100 Years of the Holy Cross Mission Center

In 1923, the Holy Cross Mission Center (HCMC) was incorporated as the Holy Cross Foreign Mission Society in Washington, D.C., under the leadership of Rev. Michael Mathis, C.S.C. (pictured left, alongside St. André Bessette). In speaking with Holy Cross religious over the past year, I have heard him described as “a visionary,” “innovative,” and “a workhorse.” The archival records back that up! He served as HCMC director while simultaneously serving as rector of the Foreign Mission Seminary. In these roles, he coordinated Mission Appeals, oversaw the formation of future Holy Cross missionaries, and provided strategic support for the Holy Cross missions in Bangladesh, then a majority-Muslim region of India. Over the past century, much has changed and much has remained the same. For instance…

In 1923, the work of the HCMC then was focused exclusively on Bangladesh, a country with just 27.6 million people at the time, only a few thousand of whom were Catholic. 100 years later, we are proud to report that there are 320,000 Catholics in Bangladesh. Our primary work at the HCMC has expanded to include Holy Cross missions in Chile, Peru, Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania—6 nations with a combined population of 385 million people.Holy Cross ministries in Mexico, Haiti, Ghana, India, Brazil, and the Philippines are also on our radar.

In 1923, Holy Cross missions were staffed exclusively by Western Holy Cross religious intent on building up local dioceses—their parishes, seminaries, schools, and the staffing needs that they required. 100 years later, thanks be to God, the Congregation has had such success in building up local dioceses that they were able to begin recruiting men to the Congregation from their mission countries. As a result, today the vast majority of Holy Cross religious serving at our missions are from the very countries where they are serving. This accomplishment is a testament to Holy Cross’s persistent work of enculturating the Gospel by making God known, loved, and served through the unique gifts offered by each culture. 

In 1923, Bangladesh was at the very early stages of industrialization. Consequently, there was much need for poverty relief, economic development, education, healthcare in addition to nurturing the faith of Bangladesh’s tiny Catholic minority. 100 years later, we at the HCMC are proud to support preschools, grade schools, high schools, vocational training schools, colleges, a university, healthcare ministries, houses of religious formation, and parishes in both urban and rural settings across Bangladesh. Holy Cross schools in Bangladesh alone serve over 120,000 students of all races, religions, and indigenous tribes. Bangladeshis have taken notice: When HCMC Director Fr. Eckert, C.S.C., entered a cab in Dhaka last year, the Muslim cab driver noticed the cross and anchors around his neck and, without prompting, expressed his appreciation for Holy Cross schools. 

In 1923, when coordinating staffing needs for Bangladeshi missions, Fr. Mathis had to factor in the months-long journey across oceans, usually the Atlantic for stopovers at the Vatican. 100 years later, we are blessed to be frustrated only by 30-hour travel days from South Bend, Indiana, to Dhaka, Bangladesh.

In 1923, the HCMC director served simultaneously as the rector of the Foreign Mission Seminary. 100 years later, the Holy Cross Mission Center is graciously housed at Moreau Seminary and assists the rector in arranging the international ministry placements for men in formation. 

In 1923, Fr. Mathis worked with a team of Holy Cross priests who served as “road warriors” who preached Mission Appeals. Today we still rely on priests for such Mission Appeals. This year we are grateful to have the assistance of more than 15 Holy Cross religious in coordinating and conducting our Mission Appeals, just one way that Holy Cross men serving in the U.S. can support the Congregation’s missionary endeavors.

In 1923, no one could have foreseen the ways that Servants of God Theotonius Amal Ganguly, Flavian LaPlante, and Vincent McCauley would give themselves in humble service to the people of Bangladesh and East Africa. Today, we draw inspiration from their combined 107 years of service at Holy Cross missions. 

In 1923, the HCMC didn’t have a newsletter, email, social media accounts, QR codes, a website, or online giving. We do today, as you well know!

100 years on, we at the HCMC remain grateful for your continued support of Holy Cross ministries around the globe!

By: Michael Jezewak, Assistant Director for Community Engagement


We want to celebrate with you!

You are invited to join us for the Holy Cross Mission Center Centennial Celebration on September 25 at the University of Notre Dame. We are excited to learn from three dedicated supporters of Holy Cross’s international missions:

  • Dr. Carolyn Y. Woo, the former President and CEO of Catholic Relief Services
  • Rev. Paul Kollman, C.S.C., a leading theologian on the Church’s and Holy Cross’s Mission
  • Br. Paul Bednarczyk, C.S.C., the Superior General of the Congregation of Holy Cross and the first brother to ever serve as superior general of a religious congregation composed of both priests and brothers

Join us as we explore the past 100 years of Congregation’s missionary history and look with hope to the future of our missions on the global peripheries!

Learn More

More Related Articles

Remnants of the Fourth Vow

Remnants of the Fourth Vow

As members of a religious congregation, Holy Cross priests and brothers have always professed the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, but did...