The History of Holy Cross Parish


Nearly a century has passed since Holy Cross became a parish of the Omaha Archdiocese in September of 1920.

The first church building, located at 5065 Center Street, was completed early in 1921. Decades before environmental awareness, the church owed much to recycling. The small frame structure was built mostly of second hand lumber. A fireplace salvaged from the Boyd Theater at 17th and Harney Streets was refashioned as the main altar; a stairway banister from the theater became the altar rail. The collaborative elbow grease of parishioners yielded pews, confessionals and window screens.

From an initial membership of 40 families, Holy Cross had grown to more than 400 families by the autumn of 1928 when property at 48th and Woolworth Streets was purchased with an eye to beginning a school. Not until spring of 1936, however, did construction get underway. Ground was broken on March 23rd, for the new building, which included classrooms and, on the lower level, a larger “temporary” church that served the parish until 1955.

Rev. John Kelly, founding pastor of Holy Cross, was succeeded in 1922 by Rev. Thomas Healy. Rev. John Paschang served as pastor of Holy Cross from 1927 until his consecration as Bishop of Grand Island in October of 1951. Under Monsignor Edward Appelbaum, the next pastor of Holy Cross, the new church was completed in 1955 and the school enrollment peaked at 1,475 students in 1959.

Succeeding Monsignor Appelbaum in 1970 was Monsignor Edward O’Donnell. The preceding pastorates had recorded remarkable growth and expansion, both in membership and property; Monsignor O’Donnell’s pastorate was notable for uncommon spiritual prosperity.

Rev. Charles Swanson was named the new pastor of Holy Cross upon Monsignor O’Donnell’s retirement in 1993. With Fr. Chuck’s arrival, the parish has shown a theme of welcoming and stewardship. From greeting visitors at the start of Mass to beginning the now annual Spaghetti Dinner, Fr. Chuck emphasized reaching out to one another, and our neighbors. He initiated the Stewardship Program to encourage people to give of their time, talent and treasures. Believing in Stewardship himself, Fr. Chuck volunteers as Chaplain for the Omaha Fire Department and the Omaha Police Department.

Fr. Carl A. Salanitro was named pastor to Holy Cross in 2004 after asking Archbishop Elden Curtiss. This is his second time being assigned to Holy Cross. Fr. Salanitro was appointed to Holy Cross as an associate pastor from 1970-1973, where he found the parish so helpful for his early years of priesthood. As pastor, Fr. Salanitro seeks to continue the ministry of his predecessors.

In 1995, Holy Cross Parish celebrated its 75th Anniversary year and during the 2011-2012 school year Holy Cross School celebrated its 75th Anniversary year. Fr. Salanitro looks forward to the future, building community and continuing evangelization within our parish.