Short History of Holy Cross
Holy Cross Catholic Church in San Jose, California, was founded as a mission of St. Patrick’s Church in 1906 to serve the many Italian immigrants of the north side neighborhood. At that time, it was known as the “Mission of the Holy Crucifix”.
A year later, the parish was given over to the Jesuit Fathers who staffed the parish until 1921 when it was again turned over to the Diocesan clergy.
More history...In its long history, the parish has gone through three name changes. In the 1906 pages of the parish record book, the name was written in Latin as SS Crucifixi, Most Holy Crucifix. Between 1912 and 1914, a second Latin name, Pretiosissimi Sanguinis, (Most Precious Blood), started appearing. The final change to the English name Holy Cross was made in 1928.
According to an article published in the archdiocesan newspaper The San Francisco Monitor on 9/11/1911, the first “neat little Italian church … was built in the memorable year of 1906.” A typewritten history of the parish written in the mid 30s, which was found in the Diocese of San Jose’s archives, stated that the church was built for “the convenience of the Italians living in St. Patrick’s parish” by the St. Patrick’s pastor Father J. Lally. Since San José was at that time part of the San Francisco archdiocese, Bishop Montgomery, coadjutor of San Francisco Archbishop Riordan, formally blessed the new church on December 8, 1906. > <>Father Lally’s completion of the Holy Crucifix Church on Jackson Street is especially noteworthy considering that his own St. Patrick’s Church was destroyed by the 1906 earthquake two months earlier in September. (St. Patrick’s was replaced by a wooden structure dedicated in April of 1907 by Archbishop Riordan.)
Holy Crucifix Church continued as a mission of St. Patrick’s Parish until it was changed in 1911 to an Italian national parish at the same time as its name was changed to Most Precious Blood.> <>Fr. Egisto Tozzi served for one year as the first pastor. Afterwards the parish was given over to the Jesuit Fathers. Fr. A. Diomede, S.J. was pastor of the parish until 1921, at which time the care of the parish was again turned over to the diocesan clergy.
The first pastor installed in 1911, Father Egisto Tozzi, according to the previously-mentioned SF Monitor article, was “noted for his scholarly attainments and devout piety.” Father Tozzi rented “a nearby cottage,” since a residence for priests had not yet been built. He celebrated two Masses every Sunday, one in English and one in Italian. The article also praised the work of the Sisters of the Holy Family who continually helped the people of the parish for sixty-six years, from 1907 until 1973.>
“The parish is populous but very poor owing principally to the fact that the people own no property and have very large families to support while obliged to work for low wages. The Sisters of the Holy Family do much in the way of caring for the little ones in the absence of their mothers and instructing them in their religious duties. The present indebtedness amounts to $4,063.47. In time this may be paid off and the people of the parish will have one of the neatest and most artistic church in San José.”<>After a new, larger stucco church was dedicated in 1920 (during the pastorate of Father A. Bruno), the old church was used for catechism classes and parish offices for many years. Even though the church’s address has always been listed as 560 or 580 North 12th Street, the first church was on the corner of East Jackson and North 13th Streets and the new church was built to the right of it on the corner of East Jackson and North 12th Streets. The original rectory was built on North 12th Street.
No one remembers what happened to the original church building. It may have been razed in the early 1970s after the parish purchased adjacent properties and tore down several buildings to clear the way for a new convent and the present classrooms, which were dedicated as a CCD (Confraternity of Christian Doctrine) center on May 23, 1974. > <>The parish was staffed at first by Italian-speaking diocesan priests and then by priests from the Jesuit order. In 1961, following the death of Fr. Terence Nugent, Holy Cross Parish has been staffed by members of the Missionary Order of St. Charles Borromeo (C.S.) founded by Blessed John Baptist Scalabrini, whose members are commonly called the Scalabrinians. Since the charisma of the Scalabrinians is to serve immigrants, migrants, and refugees, their presence at Holy Cross could be seen as a providential fit.
The first parish church was built to serve the many Italian immigrants in the Northside San José neighborhood. The parish has evolved with the neighborhood’s changing demographics to serve Mexicans, Filipinos, and others from many varied national and economic backgrounds who make their homes in the area, including many who have been attracted by the number of well-kept Victorians and Craftsman-era bungalows and the chance to live in a safe, pleasant neighborhood near the city’s downtown.>
Holy Cross parish has been known over the years for a few things besides its identity as an Italian mission church that evolved into a parish for immigrants from many nations. One of the other things is the religious education complex. Brother Charles Muscat, C.S., Director of Religious Education said that Holy Cross is the only church in the area that has dedicated classroom space available for teaching children about their faith who don’t go to Catholic schools. The current term in use for those who teach the faith in parishes is “catechetical ministers,” so for those who may not remember the term CCD, the following information from the dedication booklet for the CCD center might be of interest. CCD was a lay organization created in 1605, and it eventually gained the status of “the Church’s official parish society devoted solely to the religious education of all children and youth not enrolled in Catholic schools, and of adults, both Catholic and those outside the fold.” CCD was approved by St. Pius V in 1581, and in 1905, St. Pius X ordered that it be established in every parish.
Today the parish weekend schedule includes three English Masses, two Spanish Masses, and one Italian Mass. Multi-ethnic Masses are held on major feasts of the Church year, and then the diversity of the parish is even more apparent, as parishioners walk into the church in procession, often wearing native dress, carrying many different flags from their nations of origin, such as Mexico, Italy, the Philippines, Portugal, Vietnam, Korea, Fiji, Canada, Brazil, and Malta, along with the flag of the U.S.A.
Once Was Lost and Now is Found<>A precious crucifix from Italy that once hung behind the altar was almost thrown away, then rescued, stored in a garage, and finally returned to the church almost forty years later. In 1966, then-pastor Father Joseph Bolzon C.S. installed a new altar to face the congregation. During the remodeling, the 10 foot painted and gilded wooden crucifix that had formerly hung from the half-dome behind the altar was removed along with a Pieta and fourteen painted stations of the cross.
The crucifix in use after the remodeling was a much-smaller one that topped a gold tabernacle. The tabernacle was kept on a table behind the altar in front of a black marble backdrop with a gold-embossed depiction of the Last Supper. > <>Pastor, Father Mario Rauzi C.S., did another renovation that removed the black marble piece some time in the 1970s. The walls behind the altar were now made up of lighter marble, and a much-simpler smaller crucifix from the 70s, occupying the center panel. A mural was painted in the half dome in 1977 by a local artist.
By the time the first crucifix was removed, it had faded from the parish memory that the installation of the crucifix and the stations of the cross had been an important event. An item in the “Church News of the Week” section of The Monitor on 9/21/1907 reported about the erection of a large crucifix over the main altar on Sunday 9/17, and it lauded the stations of the cross as “beautiful oil paintings, imported from Italy.” (The Monitor was the newspaper of the Archdiocese of San Francisco, and Holy Cross was part of the San Francisco archdiocese at the time.)> <>In 1966 the church caretaker rescued the crucifix, stations, and statues and took them home. A few years ago the caretaker died. The family kept the stations and statues but circumstances led them to contact Brother Charles Muscat, C.S., to ask if Holy Cross would want the crucifix back. By that time the crucifix was in broken in pieces. Brother Charles’s accepted the offer and with the help of A family member, put the pieces back together and the patched-together crucifix was hung in one of the CCD classrooms.
The current pastor Father Clair Antonio Orso, C.S., hired an art restoration expert, to restore the crucifix, which as it turns out is an irreplaceable piece of art that was originally crafted in Italy. The expert stated that the crucifix was crafted of close-grained, knot-free joined wood that was skillfully aged beforehand to prevent shrinkage, a quality of wood that would be impossible to obtain today. The body of Christ, the corpus, is painted, and the wood of the cross is gilded. A small painting of God the Father and God the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove is at the head of the cross, and another small painting of Our Lady with John the Evangelist and Mary Magdalen is at the foot. The arms have silvered representations of the symbols of the four Gospel writers, the lion, the eagle, the ox, and the man.>
The restoration was complete in time to be unveiled during the Feast of the Triumph of the Holy Cross on September 14, 2005. It was reinstalled in a place of honor behind the alter after almost 40 years of absence.
Succession of Pastors
1911-1912 - Fr. Egisto
Present - P. Livio Stella, C.S.