Brief History of Holy Cross

Brief History of Holy Cross


Diocese of Raleigh 

In April 2021, Holy Cross Church became a diocesan parish when Fr. Daniel Pal, OFM, was reassigned to a parish in Winston-Salem, N.C. Fr. Pius Wekesa, pastor of St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Roanoke Rapids, N.C., will join Holy Cross as our seventeenth cleric – and first diocesan priest – on June 29. He will celebrate his first Mass on Sunday, July 4, at 10 AM.

Franciscan Friars Conventual

In September 2014, in collaboration with Bishop Michael Burbidge, then bishop of the Diocese of Raleigh, the Franciscan Friars Conventual from Our Lady of the Angels Province in Maryland, assumed responsibilities of pastoral leadership for Holy Cross.

The Minister Provincial Fr. James McCurry, OFM Conv. assigned Fr. Andrew Santamauro, OFM Conv., as the first Franciscan pastor of Holy Cross Catholic Church in Durham. In August 2018, Fr. Bart A. Karwacki, OFM Conv., joined us as our new pastor, when Fr. Andy received a new assignment on the East Coast. In spring 2021, Fr. Bart was given a new assignment on the East Coast, and Fr. Daniel Pal, OFM, joined Holy Cross as parish administrator. When he was subsequently reassigned to a parish in Winston Salem, N.C., the Diocese of Raleigh assumed pastoral leadership for the parish and assigned Fr. Pius Wekesa as pastor. 

Most recent priests serving Holy Cross

Diocese of Raleigh

Conventual Franciscans | Our Lady of the Angels Province

  • Fr. Daniel Pal, OFM Conv. (2020-2021)
  • Fr. Bart A. Karwacki, OFM Conv. (2018-2020)
  • Fr. Andrew Santamauro, OFM Conv (2014-2018)

Our Jesuit beginnings

In 1939, at the request of then-Bishop Eugene McGuinness, the second Bishop of the Diocese of Raleigh, the Maryland Province of the Society of Jesus agreed to staff a new mission for African American Catholics in Durham, N.C. Fr. John A. Risacher, S.J. was appointed to begin the new apostolate and celebrated the first Mass on December 5, 1939. Masses were first celebrated in the dental office of the late Dr. Norman Cordice and later in a classroom in the DeShazor Beauty Parlor Training School on old Fayetteville Street. In September 1940, the Society of Jesus purchased 16.9 acres at 1400 South Alston Avenue.

Architectural renderings for the mission were completed in 1941, and the rectory was constructed in 1942 with one room serving as the chapel. In 1953, the sanctuary at 1400 South Alston Avenue was completed and dedicated by Bishop Vincent Waters. Holy Cross was elevated from mission church to parish status in 1966, the year Fr. Risacher retired. 

Over the years, all but 3.6 acres of the Holy Cross property were sold to the State of North Carolina for the expansion of the North Carolina Central University. Holy Cross grew to be a diverse congregation that at the time had a little over 350 families. The parish was approximately 69% African American, 20% Caucasian, 7% African, plus other ethnicities. 

In order to expand Holy Cross facilities, the Maryland Province sold the remaining 3.6 acres to the State of North Carolina and purchased the current 20.1 acres at 2438 South Alston Avenue. In 2006 the new property was turned over to the Diocese of Raleigh. The new Holy Cross Sanctuary was dedicated on December 2, 2007 by the Most Reverend Michael F. Burbidge, the seventh Bishop of Raleigh.

In the floor of the gathering space of the current Holy Cross Catholic church is the symbol of the Jesuit order of priests. The symbol includes the letters IHS - a monogram of the name of Jesus - with a cross above and three nails below, surrounded by the sun's rays. 

Jesuit priests serving Holy Cross Catholic Church. 

  • Fr. John A. Risacher, S.J. (1939-1966)
  • Fr. Francis Scherer, S.J. (11/66-9/69)
  • Fr. Frederick A. Brew, S.J. (6/69-9/69)
  • Fr. Morgan J. Downey, S.J.  (9/69-1/71)
  • Fr. Paul J. Gilvary, S.J. (1/71-1/77)
  • Fr. Francis M. O’Connor, S.J. (1/77-8/85)
  • Fr. R. Bruce Bavinger, S.J. (8/85-7/96)
  • Fr. David E. Barry, S.J. (7/96-7/98)
  • Fr. Brendan H. Horan, S.J. (7/98-10/01)
  • Fr. Stephen M. Garrity, S.J. (10/01-04/07)
  • Fr. Francis M. O’Connor, S.J. (04/07-01/08)
  • Fr. Robert Hussey, S.J. (01/08-08/08)
  • Fr. Raymond Donaldson, S.J. (08/08 - 08/14)
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