The community of Holy Family was originally established in 1876 with the building, now a Nebraska Historical Site, being built in 1883. The building is one of only a few churches built with a school on the first floor and the sanctuary on the second floor. Holy Family’s school was closed in the 1960’s when the neighborhood became primarily commercial and industrial. It is currently the oldest church in Omaha, Nebraska that is still used for worship.
The 1883 church structure is the 3rd Holy Family Church. The first was in an old schoolhouse moved from St. Philomena’s Cathedral at 9th and Howard and dedicated in 1876 at 17th and Cuming. The second was in the vacant lot east of the present church. It was declared unsafe and never became more thana basement church.
Holy Family can be described as a small, welcoming, participatory community devoted to serving the poor. The parish members have a thirty-year tradition of making decisions together as a congregation. The entire parish is charged with carrying out the mission of the Church. This is accomplished through semi-annual meetings that include the entire parish and monthly planning meetings of a Coordinating Committee.
Since the early 1970’s, Holy Family has been known especially for its commitment to serve the poor. In the early years, it was well known on the streets that one could get a sandwich at Holy Family. Later, the parish hired a Door Minister to welcome the poor, try to meet their needs, and refer them as needed to helping other agencies.
The Preamble of the Holy Family’s Constitution reads as follows:
“We pledge, as our primary purpose to form a community which is totally open to the person of Jesus Christ, whom we acknowledge as our Lord and God, as we find him in ourselves, in one another, and in all people. Further we accept the responsibility flowing from His gospel to work for the transformation of our society. Toward this end, we especially commit ourselves to the service of the poor.”
In that regard, then, Holy Family, operates a Door Ministry, a Food Redistribution Program, a Lunch Program, and participates in the publication of the Nebraska Criminal Justice Review and New Wine.