Roman Catholic Church
Established May 1, 1914
Vic Biorseth, OWM, www.CatholicAmericanThinker.com
This page is done as a commemoration and a semi-permanent monument to a wonderful, historic Church that is in danger of being closed. This is not the official Holy Cross website, which may be found at the link below:
Go to the link above for Mass times, bulletins, contact or other Parish information.
This page is dedicated to the many generations of Holy Cross parishioners.
Text by Elinor Sluzas; Photography by Eric Geiger.
Wednesday, April 20, 2011
Holy Cross Church is a showcase of Lithuanian architecture and art. All of the windows at Holy Cross are hand-made leaded stained glass, depicting the design of the unique Lithuanian Crosses as seen in traditional Lithuanian way-side shrines.
Holy Cross Lithuanian Roman Catholic Church was built in 1912-1915 and remodeled in 1964-1965. It incorporates Lithuanian folk motifs and design. The architect was a Lithuanian, John Mulokas of Chicago, and the contractor was Valerian Sodeika, also of Chicago.
The simple rectangular gable-front church sits on a high foundation; basement windows are at ground level. The building is constructed with glazed brown brick and colored mortar. The advancing center bay has glass and metal double doors with Lithuanian folk emblems engraved into the glass. The brickwork on the advancing bay is Flemish bond with advancing headers. Above the doors is a brick panel in several shades of blue. Similar panels in yellow and blue brick on the left and right receding bays. These panels display Lithuanian design as do the square polychromatic brick columns which support the heavy wooden beams which hold the wide overhanging gable end. A cartouche on the left side of the gable facade reads “Holy Cross Roman Catholic Church. Lithuania. 1914.”
The left and right sides of the church have ten bays. Bays 1-4 and 6-8 are rectangular faceted slab stained glass windows. On the left side, bay 5 advances and is a doorway which leads into the basement. This advancing bay is Flemish bond with advancing headers and has polychromatic brickwork with Lithuanian emblems. The opposing bay on the right side is double doors flanked by brick pilasters. These doors lead into the sanctuary. Vertical brick soldier courses band the church just above the windows and above the foundation. A frame addition is at the rear and extends out from the left rear of the church.
The Church is capped with a bell tower which also incorporates Lithuanian design. The height of the steeple is 29 feet 7 inches.
The interior of Holy Cross is a center aisle plan flanked by wooden pews. Behind the main altar is a faceted slab glass panorama of crosses representing the most common symbols on the Lithuanian landscape – the crosses which appear along the roadsides, in yards, on hillsides and in cemeteries. The panorama is a highly stylized interpretation of a now famous hill in Lithuania which is covered with crosses reflecting the more than 2,000 types found in that country. The panorama is flanked by faceted slab glass vertical panels.
The sided windows display Lithuanian style shrines and include Catholic symbols such as the Holy Trinity, Veronica’s Veil, the Crown of Thorns, the Crucifixion Nails, the Easter Lily, and the Seven Sacraments. The heavy stained glass was imported from France. The windows were made by Adolf Valeska Studios of Chicago.
The altars and communion railing were designed by John Mulokas. The cross above the main altar was made by Buracas. The side altars, Our Lady of the Gates of Dawn and St. Casimir’s altar represent important figures in Lithuanian Catholic Culture. They are Flemish veneer and were fabricated by Javarauskas of Chicago. The bas-reliefs of Our Lady and St. Casimir were made by Peter Vebra. The Tabernacle and the Sepulchre with the martyr’s relics from the former main altar were transferred to Our Lady’s altar, and the sepulcher from the old altar of Our Lady was transferred to the present main altar.
The pews, chairs and kneelers are oak. The floor is covered with vinyl tiles. The design in the center aisle was by Mrs. Brone Jamaikis of Chicago. The decorative woodwork at the confessional, located on the left side of the sanctuary, and at the door on the right side was done by parishioner John Kvietys and the contractor Valerian Sodeika according to the architect’s design.
At the rear of the church are a baptistery and a crying room.
Shrine of the Three Crosses
On the East side of the church is the Shrine of the Three Crosses constructed in 1965 in honor of the golden Jubilee. These crosses honor “all the martyrs for the faith in the countries occupied by the Soviet Communists,” The shrine was designed by Lithuanian architect Alfred Kulpavichus of Toronto. The three crosses represent the three crosses that were erected on a hill in Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, in honor of the Franciscan Fathers who were martyred for the faith in the fourteenth century. These three crosses were destroyed by the Soviets in 1950.
The style and ornamentation of each cross include ornamentation and styles of crosses found in the three major regions of Lithuania: Zemaitija, Aukstaitija and Suvalkija. The cross on the left incorporates motifs from crosses in the region of Vilnius and the southern part of Aukstaitija.
It has a plaque done in relief of Our Lady of the of the Gates of Dawn in Vilnius, the Lithuanian capital. The middle cross has motifs of central Lithuania and the eastern and southern parts of Aemaitija. The upper statuette is of the Meditation Christ, or the Christ of Sorrows. The lower statuette is of St. Casimir, the patron saint of Lithuania. On the sides and back of the St. Casimir statuette are the symbols of the Passion – the chalice, the cross with the crown of thorns and nails, and the monogram of Christ, “XPZWK.” The third cross has the motifs of a part of Lithuania called Dzukija. On the front of the cross is a statuette of Our Lady of Siluva, a village in the region of Zemaitija. Siluva is the National Shrine of Lithuania. On the other side a statuette of Our Sorrowful Mother, a Peita in Lithuanian folk style, frequently found on shrines in Lithuania.
The shrine displays the following inscriptions:
In memory of All living and deceased parishioners and friends of this parish.
Three crosses destroyed by the Communists in Vilnius, Lithuania.
Parish Golden Jubilee 1964-1965.
In honor of
The martyrs for faith and freedom in Lithuania
And the other captive nations.
Remember and pray.
Lietuvos Kankiniams 1965.
Holy Cross National Registration
Holy Cross Lithuanian Roman Catholic Church is on the National Register. The statement cites Criteria A, C and G. Holy Cross is one of five ethnic parishes in Dayton which document the immigration of Eastern Europeans into the city between 1885 and 1915. These immigrants transformed the ethnic character of Dayton’s population. Until the arrival of the Eastern Europeans, the Germans, Irish and English had blended to form a relatively homogeneous urban population. The coming of the Eastern Europeans introduce new people with unfamiliar ideas and customs and completed the formation of Dayton’s white cultural mosaic. This “new” immigration contained numerous Eastern European groups, but those which had the heaviest impact were the Hungarians, Lithuanians and Poles, most of whom were Roman Catholic.
The first Lithuanians (two in number) arrived in Dayton in 1886. By 1894 there were 24 Lithuanian families and about fifty single men totaling about 125 Lithuanian persons. By circa 1917 there were 140 families with 706 individuals. Most of these immigrants came either directly from Lithuania or from other American industrial cities. The majority settled in North Dayton, an industrial suburb bounded by the C&O Railroad on the north, the B&O Railroad on the west, the Mad River to the east and south to Keowee and First streets. Located adjacent to the city’s main industrial district, these Easter European immigrants found jobs in the factories and foundries which made up Dayton’s rapidly expanding industrial base. The earliest immigrants worked at Barney and Smith Car Works.
For a time, the Lithuanians living in North Dayton worshipped at the territorial parish, Holy Rosary, and then later at St. Adalbert Polish Catholic Church. Dissatisfied with this arrangement, however, they also began to work for the establishment of their own parish church where they could follow the traditions of home. To that end, they organized St. Peter’s Fraternal Society on December 7, 1902 and began to work towards the organization of a Lithuanian parish. They purchased an eight lot tract of land (1.1 acres) at the southwest corner of Leo and Rita streets, but permission to establish the parish was not granted until 1911. The parish was not officially established until May 1, 1914. Through regular monthly payments by some members, fundraising activities such as socials and picnics, and contributions by Lithuanians in Springfield, Columbus and Cincinnati, the money was finally raised for the construction of the building. William L. Jaekle was engaged as the architect. Construction began in 1912, and the church was blessed March 21, 1915.
The church took on its present appearance when it was remodeled in 1963-1964. Incorporating a fascinating blend of Lithuanian folk art design, it honored the many churches closed by the Soviet Union and the many faithful Catholics being persecuted in Lithuania. The architect was John Mulokas, a Lithuanian architect from Chicago. Most of the work was carried out by Lithuanian craftsmen. In 1965, the Shrine of the Three Crosses was erected in celebration of the parish golden Jubilee.
The “ethnic” or “nationality” parish was perhaps the most important institution for the preservation of Eastern European language and culture. Just as importantly, however, it also eased the immigrant’s adjustment to the sometimes bewildering and even hostile urban environment. A network of clubs and societies made the Holy Cross parish “the center of religious, cultural and patriotic activity for the Lithuanians of Dayton and vicinity.” These organizations included the Knights of Lithuania Council 96, the Knights of Lithuania Juniors, the Lithuanian Roman Catholic Alliance of America Lodge 191, the Lithuanian Anglers Club and the Theatrical Circle. Many of these organizations are still active.
Holy Cross, with its stylized interpretations of Lithuanian Catholic symbols, possesses high artistic merit and is a valuable record of Lithuanian-American ethno-religion. As it appears today, the building is the best possible documentary artifact of the strength and durability of the ethnic parish and its ability to preserve Old World culture while becoming a vital part of the American urban environment. Unlike the Eastern European churches constructed during the 1885-1915 period of immigration, it also documents the continued importance of cultural plurality in American society throughout the twentieth century and adds to our understanding of the importance of this plurality in the formation of American life and culture. It clearly negates the old assimilationist model which states that assimilation was completed by the second generation. Instead, it documents cultural persistence past the first generation and illustrates how the nature of ethnic identity has changed from generation to generation.
Because it contributes significantly to our understanding of the Eastern European ethnic community, the remodeled church is being nominated under the criteria set forth in Bulletin 22: “Guidelines for Evaluating and Nominating Properties That Have Achieved Significance Within the Last Fifty years.” This bulletin states that “Fifty years is obviously not the only length of time that defines historic or makes an informed dispassionate judgment possible.” Accordingly, the “National Register Criteria for Evaluation encourages nomination of recently significant properties if they are of exceptional importance to a community, a state, a region, or the nation.” The 1966 National Historic Preservation Act “Specifically encourages the recognition of locally significant historic resources that by appearance or association with persons or events provide communities with a sense of past and place.” The National Register Criteria for Evaluation does not describe “exceptional,” but it does state that:
“In nominating properties to the National register, we should be settled in our belief that they will possess enduring value for their historical associations, appearance, or information potential.”
The Holy Cross Lithuanian Roman Catholic Church, constructed in 1912-1914 and remodeled in 1963-1964, is a standing record of a century of the Lithuanian presence on Dayton’s urban scene. With its brilliantly colored stained glass windows and carved altars displaying Lithuanian motifs and symbols, it is a permanent record of the amazing vitality of this small parish which has endured for over a century. The fact that this church was remodeled to reflect Lithuanian folk art and culture instead of following the typical American church design of the 1960s serves to document cultural persistence past the first generation and adds to our understanding of our national history as an immigrant nation. The Shrine of the Three Crosses, designed to reflect the three provinces of Lithuania, is further evidence of close ties with a homeland left behind many years ago.
Holy Cross is one of only three Lithuanian parishes in Ohio St. George’s and Our Lady of Perpetual Help are located in Cleveland; Holy Cross is the only parish in southern Ohio and is therefore the center of Lithuanian culture for a large section of the state. At this time, it has approximately 250 parishioners and offers one mass in Lithuanian each week. Despite its present vitality, however, it is a fragile resource for its future is uncertain. As the doors close forever on more and more Catholic churches and as the congregation grows smaller, it will become increasingly difficult for Holy Cross to maintain as a separate parish. When the current priest retires, it is unlikely that they will be able to secure the services of another priest, which will weaken its ability to continue in the preservation of Lithuanian traditions and language.
The ethnic churches left behind by the Eastern European community are the most visible reminders of these immigrants’s contribution to Dayton’s history and cultural diversity. Holy Cross stands as a reminder not only of the Eastern European immigration which occurred in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, but of the importance of this cultural plurality. As time passes, however, it seems likely that this ethnicity, so much a part of the fabric of American urban life, will continue to fade. The churches these groups leave behind will be the best record of their ethnicity and its contribution to the history of an immigrant nation.
Holy Cross is one of the few Churches to still have a traditional Midnight Mass. There is a candle-lit procession in a darkened Church—the children of the parish carry candles, gifts and banners, and one of them places baby Jesus in the manger.
Another beloved tradition is Easter Sunrise Mass. On Holy Saturday the body of Christ is lying in the tomb, and there is a three-hour Eucharistic Vigil At The Tomb. The Sacred Host, in a Monstrance, is displayed above the tomb, but covered with a thin veil signifying that Christ, the Light, has left the world. Easter Sunday Morning the tomb is empty, and the veil is off the Monstrance, signifying that He is Risen, and the Light has come back into the world. The Sacred Liturgy begins with a solemn procession carrying the Most Blessed Sacrament around the Church and back to the Altar for a Benediction, and the Blessed Sacrament is restored to the Tabernacle.
And then the glorious Easter Sunrise Mass begins.
Standing in the Church, facing the altar, the seven stained glass windows on your left are represented by the images above on the left side of this page; the seven stained glass windows on your right are represented by the images above on the right side of this page.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words; however, pictures do not do this Church justice. You have to see it. Eric Geiger’s photographs, as originals, are absolutely spectacular. However, I had to size them and “compress” them in order to get them onto this Webpage, and they lost a lot in the translation, having become so much smaller.
But even Eric’s magnificent original photos are not as gripping as the images you take in when you stand in this Church and behold them for real, with your own eyes.
If you are ever in the neighborhood, come on in and see us. You don’t have to be Lithuanian.
Come and see.