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. Fr. Michael was often described as “a visionary,” “innovative,” and “a workhorse” – and 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, there are now over 320,000 Catholics in Bangladesh, and the primary work of the HCMC has expanded to include Holy Cross missions in Chile, Peru, Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania—six nations with a combined population of 385 million people.
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, 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’ persistent work of inculturating 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, and healthcare in addition to nurturing the faith of Bangladesh’s small Catholic minority. 100 years later, the HCMC is 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.
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, the staff of the HCMC is fortunate 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, 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, the HCMC draws inspiration from their combined 107 years of service in continuing to make God known, loved, and served at Holy Cross missions.
Pictured Above: Holy Cross Foreign Mission Society Founder Rev. Michael Mathis, C.S.C. (left) with St. André Bessette (right).
Published: February 1, 2023
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