Holy Cross in Bronx Launches Evangelization Campaign for Centennial

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Holy Cross parish in the Bronx celebrated its 100th anniversary with a Mass by Cardinal Dolan Sept. 19 as it launched a campaign through its new Matthew 28 ministry to bring people back to the Church and attract newcomers in a growing neighborhood to the parish.

The Mass with Cardinal Dolan concluded a weeklong parish celebration that included a 40-hour Eucharistic adoration.

“It was an amazing culmination to a week of activities. It was a perfect day and event,” said Maria Aviles, a 66-year-old parishioner for 50 years and leader of the parish’s development committee. “God is so good. He created a day with everything beautifully.”

Matthew 28 is the final chapter of the Gospel of Matthew in the New Testament and concludes with the Great Commission where the risen Jesus instructs his disciples to spread the Gospel and baptize new believers.

The Matthew 28 parish ministry at Holy Cross is evangelizing in the Clason Point section of the Bronx, which has seen population growth in recent years. The group met Sept. 26 and was blessed at Mass Oct. 3 before starting its mission.

“We’re trying to live out this commission with the new initiative to reach some of the new people and long-standing residents in the area,” said Father John Higgins, pastor of Holy Cross since 2017.

Weekend Mass attendance is 700, compared to 1,300 before Covid.

“We need to bring people to God and to the Church. This parish embraces everyone and welcomes everyone,” said Mrs. Aviles, who married her husband, Irvin, at Holy Cross and had three children attend Holy Cross School and participate in the parish youth group. 

Matthew 28 is one of more than 25 parish ministries, including a youth group for middle school students and one for high school students. 

Father Higgins is joined by Father Vincent Druding, parochial vicar; Auxiliary Bishop Peter Byrne, who is in residence, Deacon Luis Torres; and Deacon James Bello, who is director of the religious education program.

English Masses are offered Saturday at 5 p.m. and Sunday at 8:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. Spanish Masses are celebrated at 7:15 p.m. Saturday and 10:30 a.m. Sunday. Daily Masses are offered in English at 8 a.m. on Monday through Saturday and in Spanish on Monday through Friday at 7:15 p.m. Eucharistic adoration is offered from noon to 7 p.m. from Monday through Friday.

Holy Cross parish was established in 1921 with 92 families. It was operated for many years by the Franciscan Friars of the Holy Name Province at the original request of Archbishop Patrick Hayes, who was elevated to Cardinal three years later. Father Marcellus Kolmer, O.F.M., offered the parish’s first Mass at Kane’s Amusement Park near the Clason Point Ferry on June 24, 1921. 

In 1923, the original church and school were dedicated on land located on the corner of Soundview and Randall avenues, which is now a parking lot. The Sisters of St. Francis came from St. Elizabeth’s motherhouse in Allegany to teach the school children.

A new school and gymnasium opened in 1955, and Masses were moved to the school gymnasium in 1964 while a new church building and school annex were constructed in the growing parish. The church and school annex were dedicated in 1968.

Holy Cross School has 270 students from Pre-K through grade eight; Ernie Zalamea serves as school principal.

As part of its 100th anniversary parish celebration, an outdoor bilingual Mass was celebrated at Soundview Park June 24 and a gala is being planned for next September.

“This is the warmest parish I've ever been a part of,” Father Higgins said. “It is very welcoming and embracing. In the human warmth with which they embrace newcomers including myself when I got here, nothing has changed in the past four years.

“There is a solid core of dedicated parishioners and we rely on them.”

Cynthia Douglas, 62, remembers the warm welcome she received 25 years ago when she attended her first Mass in 13 years and was sobbing in the back of the church.

  “They were very friendly, prayerful and welcoming people, and I wound up staying here,” she said. 

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