms for years.

"I got out of the Marine Corps in January of 1972 and the first Sunday, or the second Sunday, after I was out of the Marine Corps I went to Holy Family, chased a girl. That girl is my wife," parishioner Bob Gronstal said with a chuckle.

It's not just a place of worship. The people that have gone here for years are family.

"I lost a child to SIDS. My wife and I did when he was only nine months old. And the parish just absolutely lifted us up and cared for us," Gronstal said.

Unfortunately mostly due to size, the church is ending their regular mass.

"The handwriting was kind of on the wall. Saturday night when I went to mass there were five of us and that includes the priest," Gronstal said.

While it's the end of one era, Holy Family is merging with St. Francis Cabrini. St. Francis Cabrini will be taking in parishioners that want to attend and will be in charge of Holy Family's bookkeeping, baptismal files and historical documents.

But the volunteer work that happens at Holy Family is far from over.

"Out of anything good can come and will come. And with the Society of St. Vincent de Paul being here, I think they're going to be able to take the legacy of the parish which was serving the poor," Holy Family Church pastoral coordinator Albert Aulner said.

St. Vincent de Paul Society in Omaha will continue the philanthropic legacy of the church for years to come.

"We're hoping we can find ways to use this space that will really bring a lot of people together who wouldn't normally hangout together," Omaha St. Vincent de Paul Society executive director Marty Smith said.

So in a way not much will change after all - not the volunteer work and definitely not the family dynamic of the church.

"A bunch of us are trying to decide if we want to find a parish that we can go to as a community so we can still be in touch with each other," Gronstal said.

The last regular mass at Holy Family is scheduled for sometime in April.