Holy Cross Catholic Church History


Source: The Rise and Progress of the Province of St. Joseph of the Capuchin order in the United States 1857-1907, by A Member of the Order, Published by Benziger Brothers, New York, Cincinnati, Chicago, 1907

See also: St. Elizabeth Parish and Hospice
See also: St. Francis Seminary
See also: Province of St. Joseph of Capuchin order in the United States

By a happy dispensation of divine Providence, man's progress through life is connected with the blessings of holy Mother Church. Besides the seven holy Sacraments instituted by Our Saviour as seven sources of grace, the Church wisely provides for every want of the human heart; and her blessings extend even beyond the grave. The priest accompanies the remains of every faithful Christian, blesses the very ground in which he is laid to await the day of final judgment, and commends his soul still suffering in purgatory to the mercy of God.

It is evident that in large cities, where the care of from 1,000 to 2,000 souls rests on a single priest, where the cemeteries are distant, and the priest's early hours are taken up with divine services, where he attends to the sick and gives religious instruction in school, it is difficult and often impossible for the priest to follow the remains of the faithful deceased to the cemetery.

The watchful eye of Bishop Henni, perceiving the great loss which the faithful departed suffered in consequence of this, decided to have a religious community established opposite the entrance to Calvary Cemetery near Milwaukee to whose members should be intrusted the burial of the dead when the pastors of the city parishes were unable to perform this function. Therefore, on Sept. 9. 1879, he donated three acres of land to Calvary Province for the purpose of erecting a church and a monastery.

Father Anthony, the Guardian of St. Francis' monastery, Milwaukee, superintended the building. The cornerstone was laid the next month, Oct. 26th, by the Very Rev. Mgr. Leonard Ban., Vicar General. Father Francis preached in German, and Father Bonaventure in English. It now became the duty of the Order to organize a parish. Father Chilian Haas was charged with this duty. He found in the neighborhood some thirty families, Germans, Irish, Poles, and Bohemians, besides a number of Catholic veterans at the National Home for soldiers.

Father Chilian celebrated the Holy Sacrifice for the first time in this new mission on Feb. 23, 1880, and on St. Patrick's Day, March 17th, baptized Elizabeth Knapp, daughter of John Knapp. The church was dedicated April 20th by Mgr. Leonard Batz, assisted by the Revs. Chilian Flash and August Zeininger, the rector and procurator of the Salesianum. Father Bonaventure spoke in English and German. Church and monastery cost $16,780. The generous donations of the city pastors showed that they appreciated this new feature connected with the "Campo Santo." St. Francis' parish, in particular, deserves to be mentioned for its gift of $1,927 and the hearty cooperation of its church choir at the laying of the cornerstone and at the dedication.

The parochial school, the necessary complement of a parish church, was erected at a cost of $2,700. It was dedicated by Father Bonaventure on June 27th, and opened with thirteen children under the care of the School Sisters of Notre Dame. Among other benefactors we mention Miss Elizabeth Baasen (who donated $700 for the high altar and $40 for a chalice), the Romadka Brothers ($350 for the Mater Dolorosa altar), Mr. Get. Meyer ($100 for an ostensorium), Mrs. A. Die] ($87 for stations), Mr. J. Traudt ($6o for a statue of Our Lady of Sorrows), Mr. M. Weinmann ($25 for a baptismal font), Mr. Aloysius Angermeier ($100), Mr. Herman Volz ($70), and Mr. H. Merten ($55).

When Father Chilian was succeeded by Father Boniface Goebbels in October, 1880, he had already paid off $965 of the debt, and the parish had increased to forty families. Aug. 21, 1881, the little church bell was blessed by the Rt. Rev. Bishop Michael Heiss, Coadjutor of the diocese, assisted by the Revs. P. M. Abbelen and Father Ignatius, O.M.Cap. Not long after (Sept. 7th) its tolling announced the passing away of Archbishop J. Martin Henni, to whom the Province is indebted not only for this hospice of Holy Cross, but also for Calvary and Milwaukee, and to a great extent for its existence as a Province.

After the Provincial Chapter in October, 1885, Father Bonaventure, who had presided over the Province since 1879, made Holy Cross his home. The terrace in front of the hospice suggested recollections of Calvary after a life-size group of the Crucifixion was blessed by Archbishop Heiss, August 22, 1886.

Father Timothy, who succeeded Father Bonaventure from 1888 to 1891, extinguished the debt on the monastery. Father Hyacinth was Superior and pastor from 1891 to 1893. Father Bernardine (1893-97) enlarged the hospice in Holy Cross, changed the basement of the church into a hall for societies and entertainments, and handsomely decorated the church. He canonically established the Young Ladies' Sodality in April, 1897, and affiliated the Married Ladies' Society to the Archronfraternity, of Christian Mothers in May, 1897. Father Jerome, his successor (1897-1900), founded the Society of the Infant Jesus. During his term the number of school children increased to one hundred.

Little was expected from Holy Cross as a parish. But in consequence of a resolution passed by the Provincial Chapter of 1900, to establish a second clericate there, to enlarge the hospice accordingly, and to make it a monastery, it became quite important to the Province. To carry out this resolution Father Bonaventure returned to the West; his resignation (March 8, 1901), however, delayed the work. Father Louis became his successor, and after May, 1903, the first Guardian pro tem. of Holy Cross. Father Lawrence Vorwerk, Provincial, superintended the building of the monastery, which was dedicated by Father Bonaventure May 28, 1903, and canonically erected Feb. 14, 1903. It received the Philosophers of St. Francis', Aug. 12, 1903. Father Lawrence Vorwerk retired to Holy Cross in August, 1903, after serving two terms in succession as Provincial. The property was enlarged Sept. 20, 1902, by the purchase of an acre of land adjoining the monastery, and the building upon it was remodeled to serve as a school, which was blessed and dedicated Sept. 6, 1903.

On two occasions of the year Holy Cross attracts much attention: on Corpus Christi, when the Blessed Sacrament is carried in procession through the cemetery, and on the eve of All Souls' Day, when the graves are blessed. Crowds of Catholics from the different parishes of the city annually witness these celebrations, and return from the country invigorated by the bracing atmosphere, after paying a visit to the graves of their departed friends and praying for the repose of their souls.

Besides the care of the parish and cemetery the Fathers have charge of the Poor Farm, the County Hospital, and the Insane Asylum, and find themselves amply repaid for their services by the thought of doing good to those poor wards of the State, whose poverty and neglected condition make them dearer to the merciful God, and whose helplessness gives them a greater claim on Christian charity. Holy Cross parish celebrated the twenty-fifth anniversary of its existence during the month of October, 1905, by a mission given by the Rev. Fathers Daniel Finkenhoefer O.S.F., and Titus Hugger, O.S.F.