26 March 2017

Holy Cross Church, Albany, NY


The first German Catholic parish in Albany was the Heilige Kreuz Gemeinde or Holy Cross Parish. The parish was organized in 1842 as the German Roman Catholic Church of the Holy Cross, through the assistance of a Redemptiorist priest, Reverend Sebastian Gruber. The church was located on the corner of Hamilton and Phillip Streets.[1] 

Holy Cross Church, Albany, NY

On May 12, 1850, an enormous celebration was held for the laying of the church cornerstone. The festivities included a parade where approximately three thousand spectators viewed the gala.[2] The church had a seating capacity of over eight hundred and was dedicated on November 23, 1851. The final cost of the edifice and its interior decorations amounted to $9,000. The first Pastor was the Reverend Theodore Noethen from Cologne, Germany. He was able to preach not only in German, but also in French, Italian, and English. Noethen, therefore, ministered to the other immigrants in mission stations in the area.[3] 

Holy Cross Church interior

In July 1852 the church formed the German Roman Catholic Association for the purpose of providing the children with a “good religious education.” In 1864 an elementary school was established and the Sisters of Saint Joseph of Carondelet were secured as religious teachers for the children. On January 21, 1880, a new Holy Cross school was opened with the Sisters of Christian Charity as the school’s educators, until the religious community withdrew in July 1919 and was replaced with the Sisters of Notre Dame. During the summer of 1955, the Holy Cross School and convent were both closed and demolished. On the former site, a new and modern elementary school was built to serve both Holy Cross and Saint Anthony’s parishes. This was the first time that one elementary school was planned and constructed to serve the needs of two parishes.[4] 

Holy Cross school

The parish of Holy Cross used its Hamilton and Phillip Streets grounds until 1959, when the parish moved to its new and present location in 1960 on upper Western Avenue in Albany. Holy Cross also opened a Catholic secondary school in 1900. The high school was incorporated in September 1897, but closed in June 1919 due to a lack of students.[5]

Benevolent societies that aided the sick, poor, and old associated with Holy Cross church included the Saint Joseph’s Unterstützungverein und Wohlthätigkeitverein, founded on February 14, 1851, which was the first Catholic Unterstützungverein in the city. One hundred eleven members paid monthly dues of $.50 for a weekly sick payment of $4.00, a $200 death benefit, and a $75 disbursement for the death of a member’s spouse. By 1897 the society’s assets totaled $5,387.73. In 1874 the Verein joined the German Roman Catholic Central Verein.[6] Saint Peter’s Krankenverein und Unterstützungverein, established on February 28, 1856, became Albany’s second Catholic Unterstützungverein. Forty-two members paid $.50 per month for dues granting them sick payments of $3.00 per week, a $100, and $60 for the death of a member’s wife. The society’s treasury totaled $1,526.23.[7] 

On July 23, 1867, eighty-one members left Saint Peter’s Krankenverein to form the Saint Franziscus Verein on August 1, 1867. As of 1897 the society numbered ninety-five members and had paid out $27,311.35 in expenditures since its formation. Members paid quarterly dues of $1.25 for weekly sick payments of $5.00 per week, a $150 death benefit, and a $75 payment for the death of a member’s wife.[8] 

The Jünglingverein, or the Young Men’s Society, was established in January 1880 for the purpose of giving young boys a good moral upbringing. On May 16, 1880, the Jungfrauen Sodality, or Young Women’s Association, was organized with the same intent, but for young girls. 

The Christliche Mütterverein, or Christian mother’s society, was organized in July 1893 and stressed a Christian upbringing and aid to the poor. Other societies included the Saint Aloysius Sodality, established circa 1883, the Young Men’s Sodality, founded in 1895, the Young Ladies Sodality, and the Ladies Catholic Benevolent Association, Branch 360, established circa 1901.[9] The Holy Cross choir was highly esteemed in the musical circle of Albany as a recognized force in the musical organizations of the city.[10]

In 2009 St. Margaret Mary Church merged with Holy Cross Church and became All Saints Catholic Church.

Pastors of Holy Cross Church
  • Theodore Noethen, 1850-79 
  • Joseph Ottenhues, 1880-1918 
  • James Hilden, 1918-59 
  • Monsignor John F. Bourke, 1959-63 
  • Lawrence E. Ryan, 1963-1974 
  • Richard J. Downs, 1974-94 
  • Daniel J. Maher, 1994- to the present (2005)
[1] n. a., Geschichte der Deutschen in Albany und Troy, p. 61.
[2] Joel Munsell, Annals of Albany, Volume II (Albany: J. Munsell, 1870), pp. 338-339. Reynolds, Albany Chronicles, pp. 603-604 & 614. Phelps, comp., The Albany Hand-Book, p. 59.
[3] Rowley, “Albany: A Tale of Two Cities, 1820-1880,” p. 291.
[4] Leary, The History of Catholic Education in the Diocese of Albany, pp. 37-38, 135. Church of the Holy Cross: 125th Anniversary, 1859-1984. (Albany: 1984), p. 5-9.
[5] Leary, The History of Catholic Education in the Diocese of Albany, p. 136.
[6] n. a., Geschichte der Deutschen in Albany und Troy, p. 191.
[7] Ibid.
[8] Ibid.
[9] Ibid., p. 65.
[10] Louden, ed. Catholic Albany, pp. 165-166.