DOVER — When Holy Cross Parish was formed in Dover, Ulysses S. Grant was the American president.
Holy Cross began in 1870 with memories of a divided America nearly torn apart at the very seams. The parish will celebrate its 150th anniversary this year with a Sept. 14 Mass and plans for a book filled with photos and stories of its long history.
Holy Cross Deacon Philip Belt said the Diocese of Wilmington was formed in 1868, only two years earlier than Holy Cross Parish. The book is expected to have chapters on pivotal events in the parish, such as the building of the elementary school, high school and gymnasium, the movement of the church from its’ first location to the current campus, social justice efforts and a listing of pastors, deacons, principals and sisters who have served in the parish. Belt said they have photos of every Holy Cross pastor except the very first one.
“We have been around for awhile,” he said.
Some of that history will focus on the former Holy Cross High School. After the high school closed, the St. Thomas More Academy in nearby Magnolia was built and served as the area’s Catholic high school. The Diocese announced this spring that St. Thomas More will not re-open because of declining enrollment, but it will be a part of the parish history. “In the end, it was our high school,” he said.
In addition to focusing on bricks and mortar and the people who make up the history, it will also focus heavily upon faith. “It’s nice to have a history book … but nowhere in previous editions (histories) have we talked about what this means in terms of our faith,” he said.
He explained that the history will delve into areas like rejoicing in faith and the church role in nurturing a community of faith. “Our faith is going to be a part of this booklet,” he said.
Belt hopes the book will be available in time for the September Mass. It will have abundant photos and is expected to be perhaps 60 to 80 pages, hardbound and printed in color, although the details haven’t been finalized.
Part of that history will include the Holy Cross Cemetery, the only Catholic cemetery in Kent County. The cemetery is also 150-years-old. A new decorative iron archway was dedicated June 25. The archway simply says Holy Cross Cemetery and marks the entrance to the four-acre cemetery where some 2,300 souls are interred.
Father Idongesit Etim dedicated the archway on the hot June day in front of about two dozen parishioners. The anticipated rain held off and he sprinkled the archway with holy water, praying that it would be a “place of rest and hope.”
Cemetery Administrator Leonard Dornberger said the cemetery was originally located on the edge of Dover, but is now surrounded as the city has grown. Parts of the site have been used as a baseball field, the location of the Dover Police Department and temporary Army buildings used for a time for a parish hall, bible school and church bazaars.
It is now strictly a cemetery, including a 2009 mausoleum complete with an Italian-made crucifix and the biblical quote John 3:16.