Parish History

Holy Cross Church Altar in 1949 (Photo provided by the Hickey Family)

The first meeting to discuss the establishment of Holy Cross Parish took place on September 17, 1928, when 200 people met at Muessel School.  Bishop John Noll had asked that the new parish be established when the congregation at St. Patrick’s Church had become too large.  Holy Cross Parish was formally founded in 1929 with the construction of Holy Cross Church and School.  The school auditorium was used for Masses and other church services until the current church building was constructed in 1949.

A survey before the building of the church and school showed 267 families and 1,000 members.  On May 5, 1929, the cornerstone of the building was laid with a tiny relic of the true cross of Christ placed inside the cornerstone.  The relic, consisting of several shavings shaped in the form of a cross and enclosed in a glass cross, was brought to this country by Father Edward Sorin, C.S.C., founder of the University of Notre Dame.  161 students enrolled in eight grades at the opening of the school on September 16, 1929.  The teaching faculty consisted of four Sisters of the Congregation of Holy Cross, with Sister M. Hildegardis, C.S.C., as the first principal.  The dedication of the completed Holy Cross Church and School took place on November 24, 1929, with a congregation of approximately five hundred people in attendance and Bishop Noll officiating.

Between 1930 and 1955 several more classrooms were added to the school building, along with the south wing in 1937 and the north wing in 1947 that contained additional classrooms on the second floor, an auditorium, kitchen and restroom facilities on the first floor, and a complete basement.  Even more classrooms in the school and church basement followed.  Enrollment continued to grow until it leveled off in 1961 at 1,230 students with twenty-one Holy Cross Sisters and ten lay teachers.  Between the founding of the parish in 1929 and 1984, 173 Holy Cross Sisters served as teachers and administrators in Holy Cross School.  For 55 years these professional educators nurtured young hearts and minds in the Holy Cross tradition.

The Holy Cross Sisters teaching at the school first lived at St. Mary’s College, then in a large rented house on North Adams Street.  In November 1955, ground was broken for the new convent, with the twenty-three room building completed in December 1956.  The old convent at 1015 Wilber was renovated and made into a recreational center for the senior citizens.

The cornerstone for the new church was laid in October 1948.  The structure was built to match the Italian Romanesque style of the school, finished in Mankato stone from Minnesota and topped with a red tile roof.  The interior contained eleven types of marble from all over the world, including the Carrara marble used for the statues, the same type of marble used by Michelangelo for many of his most famous sculptures.  The statues included the Blessed Virgin, the Death of St. Joseph, a Pieta and the Sacred Heart.  The church was built to seat more than one thousand people.  The first Mass in the new church was celebrated at the Christmas Eve Midnight Mass of 1949.

By 1953, there were 210 public school children enrolled in C.C.D. (Confraternity of Christian Doctrine) classes held each Sunday.  In the mid-1960s the Holy Cross Parish Life Program touched every aspect of the parish, with the entire parish organized into zones with a leader for each zone and block couples for each block within the zone.  In 1968 the Religious Education Committee was formed, and in 1970 the first full-time director of religious education was hired with the goal of developing a comprehensive faith formation program for children and adults.  In 1969, Fr. Bill Neidhart, C.S.C., established the first parish council.  In 1976 Holy Cross Parish consisted of 1,500 families with 4,900 parishioners.  In 1987, work was completed to remodel the former convent into the Fr. Jacob Smith, C.S.C., Parish Center.

In 1971, the parish Religious Education program began the Sunday morning Tiny Seed program for pre-schoolers that eventually enrolled 120 children.  The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd program was first introduced to Holy Cross Parish in the mid-1980s, revived in the early 2000s, and again implemented in 2014.  Based on the Montessori model of experiential learning, parish children in the after-school classes as well as in Holy Cross School are supported through this program in the “religious values of childhood, primarily those values of contemplation and enjoyment of God.”

In 2001, the clergy of Holy Cross Parish took on responsibility for nearby St. Stanislaus Parish.  Masses continued to be celebrated, and various parish programs and activities were offered at both parishes, while a growing bond of unity grew between the parishes.  This relationship continued until 2015 when Bishop Kevin Rhoades invited the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter to use St. Stanislaus Parish as the site in the South Bend area of the diocese for the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite, more commonly referred to as the traditional Latin Mass.  Holy Cross Parish has been enriched by a number of St. Stanislaus parishioners who, at that time, decided to became members of Holy Cross.

In 2007, the parish community, led by Fr. Michael Mathews, C.S.C., added an extension to the parish school, which included a large gymnasium with locker rooms, an industrial kitchen, and new office space, as well as a more convenient entrance to the school.  The gym has also become a primary gathering space for parish as well as school functions.

In the Fall of 2018, Holy Cross School began an exciting new chapter in the school’s ongoing efforts to meet the educational needs of the community when it implemented its dual immersion program, supported by the Alliance for Catholic Education and the Institute for Latino Studies at the University of the Notre Dame as well as the Catholic Schools Office of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend.  In the 2018-2019 academic year, Holy Cross School became a Level 3 Paths to Quality school, recognizing its commitment to improve the quality of early childhood education and to meet the standards designed to support children’s growth and development.

Holy Cross continues to be a vibrant parish community, reaching out through our school and numerous parish programs, activities and ministries to evangelize our local Near Northwest/LaSalle neighborhoods of South Bend as well as to participate in the mission of the diocesan and universal Church.  Holy Cross Parish is currently staffed by three Holy Cross priests serving as pastor, associate pastor and priest in residence, along with lay pastoral team members serving in catechetical and music ministry as well as the lay support staff.  Members of the parish are committed by our parish mission statement to use our time, talent and treasure in worship and in service to all of our brothers and sisters.