Holy Cross Church Celebrates Anniversary

Octavio Duran Features

BRONX, N.Y. — Friars and parishioners of Holy Cross Church gathered last week to celebrate the 85th anniversary of the founding of the parish here.

Though many activities have been scheduled this year to remember this milestone, the Sept. 14 gathering on the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross was the official celebration of the anniversary.

The event was highlighted by the celebration of the Eucharist with the pastor,Todd Carpenter, as the principal celebrant, and with Brennan Connelly,Matthew Pravetz, Derran Combs, and former pastors Joe Hertel and Michael Tyson as concelebrants. The parish deacons, Juan  Rodriguez, SFO, and James Bello, assisted.

According to Todd’s research, some notable facts about 1921 include –

  • A Pope Benedict (the 15th) was in office
  • Albert Einstein received a Nobel Prize in physics
  • Warren Harding was president of the U.S.
  • John Hylan was the 96th mayor of New York City
  • For the first time, a World Series game was broadcast by radio
  • More than 100 people were killed in race riots in Tulsa, Okla.
  • The Communist party was founded in China
  • Adolph Hitler became chairman of the Nazi party
  • The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was dedicated in Arlington National Cemetery
  • Insulin was discovered by a biochemist in Toronto

The year was important for the Province, Todd recalled, because in 1921, the Archbishop and later Cardinal Patrick Joseph Hayes contacted the Franciscan friars at St. Francis of Assisi Church on West 31st Street in New York City to ask them to minister to the growing population of the Clason Point neighborhood in the Bronx. In June of that year, then-vicar of St. Francis Marcellus Kolmer visited the Point, and after doing a survey, he returned to 31st Street eager to establish the  parish in the Bronx.

According to Todd, church records indicate that the first person baptized at Holy Cross was Mary Ury, who was baptized by Marcellus on Sept. 24, 1921, and the first couple married in the parish was John Roache and Letitia Condon. The following year, Vincent Kelly became the first friar resident and full-time pastor. He and another friar rented a house at 406 Soundview Avenue that served as both church and friary.

Audience members laughed when Todd mentioned that the first Mass celebrated was in a building that had been a casino, and that the building purchased by Vincent had been a pickle factory and a bar.  That building later became the convent where the sisters lived for 25 years.  In May 1923, ground was broken for a combination church and school, and the Allegany Sisters arrived in 1924 to teach at the school.

The current friary building was built in 1937 as a home of the Mission Band.  Holy Cross, Todd said, “is more than buildings. What makes Holy Cross parish great are our faithful parishioners.”  He added that “today Holy Cross is a dynamic, multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, bilingual parish of over 2,000 families and more than 25 active parish groups and ministries.”

During his homily, Todd also made reference to the feast dedicated to Holy Cross: the Exaltation of the Cross, by which the Church invites us to not only identify with the cross but also to exalt it and to lift it up. Todd compared the way in which the cross is carried each Sunday with the example of Moses who lifted up the bronze serpent in the desert to bring healing.

“When we lift high the cross of Christ, we recognize the commitment that involves embracing whatever crosses may come in our way,” Todd said.  He paraphrased verses from the letter of Paul to the Philippians proclaiming that Jesus emptied himself completely, not just becoming a human being but accepting their worst public death of the society. Jesus demonstrated the extent of the love of God for us, and that because he died on the cross for us we are able to proclaim to the world that Jesus is Lord.

“Today is your anniversary,” Todd told the congregation. “Holy Cross parish was founded because the people of Clason Point thirsted for God’s word and hungered for the Eucharist . And while Holy Cross has changed over the years, it is our faith that continues to make Holy Cross a vibrant rich parish.”

Todd concluded his homily with the prayer that friars say each day at the end of the Liturgy of the Hours.  “We adore you most Holy Lord Jesus Christ, here and in all the churches of the world, because, by your holy cross, you have redeemed the world.”

After the Mass, friars and parishioners gathered to enjoy refreshments and share memories of what has been the life of a parish that began ministering to the people of God at a casino, a pickle factory, and a bar.

On the following Sunday, a Song and Praise concert was held in the church hall, at which the parish’s Spanish choir performed. An anniversary banquet is planned for Friday evening, Oct. 20, at Villa Barone Manor in The Bronx.

Anniversary Prayer

The following prayer — called “Holy Cross Parish Prayer In Remembrance
of its 85th Anniversary 1921–2006” – is being featured in the parish bulletin.

Father, we want to obey your commands. Give us
new life for you are our God and joy. Increase our
number and our faith, that your Church be filled
with your Spirit. May your radiant love transform
us with new hope and renewed life.

Make us instruments of your peace. Help us in our ministries
to proclaim your word with faith and love. May
your light shine on our priests and deacons, so that
they may serve as examples and guides on the
path of righteousness. Through your grace and
blessing keep us united as one family. Most sacred
heart of Jesus you are our guide. Look at our
hearts united in love and adoration always.

Mary, Queen of the Holy Rosary, pray for us so
that we may serve others with humility. Most
powerful Virgin, protect us with your motherly love
for you are our mother most gracious and merciful.
Loving Mother help us to live better lives and open
our hearts to love others.

Father, may our youth discover their dignity in
Christ as God’s children. May they experience a
Catholic Church that is alive and may they
recognize their personal call to share their gifts in
their community. May your Holy Spirit renew our
faith and show us the ways in which we can be
signs of faith to each other and to all whom we
serve in this parish community of Holy Cross.