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A Brief History of Holy Cross Church

The "Mother Church of Columbus" has a long and rich history, from its origins as a mission served by the Dominicans of Somerset, Ohio, in 1833, to its present position as a thriving center of spiritual strength in its downtown neighborhood, now known as the Discovery District. From a handful of parishioners in 1837, when construction began on the city's first Catholic Church with a small number of early German Catholic families, through a burgeoning influx of immigrants from Germany and Ireland after 1848, Holy Cross became the center of Catholic Columbus. Through post-Civil War development of the capital city as a transportation and industrial center, into and beyond all the 20th Century events of wars, the Great Depression, inner-city blight, urban renewal and downtown revitalization, Holy cross and its parishioners have indeed "held high the Cross."

     Holy Cross church is the successor, on the same property, of Columbus' first Catholic Church, Saint Remigius, which was dedicated on April 29, 1838. Saint Remigius, who died in 533, was an archbishop in Rheims, France, no far from where the first pastor, Father Damien Juncken, was reared. Father Juncker who served the early years of Holy Cross, later became the first bishop of Alton, Illinois (presently the Diocese of Springfield, Illinois). He was the first of four pastors who were elevated later to the episcopacy.

    By 1843 when the first resident pastor, Father William Schonat, arrived, the small Saint Remigius Chapel, measuring fifty by thirty feet, was too small to accommodate the growing number of Catholics moving to Columbus. It was decided to build the present church in 1844 and at the request of Father Schonat, to dedicate the Church to the Holy Cross. The inscription now covered by the "Follow Me" statue reads from Galatians 6:14: God forbid that I should glory, but in the Cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified to me and I to the world. Archbishop John Baptist Purcell dedicated the present structure which contains over 800,000 bricks, on Sunday, January 19, 1848. No other Catholic or Protestant church in Columbus is older.

    In 1877, following Vespers celebrating the Golden Jubilee of the episcopacy of Pope Pius IX, a fire engulfed the Church destroying the high altar, organ, church ceiling and choir loft, causing over $20,000 in damages. Following the fire, the sacristies were enlarged and four rooms were added above the sacristies to house the Brothers of Mary, who taught the boys of the school for nearly forty years.

    Population growth brought about the first division of the parish leading to the establishment of St. Patrick Church in 1851 to serve Irish immigrants. Services in English were held at Holy Cross until 1853 dedication of Saint Patrick. Remembering their own plight, Holy Cross parishioners donated $1200 toward the construction of St. Patrick. The Holy Cross choir provided the vocal music at the new church's dedication.

    With continued growth of the city, Holy Cross purchased land on South Third Street. This later became the present St. Mary Church. Also, Holy Cross purchased the entire North Section of Mount Calvary Cemetery for its members. For many years, the sextons where members of Holy Cross, and the cemetery records kept at the Holy Cross Rectory. After the Civil War and the vast growth of Columbus, the Diocese of Columbus was erected in 1868. The new Catholic church being built on East Broad Street was redesigned, becoming Saint Joseph Cathedral.

    The beautiful window in the Church were designed by the famous Zettler Studios of Germany and installed after World War One. During the war, the windows were stored on a dock in Germany. In 1923, the longest pastorate in the history of Holy Cross came to an end with the death of Father Clement R. Rhode. He served Holy Cross for 46 years. he was succeeded by a son of the parish, Father Peter C. Schneider.

    Much praise and thanks is accorded Monsignor William Kappes who took much time energy to write the history of Holy Cross. He first served as the temporary administrator and later pastor. Through his efforts, the records and history keep the past of Holy Cross alive.

    Father Linus Dury began the Novena to the Sorrowful Mother in 1946 -- it continues today, on First Friday's, following the 11:30 a.m. Mass. From the late 1930's to the early 1970's Holy Cross struggled. Several priests served only as administrators and those who did become pastor, stayed for only a brief period of time.

    Holy Cross has been blessed also to have priests living in residence helped with the spiritual needs of the parish. From the late Father Lawrence O'Conner to our present priest in-residence, Monsignor Corcoran, we are indebted to their tireless efforts ministering to us and assisting the pastor.

    As mentioned previously, three pastors from Holy Cross became bishops: Father Josue Young, Father Capsar Borgess, and Father George Fulcher. Bishop Fulcher served as administrator of Holy Cross and later as pastor. He also served as editor of the diocesan newspaper with offices at Holy Cross. Bishop Fulcher became the second Auxiliary Bishop of Columbus in 1976, and later the bishop of Lafayette, Indiana, in 1983, dying tragically in 1984.

    While pastor of Holy Cross, Father Richard Dodd was instrumental in establishing the Cum Christo Retreat Center. Recognition is also given to Monsignor Joseph Hakel who served as pastor in the 1950's and later from 1968 - 1978. Monsignor Hakel continued the writing of the history of Holy Cross and also helped form the nonprofit corporation which built Nazareth Towers. when construction began in the late 1960's, Nazareth Towers became the first "new" building in the parish boundaries after the area formerly known as Market-Mohawk was leveled. The Dominican Sisters of Saint Mary of the Springs continue to operate the Towers which provides housing to many of our parishioners. Father Edwin McNulty and Monsignor James Berendt both saw to the needs of not only the parishioners, but also the Church building itself. Both completed major repairs and improvements during their pastorates.

    During the mid 1980's, Holy Cross became the spiritual home of the growing Latino population of Columbus. In 1993, Bishop Griffin erected the parish of Santa Cruz. The parishioners of Santa Cruz (Spanish for Holy Cross) celebrated their festive liturgies at Holy Cross until July of 2001. The continuing growth of their parish found them needing more space than available at Holy Cross. Holy Name Parish on the north side of Columbus became their new home.

    In 1987, Reverend Monsignor Lawrence J. Corcoran, P.A., moved into the rectory after his retirement as the Executive Director of the National Conference of Catholic Charities (Catholic Charities, USA), having lead our national Catholic charity activity from 1965-1982. In 1995, Bishop James Griffin honored him with the dignity as a Protonotary Apostolic--the highest honor given to a monsignor. Msgr. Corcoran passed away in 2009.

    In July, 2000, Holy Cross welcomed Fr. Jerome D. Stluka, a native of Columbus Holy Name and Our Lady of Peace parishes. Fr. Stluka remained pastor until his retirement in 2014. During those 14 years Fr. Stluka oversaw major improvements to the church, including: the brick exterior being tuck pointed and sealed; a new roof; new sound system; a new heating and cooling system; restoration and protection of the beautiful stained glass windows; a new asphalt parking lot; prayer garden and a new hard wood floor.

    In July of 2014 Bishop Frederick Campbell announced the “clustering” of Holy Cross with St. Joseph Cathedral. Fr. Michael Lumpe was appointed Pastor, in addition to his duties as Rector of St. Joseph Cathedral and Diocesan Vicar for Priests..