1902 1927 1957 2010
A HISTORY OF THE CHURCH OF THE HOLY CROSS CHURCH
from then till now
(please open up the document on the left for an early history of Holy Cross Church from"The Catholic Churches of New York" by John Gilmary Shea)
Thanks to the continuing blessings from God and the inspiring support of all our friends, the oldest structure on all of 42nd Street river to river again has been restored to the haven of so many faithful. The nearly eight generations of people can again be proud of the facility in which they sought sanctuary, peace, forgiveness and/or assistance. The doors at the Crossroads of the World are as wide open as ever.
Holy Cross began in 1852. It has flowered during the second half of the nineteenth century, road the roller coaster of change that was the twentieth century, and has optimistically launched itself into the twenty-first century.
In The Beginning
In 1852, the pastor of St. Columba reported to Archbishop John Hughes, "(This is) farm land where cows mooed at passerbys. I see no future for this section of the city." Despite the myopic view of the Pastor of St. Columba, the far sighted Archbishop Hughes acquiesced to the desires of the local residents in their desire for a house of worship. Thus the Beacon on 42nd Street was lit.
The Rev. Joseph Lutz, the founder and first pastor raised $20,000 for the new parish. To him fell the lot of planting the Cross of Christ in the spot that would become the Crossroads of the World. On November 25, 1852, the cornerstone was laid and the Church was built. Since that day Holy Cross has seen New York grow from farmland to the City of the World, all the time keeping in mind its divine mission of service.
The Rev. Patrick McCarthy, O.P., succeeded Father Lutz in 1855. In 1867, during a thunderstorm, lightening severely damaged the church requiring demolition. The light was dimmed but not out. The new replaced the old. Two years later the structure we enjoy today was finished.
By 1876, Holy Cross School was purchased from the Sisters of Charity. At that time the school was coed, the boys being taught by the Christian Brothers and the girls by the Sisters of Charity. In 1877, His Eminence John Cardinal McCloskey appointed Rev. Charles McCready as pastor. Rev. McCready on to serve the parish for thirty-eight years.
The first day he arrived, he was faced with a staggering debt of $92,000, no money on deposit, and the rectory due to be sold for unpaid taxes. Over the next nine years, Fr. McCready worked tirelessly to pay down the debt. The church was later consecrated by Archbishop Michael Corrigan. Fr. McCready continued his work building the parochial school and he also founded the Holy Cross Lyceum. Shortly after, Fr. McCready was elevated to the rank of Domestic Prelate with the title of Rt. Rev.Monsignor. Msgr. McCready continued his pastoral work for the next twenty-nine years until called by the Lord.
Into the 20thCentury
In 1921, the City and the parish were blessed by the appointment of the gifted tongued and the humane personality that was Fr. Francis Duffy. He served as the chaplain of the Fighting Irish 69th Regiment of New York and “Citizen of the World at every crossroads” during World War I, meriting many awards along the way, including the Distinguished Service Cross .
It was Fr. Duffy who purchased the Convent on West 44thStreet from the Dominican Sisters of Blauvelt for the school. He initiated the “Printer’s Mass” held on Sundays at 2:30 AM to facilitate attendance by night workers, particularly the employees of the New York Times, Herald Tribune, the Daily News and the Daily Mirror. The ‘parishioners’ were not only printers, but taxi drivers, chorus girls, night club entertainers and patron revelers from out of town, and even big headed wrestlers with cauliflower ears. Just like today all are welcomed.
In 1927 Holy Cross and Fr. Duffy were again fighting an enormous debt. A consortium of prominent New Yorkers including Protestants, Catholics and Jews came together to create a fund to finance the debt of this institution. On November 11, 1927, the Jewish Tribune wrote, “It is conclusive proof that the brotherhood of man is still with us, in spite of skyscrapers and in spite of the currents of bigotry.”
Fr. Duffy’s world was his parish. He knew his flock by name, old and young, shy and bold – including notables of the time, from Gene Tunney and George M. Cohan, and all were equally affected by his dedication. Fr Duffy passed away on June 26th, 1932, at the age of 61. Such was his celebrity that his funeral mass had to be held at St. Patrick’s Cathedral to hold his vast throng of mourners. Martin Green of the New York Sun, who was at the service, reported:"It was a fixed belief of Father Duffy that New York is the friendliest city on the face of the earth. New York proved the truth of Father Duffy’s belief today by giving him a tribute which would have been memorable for a national hero; for a parish priest and an army chaplain it was an astonishing display of respect and grief.”¹
The unenviable task of replacing this charismatic soldier/priest fell on the shoulders of Patrick Cardinal Hayes. In September of 1932 the solution came in the personage of Father Joseph A. McCaffrey. History was to be made anew by this product of the Sidewalks of New York. Fr. McCaffrey served in World War I as a chaplain, distinguishing himself under fire and winning the Silver Star and the Croix de Guerre from the French government. He also took over duties of chaplain for the Fighting 69thand later as chaplain for the New York City Police Department, for which he served until 1957. Fr. McCaffrey inaugurated the 10 Perpetual Novena Services in honor of our Lady of the Miraculous Medal.
On Mondays more than 22,000 people made the pilgrimage to honor the Mother of God, overflowing the church onto 42ndStreet. Since the number of people exceeded the church’s capacity, Fr. Joe turned to the radio to expand the .reaches of Holy Cross. Radio Station WHN was quick to recognize the possibilities and offered to broadcast the half-hour service for free (if the church paid the corresponding phone bills). The audience grew by leaps and bounds reaching the shut-ins, residents in nursing homes and the hospitalized.
In 1935 Fr. Joe had the statue of Fr. Duffy built with the support of parishioners and friends. In 1937 he bought a piece of land on 43rd Street to build a playground for the school and the neighborhood children. The playground was eventually bought by the City of New York, expanded, and renamed "The Monsignor Joseph A. McCaffrey Playground". The school grew when the enrollment necessitated double classes and the Dominican Sisters met the challenge. The children enjoyed annual visits to the circus, the rodeo and especially the boat rides up the Hudson to the Indian Point Amusement Park. At Christmas he made sure that Santa provided gifts for the children. But his favorite day was March 11th every year when the kids would serenade him for his birthday.
Holy Cross and World faced the Great Depression. Although it was bleak around the United States, the Beacon still shined bright on the west side of 42nd Street. Holy Cross helped the people of the neighborhood regardless of faith, color or nationality. A Greek Orthodox woman later told her children and grandchildren that they existed today because Fr. McCaffrey gave us food and an education at Holy Cross; Fr. Joe insisted that those in need were to be helped regardless of faith, color or nationality.
When the world slipped into World War II, Fr. Joe established the Victory Chapel in the lower church as a special place for fathers, mothers and other loved ones to pray for their relatives in the armed forces service. After the war it The Gold Star Chapel was dedicated to the memory of those who gave their life in service to their country. His Eminence Francis Cardinal Spellman petitioned Pope Pius XII to raise Fr. Joe to "Monsignor" in 1941, a Domestic Prelate in 1943, and Prothonotary Apostolic in 1950 with right of Miter. Although the New York Times proclaimed him "The Bishop of Times Square", Msgr. Joe was happy to wear a plain black cassock as he walked among his flock.
The prosperity and peace of the 1950's brought social instability to Holy Cross in the 1960’s and 1970’s. Many parishioners fled to the suburbs to escape the increase in crime. Times Square became the Babylon of old ? the center of porn and massage parlors as well as a gathering place for all kinds of deviants. The Beacon still shined but was hard to find among the glittering neon signs. Fr. Joe called himself, "The Pastor of Parking Lots". In 1973 Fr. Joe retired to Cherry Hill, NJ and died in 1977.
In 1968, His Eminence Terence Cardinal Cooke appointed Monsignor Francis X. Cronin pastor. He, too, was a chaplain in World War II. The challenge of the parish work and the roughness of the area proved to be overwhelming for Msgr. Cronin.
However, this led Cardinal Cooke to an inspired choice as a replacement. In 1973 Rev. Robert G. Rappleyea was named pastor. Over the next twelve years Fr. Rap was instrumental in the cleanup of Times Square. With changing needs and demographics, Fr. Rap closed the lower chapel and had it changed to a senior's club. It also served as a bingo hall and as a homeless shelter for women. Fr. Rap became a key leader of the Mayor's Midtown Citizens' Committee, many Midtown Business Organizations and the chaplain of the NY/NJ Port Authority Police Department. Because of his persistent efforts over his years at Holy Cross, families and visitors can now enjoy "The New Times Square". The NY/NJ Port Authority placed a plaque in their new 42nd Street building to honor the work of Fr. Rap in cleaning up Times Square. Cardinal O’Connor subsequently promoted him to `Monsignor' for his work to his parish and the neighborhood.
After the death of Monsignor Rappleyea in 1991, Fr. Martin Biglin served as co-pastor at Holy Cross during the renewal of Times Square. Still, the area was dangerous at night; parishioners were at risk and Fr. Biglin himself was the victim of a mugging at the rectory steps. Again, the Msgr. McCaffrey Hall was transformed into a shelter for the homeless women at night. The work of the food pantry continued to help our neighbors and those in need.
Time moved on and in 1992 when Holy Cross needed another pastor, His Eminence John Cardinal O'Connor selected Fr. Peter Colapietro as the caretaker of the Beacon in 1991. With the election of Mayor Rudy Giuliani in 1994 the “Crossroads of the World” began to see changes, with porn shops and peep shows being closed down . Once again business leaders worked with Holy Cross leaders to continue the works of Fathers Duffy, McCaffrey and Rappleyea ensuring that Times Square and Holy Cross would shine again. From this apparent darkness a new dawn was beginning.
Fr. Pete and the parish now faced new challenges. With Times Square being cleaned up, high price rental and condo buildings were replacing the old tenements of the aged parishioners. The Crossroads Food Pantry now serves more than 20,000 people annually, giving out 140,000 pounds of food. The old Hell's Kitchen is now an upscale, pricey neighborhood. Now multi?million dollar dwelling rise from the field of old tenements. Many of the trendy neighborhood hot spots are out of the price range of many parishioners. This eclectic disparity presents a whole new set of challenges as Holy Cross sets out in this new century.
The story of Holy Cross is not told entirely in the beauty of its architecture, the heights of its dome that overlooks the intersection of the nave and the transept, nor the new paint and plaster. The true story of Holy Cross is contained in numerous humans who sought god's comfort there. The essence of Holy Cross is told by the sinners restored to life in the confessionals, the souls brought to new life at the baptismal font, the spiritually hungry who ate the Eucharist, the food of life. The spirit is defined by the many great priests, religious and parishioners who keep the Beacon shining bright today.
Years ago an old TV series closed its weekly program saying “There are a million stories in the Naked City.” Over the years so many of those stories have been played out here at Holy Cross and Holy Cross looks forward to the next million stories; keeping the Beacon on 42nd Street shining so all can find the Lord.
Fr. Francis Duffy:
Fr Duffy and the Fighting 69th:http://www.sixtyninth.net/duffy.html
Duffy Square: http://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/M093/highlights/9750
The Warrior Priest: http://web.mac.com/sisyphus3/Site_3/Father_Duffy.html
Rt. Rev Monsignor Joseph A. McCaffrey, PA:
Time Magazine/ Sin v. The Monsignor 7/12/68 http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,712144,00.html
McCaffrey Playground: http://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/M161/monuments/995
Life Magazine 2/15/54 / Tell All the Gang on 42nd Street: http://books.google.com/books?id=MkgEAAAAMBAJ&pg=PA30&lpg=PA30&dq=Monsignor+Joseph+Mccaffrey&source=bl&ots=TcPSdOylN4&sig=RHd06IcyZc3xcxc2LSw1wfS5xPo&hl=en&ei=n7BXToymFInpgAec5P2qDA&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=5&ved=0CD0Q6AEwBDgK#v=onepage&q=Monsignor%20Joseph%20Mccaffrey&f=false
Fr Peter ColapietroConfessions of Fr Pete NY Times 9/22/96:
A Prayer For One Police Plaza/ New York Magazine (9/11 stories): http://nymag.com/nymetro/news/sept11/features/5175/
December 22, 2011 | by Mike LupicaArticle about Holy Cross and the Crossroads Food Pantry