The "Mother Church of Columbus" has a long and rich history, from its origins in 1833 as a mission served by the Dominicans of Somerset, Ohio, 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 German Catholic families when construction began on the city's first Catholic Church in 1837, 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, which is not far from where the church’s first pastor, Father Damien Juncker, was raised. 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 became bishops.
By 1843, when 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: “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.” (Galatians 6:14). 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 40 years.
Population growth brought about the establishment of St. Patrick Church in 1851 to serve Irish immigrants. Services in English were held at Holy Cross until the 1853 dedication of Saint Patrick Church. 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 were 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 to become Saint Joseph Cathedral.
The beautiful windows 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 who 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 and 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 of Holy Cross were kept alive.
Father Linus Dury began the Novena to the Sorrowful Mother in 1946, and it continues today, each First Friday following the 11:30 a.m. Mass. From the late 1930s to the early 1970s, 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 who helped with the spiritual needs of the parish. From the late Father Lawrence O'Conner to the late Monsignor Lawrence Corcoran, we are indebted to their tireless efforts ministering to Holy Cross parishioners and assisting the pastor.
As mentioned previously, four pastors from Holy Cross became bishops: Father Damien Juncker, Father Josue Young, Father Caspar 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 a car accident 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 1950s 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 1960s, 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 operated Nazareth Towers until 2003. The building still provides housing to many of our parishioners. Father Edwin McNulty and Monsignor James Berendt both saw to the needs of the parishioners, and the Church building itself. Both completed major repairs and improvements during their pastorates.
During the mid-1980s, Holy Cross became the spiritual home of the growing Latino population of Columbus. In 1993, Bishop Griffin erected the parish of Santa Cruz (Spanish for Holy Cross). The parishioners of Santa Cruz celebrated their festive liturgies at Holy Cross until July of 2001. The continuing growth of their parish found them needing more space than was 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 as a Protonotary Apostolic dignitary--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; a new sound system; a new heating and cooling system; restoration and protection of the beautiful stained glass windows; a new asphalt parking lot; a prayer garden and a new hardwood floor.
In July 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.
In September 2015, Holy Cross was un-clustered from St. Joseph Cathedral when Father Dwayne Allan McNew was assigned to Holy Cross. He has the gift of outreach to both the young and young-at-heart. This much-loved priest of the people has a welcoming personality and gives homilies that touch the hearts, minds, and spirits of listeners of all ages, and very often have the effect of turning visitors into parishioners.