Statement on the Holy Cross School Mascot

March 17, 2024

In response to a letter from a number of parish and school families requesting that we consider changing the mascot of Holy Cross School from Crusaders, the school advisory board developed a four-page document shared last fall with the parish and school community.  We asked the members of the parish and school community to reflect on and pray over the document. 

For the past several months our community has engaged in an important discussion concerning our school mascot.  Many people shared their thoughts through the email portal we created as well as participated in the listening session we held.  As the one ultimately responsible for making this decision, I consulted three parish groups over the past few months: the school advisory board, the parish pastoral council, and the parish team.  I received excellent feedback and counsel from these groups, especially since there were members in all three groups on both sides of the issue who shared their perspectives with me.  We discussed the arguments presented by parishioners from the email portal and the listening session, for which I am most grateful, as I sought their advice over the past few months. I also read some materials suggested by parishioners in favor of and against retaining our current mascot. 

During this time, I have shared with you through pastor’s columns and parish pastoral council minutes the main points of our discussions in order to keep you informed of how this discernment process was proceeding.  While there continued to be strong feelings and valid arguments on both sides of the issue, the general, overall counsel of these groups gradually coalesced around these main points:

  • The decision must be made prayerfully and deliberately, with integrity and in freedom, not in fear, beyond political categories that are dividing our society while taking into account the historical and present-day realities of the use of the name Crusaders.
  • Is this the right timing?  Is it prudent to change the name Crusaders at this time?  Many tangential issues must be taken into consideration.
  • The school logo adopted several years ago, the shield with the cross and anchors embedded in the larger cross, has become the de-facto logo used on school stationery, student wear, and for other purposes.

That logo, which includes the cross and anchors, symbol of the Holy Cross Priests, Brothers and Sisters, within the larger cross reflects well the values of our parish and school founded and staffed by the Congregation of Holy Cross with its motto, “Hail the Cross, Our Only Hope.”  The name Crusader literally means “one who is marked with the sign of the cross of Christ.”  Christians are those who are marked by the sign of the cross.  As Crusaders, our students are young people marked by the sign of the cross of Christ. 

While acknowledging the atrocities committed by some crusaders, it is also important to recognize that the crusaders, in general, were men who sought to regain the Holy Land and its Christian holy sites that had been conquered in previous centuries by invasions in that part of the world.  With some unfortunate exceptions, the crusaders basically sought to take back the Christian holy sites that previously had been under Christian control.

Today, crusader can have multiple connotations, such as the world-wide Rosary Crusades of Venerable Patrick Peyton, C.S.C., and the Rev. Billy Graham Crusades of past decades.  The title crusader has been used for people such as Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., for his work on behalf of racial equality and Caesar Chavez for his efforts toward economic justice for migrant farmworkers and the marginalized.  There are others we can consider crusaders for important and noble causes.  To quote the statement released by the College of the Holy Cross concerning retention of Crusaders as their school mascot, or moniker, “That definition [one marked with the cross of Christ] is based on a contemporary understanding of the term, which suggests a noble effort to support a cause, to right a wrong or to make a difference.”

Therefore, after a great deal of consultation, reflection, and prayer, I have decided that we will retain the name Crusaders but cease using the image of the crusader, i.e. the warrior with helmet and spear riding on a horse.  In place of that image, the school will use the shield with the cross and anchors embedded in the larger cross as the official logo for our sports teams and uniforms, bringing them into conformity with general use of that symbol by our school for the past several years.  Other images of the Crusader, such as on the gym floor, will be replaced when there is a need for refurbishment of those areas of the school, whereas a small number of images, such as found on the plaques outside the main office, will need to remain for practical reasons. 

Furthermore, we will expand our name to Holy Cross Crusaders for Christ, to make clear what our students stand for and commit themselves to- the Kingdom of God and all it entails.  While “Go Crusaders” will most likely remain the popular cheer, we will emphasize to our athletes and all our students that we are Crusaders for Christ.  We will develop a plan to educate our students on the meaning and implications of being Crusaders for Christ.  We will especially incorporate our sports program in this endeavor.

This decision was complicated and challenging but undertaken with my full attention and desire to move forward with the best representation of who we are as a school, a parish and a community of faith.  I recognize that my decision will please some and disappoint, perhaps anger, others.  Those against the mascot name are among those parishioners and school parents I highly respect for their dedication to the values of the Kingdom of God, especially their social justice implications.  We will stress those implications as we engage in ongoing education of our students with regard to the meaning of being Holy Cross Crusaders for Christ.  My hope and prayer is that this effort to form our students ever more fully into Crusaders for Christ will unify our parish and school community and help us all to grow in our call to live as Christians marked with the sign of the cross of Christ. 

In Christ

Father Jim Fenstermaker, C.S.C.