Church of the Holy Cross

Looking Back
When you enter Holy Cross Church on 42nd Street between 8th and 9th Avenues, you are stepping into the history and essence of New York City. A living landmark, Holy Cross Parish was founded in 1852, and the church is the oldest structure on all of 42nd Street. However, Holy Cross does not live only in its rich past. With weekday and Sunday Masses and outreach programs, Holy Cross is an essential ingredient in Times Square and Western Midtown.
The Beginning
In the 1850s, when Times Square was still known as Longacre Square, tens of thousands of Irish Catholics lived there with no place to worship. It was at this time that Archbishop John Hughes founded Holy Cross Church to minister to their needs. The original church, seriously damaged by lightning in 1867, was demolished. The new church, built on the same site, was opened to the public in 1868. 

As the population of the neighborhood and parish exploded, it became necessary to expand. So, between the years 1886 and 1889, the church was enlarged, and the Holy Cross School for Boys and Girls was established on West 43rd Street. A convent was purchased much later, in the 1930s, on West 44th Street for the Dominican sisters who were the school administrators.
Celebrated Pastors

Holy Cross has been blessed with dedicated pastors, some of whom have achieved national and international recognition.

In 1921, Rev. Francis P. Duffy, beloved chaplain of the "Fighting Irish" 69th Regiment of New York with a reputation for bravery in World War I, came to Holy Cross as rector and later became the pastor. In 1932 he inaugurated the "Printer's Mass" at 2:20 a.m. on Sunday to serve the late-shift workers at several New York dailies: the Daily Mirror, the Daily News, the Herald Tribune, and the Times. He was especially dedicated to the young people who had come back from overseas to their families after the war. A statue of Father Duffy, framed against a Celtic cross, stands today at Broadway and West 46th Street, amidst the traffic and congestion of Times Square.

Father Duffy's successor, Msgr. Joseph A. McCaffrey, a lieutenant colonel and chaplain of the 69th Regiment, had been cited for bravery under fire in France and awarded the Croix de Guerre and the Silver Star. Also known as "The Bishop of Times Square," he was pastor for 36 years, and chaplain of the New York Police Department for 30 years. A well-known crusader against crime and pornography in Times Square, Fr. McCaffrey helped convince Mayor Fiorello H. LaGuardia to close down neighborhood burlesque houses. Monsignor McCaffrey established the Perpetual Novena to Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal. More than 20,000 people came to make the novena each Monday, spilling out of the Church onto the street, listening over loudspeakers. The radio audience was limitless. Monsignor McCaffrey helped convince city officials that the space just off the corner of 43rd Street and 9th Avenue was urgently needed for neighborhood children and students of Holy Cross School. McCaffrey Playground, currently located at the site, is named in his honor.

Rev. Msgr. Robert Rappleyea was a catalyst who helped with the revitalization of Times Square in the 1980s. He was a charter member of the Mayor's Midtown Citizens' Committee and founder of the 42nd Street Civic Association. He was also police chaplain for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. His dedicated work in the parish and neighborhood is visible in "The New Times Square." A plaque commemorates his contributions in the Port Authority Bus Terminal on 42nd Street.

Over the years, Holy Cross, a parish which had grown by leaps and bounds, slowly diminished to about 200 families as residential buildings were demolished to make way for bus terminals, highways, and tunnels necessary to accommodate the huge numbers of people who arrived in our city each day.

Theoretically, the parish boundaries go from 38th to 46th Streets and from Broadway to the Hudson River, but in reality, Holy Cross serves a much wider community. The commuter, the tourist, the spiritually depleted, the weary, the persons with AIDS, the homeless, and the hungry all find solace in this church at the "Crossroads of the World."

What was once the parish elementary school, Holy Cross School, is now De La Salle Academy, a private, independent, non-sectarian middle school. The area which once housed our lower church now serves as a clubroom on weekdays for low-income seniors and on Saturdays as Crossroads Food Pantry, which distributes thousands of emergency food parcels to households in our area.

In 1986, the parish began to celebrate its monthly Healing Mass for those who are seriously ill, especially people with AIDS and those who care for them. The Gold Star Chapel has been re-instituted as the Gold Star Peace Shrine in our main church. Inscribed in its Book of Honor are more than 3,800 names of those who gave their lives during World War I, World War II, Korea, and Vietnam, as well as those reported in each of these wars as Missing in Action.

Looking Forward

In recent years, the church undertook major repairs, with extensive work on the exterior walls and roof, followed by work on the vestibule and interior of the church. As the merger with the Parish of Saint John the Baptist moves forward, Holy Cross continues to stand as a beacon of light and hope on West 42nd Street.

Church of Saint John the Baptist

Early History

The parish was established in 1840 as the second parish to serve German Catholics in New York City, after St. Nicholas Church on East 2nd Street, which was established in 1833. 

The first church erected was a small timber structure. It was dedicated Sept. 20, 1840. The first pastor was the Rev. Zachary Kunze, a Franciscan friar who, following disharmony with the lay Board of Trustees, resigned in 1844. Father Kunze left with a portion of the congregation and founded the nearby Church of Saint Francis of Assisi. The problems were so great with the Board of Trustees that, following the resignation of Father Kunze, Saint John the Baptist was under interdict until 1845 when the Rev. J. A. Jakob became its second pastor. More disagreements ensued, and the church was again closed in June 1846. It variously reopened with different pastors, but it burned down on Jan. 10, 1847.

Archbishop John Hughes laid the cornerstone for a new brick church on the site on March 14, 1847. Until 1851, pastorship of the parish was assumed by the Church of the Nativity until the Rev. Joseph Lutz was appointed pastor. Four months later, the parish was again under interdiction. Capuchin Francisan Fr. Augustine Danter was appointed as pastor in 1852 and remained until 1869, when he was obliged to retire, after which the church remained closed for some months.

In response to the many disputes, Archbishop John McCloskey suppressed Saint John the Baptist in 1870. He requested that the Capuchin Franciscan friars, who established their first permanent mission to the United States in 1857, assume complete control of the resurrected parish. Under the Capuchins, especially its second Capuchin pastor, the Swiss-born Fr. Bonventure Frey, parish animosity dissipated. Under Father Frey, the German congregation began to erect the present substantial church. Father Frey left in 1879 to serve as the provincial minister of the Capuchin friars from New York City to the Midwest and moved to their headquarters in Mount Calvary, Wis. He returned from 1888 to 1891 to prepare the parish for its Golden Jubilee. In 1914 the membership of the parish was 1,500.

To the present

The present French Gothic-style stone church was built between 1871 and 1872 to the designs of the prolific ecclesiastical architect Napoleon LeBrun, architect of several New York Catholic churches as well as the cathedral in Philadelphia. The cornerstone was laid by Father Frey on Pentecost Sunday, June 4 or June 11 of 1871. The church is 165 feet long and 67 feet wide, originally accommodating 1,200 people, and costing $175,000 to construct.

Father Frey returned to the parish in 1888 and built the central bell tower in preparation for the church's Golden Jubilee held on January 18-19, 1891. The tower has a carillon of five swinging bells cast by the J.G. Stuckstede & Brothers Foundry in St. Louis, Mo. The peal still rings each day. The church was dedicated on June 23, 1872, by Archbishop McCloskey.

In preparation for the church's 125th anniversary, it underwent a complete renovation, which lasted several years. The church was re-dedicated on June 24, 1996, the feast day of its patron saint, by Cardinal John Joseph O'Connor, Archbishop of New York. The church's organ and choir gallery, as well as a number of statues and stained-glass windows, were destroyed in a fire on Jan. 10, 1997. The damage was eventually repaired and the organ was replaced with an electronic one.

For the 160th anniversary of the parish and the Great Jubilee Year of 2000, the bell tower was restored in 2000. The tower bells were rededicated Nov. 7, 1998.

The brown brick Capuchin Monastery of St. John the Baptist on West 31st Street was built in 1974 in the Brutalist style and closed in December 2014.

(Summary from Wikipedia)