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By VINCE LUECKE, Editor
ST. CROIX – Parishioners of Holy Cross Church marked 150 years of faith Sunday by doing what they and their church’s forebears have been doing for a century and a half: praying to God and giving thanks for life’s blessings.
The parish was established in 1860 and served families of Belgian and French origin who had begun to settle the area. Joining them about the time of the parish’s founding were Irish immigrants. A parish census taken shortly after the church’s founding showed the St. Croix community numbered approximately 36 families, 20 of them Irish, 14 French and two German.
Several gravestones in the parish cemetery and an original graveyard a mile or so away lists some of the home counties of Irish immigrants who came to Perry County.
The cornerstone of the original church was laid in June 1881 on land donated by John Flannagan and William McHugh. The new church was dedicated May 3, 1885, but burned in 1932. Its stone walls, however, remained standing and supported the new building that still serves the parish today. The new church and rectory cost $12,000.
Sunday’s Mass was celebrated by the Pastor Rev. Aaron Pfaff, who also serves as pastor of St. Augustine Church in Leopold. Pfaff invited parishioners to remember and celebrate their faith and to recall the many people who helped the parish continue over the decades. A slide show shown after Mass included photos taken through the years of First Communions and confirmation classes, baptisms and weddings. A festive luncheon followed Sunday Mass in the parish hall.
Though small in size, Holy Cross parishioners have been quick to respond in times of war. Six members served in the Civil War and three in the Spanish-American War. Sixteen men fought in World War I with parishioner William Rohl losing his life.
Fifth-seven members of Holy Cross Church served in World War II and three of those, Martin Kelly, James Lavin and Patrick Welsh, died in the war. Parishioners August Braunecker and Gerald LaGrange earned a Purple Heart.
According to News accounts over the years, annual Holy Cross picnics were an important source of funds, with the first one in 1926 raising a then impressive $737.53.
The Rev. Andrew Diezeman was the last pastor to live at Holy Cross, serving from 1975 to 1989. Pastors of other local parishes served Holy Cross in the following years. Pfaff continues to offer two weekday Masses in addition to the Sunday Mass.
Recent improvements have included a new altar and carpeting, painting of the church’s interior and extensive work on the windows.
Recent Holy Cross Pastors
• Rev. Andrew Diezeman, 1975 to 1989
• Rev. Mark Gottemoeller, 1989 to 1991
• Rev. Richard Hindel OSB, 1992 to 1994
• Rev. Alan McIntosh OSB, 1994 to 1995
• Rev. Isaac McDaniel OSB, 1996 to 1999
• Rev. John Schoettelkotte, 1999 to 2002
• Rev. Guy Mansini OSB, 2002 to 2009
• Rev. Aaron Pfaff, 2010 to present
Women from Holy Cross Church who joined religious communities since the parish’s founding
• Sister Mary Agnes Lyons, entered in 1893
• Sister Catherine Lucas, entered in 1913
• Sister James Richardt, entered in 1925
• Sister Catherine Ubelhor, entered in 1943
• Sister Mary Patrice Walsh, entered in 1956.