By Dave Jolivet
SOUTH EASTON, Mass. — In the grand scheme of things in a diocese that is more than 110 years old, 50 years may seem like a drop in a bucket. But to the faith community of Holy Cross Parish in South Easton, it’s a testament to its love of God, Church, family and commitment to living out the parish mission statement: “Holy Cross Parish, a community centered in the Eucharist, is committed in faith and love of Jesus Christ to fulfill the profoundly human and Spiritual needs of its parishioners and the larger community it serves. We seek to inspire all, through deeds and by example, to do the work of Christ: to make God known, loved, and served.”
Last Sunday, Bishop Edgar M. da Cunha, S.D.V.; pastor Holy Cross Father James E. Fenstermaker; former pastors, priests from Holy Cross Family Ministries and Stonehill College; and other clergy, parishioners and friends gathered to celebrate the parish’s golden jubilee with a Mass.
The Knights of Columbus Fourth Degree served as the bishop’s honor guard, and two original members of the parish, Patricia Brophy and Roy Owens, brought up the gifts.
“How fortuitous that we are able to celebrate our 50th anniversary on the very day of our foundation as a parish 50 years ago,” said Father Fenstermaker. “We are blessed to have Bishop da Cunha here to preside at our Mass, as well as several Holy Cross priests, who have served here over the years, concelebrating the Mass. But most importantly, we are blessed to have you, the faithful parishioners of Holy Cross Parish, here to celebrate together this joyful day.
“In the Catholic Church we tend to use the words ‘church’ and ‘parish’ interchangeably. The word ‘church’ derives from the Greek ‘ecclesia,’ meaning ‘assembly.’ Holy Cross Parish is the assembly of the faithful who have gathered here for the past 50 years to worship the Lord Jesus and to serve those in need. The word ‘parish’ comes from the Greek ‘paroikos,’ meaning ‘a sojourner’ or ‘a neighbor.’ Holy Cross Parish is that wonderful group of Spiritual sojourners who have traveled together over the past 50 years on our common journey toward the fullness of the Kingdom of God.”
Before the Mass, attendees were treated to a slide show containing more than 500 photos chronicling the last 50 years at the parish. The show was continued at the reception in the parish center after the Mass. The reception had an overflow crowd that spilled into adjoining meeting rooms.
Holy Cross Parish was founded in 1966 and is staffed by the Congregation of Holy Cross priests and Brothers. It was established as a parish by Bishop James L. Connolly on April 24, 1966.
The first pastor was Father Joseph Hanna, C.S.C. Its founding was necessitated because the town of Easton was expanding rapidly and Immaculate Conception Parish could not accommodate the Catholic population growing in an area now known as South Easton.
A group of interested Catholics approached the priests at Stonehill College about establishing a church for that area. The
Holy Cross community graciously accepted the challenge and have been serving the residents of South Easton ever since.
For the first few years, there was no church building and Masses were held at the Holy Cross Fathers Seminary on Washington Street in North Easton. On April 24, 1966, ground was broken for Holy Cross Church on a parcel of land on Purchase Street. On Sept. 2, 1967, Bishop Connolly dedicated the new church. During that time, Father John Murphy, pastor, supervised the building of a rectory there. Prior to that, the priests had lived in a home nearby.
From its founding to the present, the parish has been served by eight pastors, all members of the Congregation of Holy Cross: Father Joseph Hanna, Father John Murphy, Father Robert McDonnell, Father William Kelley, Father Richard Hockman, Father Robert deLeon, Father R. Bradley Beaupre, and Father Fenstermaker who has been pastor since 2008.
From the early days of the parish, the Religious Education program was held on Sunday mornings in classrooms at Stonehill College, which was founded in 1948 by the Congregation of Holy Cross. This generous offer of space was provided until 2001 when there was no longer a need for the space.
In 1999, under the leadership of Father Hockman, plans were set for a much-needed parish center, and after a successful fund-raising campaign, the center was built. During that time the rectory was moved from its original location to the rear of the parish property, which was completed during the pastorate of Father deLeon. Then-Bishop Sean P. O’Malley, OFM Cap., dedicated the spacious parish center on Nov. 18,2001. It provides for the ever-growing Religious Education program as well as office space for the pastoral and parish staff and space for gatherings of all kinds.
The parish today is a community of 1,300 families, with a good mixture of young families and parishioners of all ages.
Originally families came from South Easton, but through the years the parish has opened its doors and arms to faithful from surrounding communities.
“We seek to fulfill the vision of Vatican II,” Father Fenstermaker wrote on the parish website. “The parish strives to be a community where everyone is accepted. We seek to practice justice by using our God-given gifts of time, talent and treasure to understand and reach out to those in need.”
Last week’s Mass and reception was the beginning of a year-long celebration marking one-half a century of the parish’s faithful service to the Easton community. Other events and items will include a parish day of service, an updated parish history book, an enhanced fall festival incorporating the anniversary, and a dinner-dance in the fall, to name but a few.