Holy Cross Catholic Church

Our History

In October of 1964, Rev. Father John P. Lawler was appointed as Administrator of the Mission of Holy Cross prior to its formation as a parish. The parish territory was taken from St. Jude cathedral in St. Petersburg and Sacred Heart in Pinellas Park. At that time there were 238 families registered in the new parish. Ten acres of land, located at 54th Avenue and 79th Street, North, St. Petersburg were purchased for parish use. On February 15, 1965, the parish of Holy Cross in Northwest St. Petersburg was canonically erected by Archbishop Joseph Hurley of the diocese of St. Augustine. The diocese of St. Petersburg was established on June 17, 1968, under Bishop Charles McLaughlin. The first mass was celebrated in the Dixie Hollins High School auditorium on March 7, 1965. The new parish grew quickly with the formation of organizations, the purchase of a school bus, and start of CCD classes for grades 2 through 12, which were held in classrooms at Dixie Hollins High School. The parish met for six years at Dixie Hollins High School.

In January 1970, plans were approved for a new church. By coincidence on February 15, 1970, exactly five years after the establishment of the parish, Bishop Charles McLaughlin officiated at the groundbreaking ceremony. On April 3, 1971, Rev. Father Michael Madden, pastor, celebrated the first mass in the newly built church. Bishop McLaughlin celebrated the dedication of the church on April 18, 1971.

Rev. Father Frank Mouch became the third pastor of Holy Cross in March of 1973 and continued developing the church with a strong focus on religious education. His leadership helped guide the parish through a turbulent time in the early 70’s. In March of 1974, Rev. Father Bernard Caverly became pastor and began construction of the parish office that autumn. Like his predecessor, Father Caverly’s talents were recognized by the bishop, and he was needed elsewhere in the diocese. In June 1976 Father Caverly became the rector of the cathedral and Rev. Father Patrick Irwin became the fifth pastor of Holy Cross. For the next ten years, Holy Cross continued to grow and became a spiritual, active and dynamic parish. In order to serve more fully the increasing number of parishioners (2,600 families in 1982), Bishop W. Thomas Larkin officiated at a groundbreaking for the new parish center on September 18, 1981, the feast day of the parish, the Exaltation of the Holy Cross.

In June of 1991, Bishop John C. Favalora appointed Rev. Father Robert L. Schaeufele as pastor of Holy Cross. His steadfast and spiritual leadership of ten years brought the parish through the difficulties of a changing identity. These changes were due in part to the trimming of the parish boundaries in 1986 when the parish of St. Matthew was founded. Holy Cross emerged as a smaller neighborhood parish which continued to be a vibrant and welcoming community.

In July of 2001, Bishop Robert N. Lynch appointed Rev. Father Thomas J. Anastasia as the seventh pastor of Holy Cross. Father Tom brought a youthful spirit to Holy Cross. Like Father Pat Irwin before him, Holy Cross was his first pastorate. In his first six months, Father Anastasia continued the work of collaboration with the building committee, the finance committee, and the parish staff. The renovation project moved forward with plans to begin construction on the first phase of the project in the summer of 2002, including a children’s chapel and a more conveniently located food pantry for the St. Vincent de Paul Society. His vision for the future continued to unfold, and with the guidance of the Holy Spirit and true active participation from the many gifted parishioners of Holy Cross, the parish was sure to grow and develop.

In June 2007, Bishop Robert N. Lynch appointed Rev. Father Paul Kochu as the eighth pastor of Holy Cross. Father Paul once served as an associate pastor years before under Father Robert L. Schaeufele. Father Paul Kochu continued to see new growth at Holy Cross. During the three years that Father Paul was pastor of Holy Cross, the parish center was painted and new floors were laid, as well as new landscaping placed to make the property more appealing. During 2009, Father Paul began the process with Randolph Dolce, PGK to form a Knights of Columbus council at Holy Cross. The council was established and has been a supportive group to the church ever since.

During the month of April 2010, Bishop Robert N. Lynch appointed Rev. Father John D’Antonio to serve as the ninth pastor of Holy Cross. Father. John D’Antonio started his tenure as pastor on July 1, 2010 and was installed as the pastor by Rev. Bob Morris on September 25, 2010 at the 4:00 pm mass. During 2010, the Columbiettes were also established to assist the Knights of Columbus as an auxillary organization in the parish.

During the month of April 2017, Bishop Gregory L. Parkes appointed Rev. Father Emery Longanga to Parochial Administrator of Holy Cross. Father Emery started his tenure as parochial vicar on July 1, 2017. In October of 2018, Father Emery was installed as pastor of Holy Cross, making him the tenth pastor. Under Father Emery's leadership the parish has embarked on a fresh direction in order to continue to meet the diverse needs of the population which the parish has served faithfully for over 50 years. During his first and second year at Holy Cross, he has brought together a vast army of volunteers to renovate the children's chapel into a full chapel, named in honor of the Divine Mercy, that is now used for daily mass, Wednesday exposition, and private adoration and prayer.