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Holy Cross Catholic Church at 2438 S Alston Ave, Durham, NC 27713 US - Learn More About Us

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Mission Statement

Holy Cross Catholic Church was founded by the Jesuits in 1939 to serve the African American Catholic Community of Durham.  We are a culturally diverse community that welcomes all people to membership and participation in our liturgies, ministries, parish life, and leadership. We gather to worship our Lord Jesus Christ in joy and are committed to addressing the needs of the Durham community and the people of God
through direct service and promotion of social justice.  We proclaim the Gospel by our lives: evangelizing, educating our youth, and practicing the spirituality of St. Ignatius of Loyola – finding God in all things.

Brief History of Holy Cross

In 1939, at the request of 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, NC. 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 has grown to be a diverse congregation that is approximately 69% African American, 20% Caucasian, 7% African, plus other ethnicities totaling a little over 350 families. In order to expand Holy Cross facilities, the Maryland Province sold the remaining 3.6 acres to the State 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.

Pastors succeeding Fr. Risacher were Jesuit Fathers: Francis Scherer (11/66-9/69), Frederick A. Brew (6/69-9/69), Morgan J. Downey (9/69-1/71), Paul J. Gilvary (1/71-1/77), Francis M. O’Connor (1/77-8/85), R. Bruce Bavinger (8/85-7/96), David E. Barry (7/96-7/98), Brendan H. Horan (7/98-10/01), and Stephen M. Garrity (10/01-04/07), Francis M. O’Connor (04/07-01/08), Robert Hussey (01/08-06/09), and Ray Donaldson (06/09-present).

Original Holy Cross Church, formerly at 1400 S. Alston Avenue in Durham, NC




Original Holy Cross Catholic Church

     The Acacia Tree  



The Acacia Tree is native of Africa. It has deep roots, and survives through drought and famine. It is a strong tree which provides shelter, food and nourishment.

Since biblical times, the Acacia Tree has been a symbol of stability and resilience. The Acacia was chosen to depict the mission and spirit of Holy Cross Catholic Church. 

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