In the parish of St. Angela Merici in the Bronx, Juan Nelson Gutierrez and his fellow Holy Name Society members are dedicated to assisting the pastor in serving the faithful while giving honor to the Most Holy Name of Jesus.
“When the pastor needs our help with anything, we are there for him, for the parish. We are always moving forward, helping in any way we can,” Gutierrez, 57, told Catholic New York in a phone interview.
“We meet on the third Sunday of every month; and we meet with the other Holy Name parish groups in the Bronx on the first Sunday of each month.”
Gutierrez, who is a painter and maintenance worker, volunteers his skills, along with fellow group members, when the church is in need of general repairs. He and the other men also serve as ushers at Mass and in taking up and recording the collections, and they visit the sick.
“It is a joy for me to be in the group. I am always happy to help the church. It is a blessing for me to assist the pastor, who is dedicated to the mission of Jesus Christ,” said Gutierrez, adding that the volunteer work he and fellow Holy Name Society members do stems from their commitment to faith, family and community.
On Christ the King Sunday, Nov. 21, the Archdiocesan Union of the Holy Name Society of New York: Hispanic Division, which has seven Bronx parishes participating, celebrated its third annual Mass for the Feast of Christ the King.
The gathering began with a 2 p.m. street procession outside St. Angela Merici Church, followed by a 2:30 p.m. Mass celebrated by the parish’s pastor, Father Nestorio Agirembabazi, A.J. The church is located on Morris Avenue at East 163rd Street.
The pastor told CNY that the monthly gatherings of the parish Holy Name Society are support meetings for the men and help them to lead better lives of faith, family and parish membership.
“The Holy Name Society is very helpful here in the parish,” Father Agirembabazi said. “When the men gather together, they discuss issues that affect them as men, and they can help each other on how to solve their problems. This is very helpful for them and also helpful for the church.
“When there is a need in the parish for repairs, they are there,” he said. “It is volunteer work; they volunteer their expertise. But the primary mission is to grow in their faith.”
In the Archdiocese of New York, the Holy Name Society remains largely male, although a few parishes have both male and female members. Anthony Merolla, executive secretary of the Archdiocesan Union of the Holy Name Society of New York, explained, “The Holy Name Society, a parish level organization, is a confraternity of the Church in which active participation has been restricted to men by custom in the United States, although women may be registered as members for the enjoyment of the society’s indulgences and spiritual graces.”
The Holy Name Society is the popular name for the Confraternity of the Most Holy Names of God and Jesus. It is a spiritual organization for Catholics founded to teach, spread and defend the Faith of Christ, through a special devotion to the Most Holy Name of Jesus Christ. The society’s purpose is to give honor to the Most Sacred Names of God and Jesus and to assist members to grow in holiness and achieve their personal salvation.
The society was created in 1274 at the suggestion of Pope Gregory X, who selected the Dominican Order, in particular Blessed John of Vercelli, O.P., the Dominicans’’s sixth master general, to spread devotion to the Holy Name of Jesus. Blessed John asked each Dominican church to dedicate a Holy Name altar, and groups were also formed to fight blasphemy.
The society in the Archdiocese of New York spearheads numerous activities, such as talks on evangelization, sending rosaries and prayer books to military service members, and conducting Bible study meetings. Society units have also organized presentations on Rediscovering Catholicism and the Ten Commandments; and they’ve sponsored Memorial Masses as well as blood drives and other church and community events.