A celebration of 40 years and divine graces for Holy Cross in Pickens

PICKENS — Parishioners at Holy Cross Church celebrated its 40th anniversary Sept. 11 with a solemn Mass and a spirited party.

The pastor used the symbolism of the cross of Christ, the inspiration for the church’s name, to illustrate the meaning of their lives as a faith community. He called the cross a sacred and simple symbol that encompasses the past, present and future of Holy Cross Parish.

“The past reminds us of the unwavering faith of our founders 40 years ago,” said Father C. Thomas Miles. “The cross of Christ calls us to be a light to the world in the present … and it’s a symbol of our hope for the future.”

Father Miles called the parish “a spring of hope, healing and peace.” He also described it as a growing community with shifting demographics.

“We have approximately 265 registered families and we’re growing. Originally, it was primarily an older parish, but it’s becoming younger and younger,” he said. Many of those younger parishioners were in evidence at the anniversary party that followed Mass. The Knights of Columbus provided rides and games for the children outside on the rolling lawns of the parish campus. The parish garden club, one of 40 ministries at Holy Cross, had the place ablaze in colorful blooms and greenery. Inside, every seat was taken for a sit-down roast pig dinner served by the church’s youth group.

A former pastor was impressed.

“I’ve been at many places, but this is the best place I’ve ever been as a priest,” said Father Gerald Aylward, a Paulist who served as pastor from 1987 to 1991. “What a place!”

Linda Mlay, a teacher and young mother, was just as enthusiastic about Holy Cross.

“I wouldn’t want my children to grow up in any other parish,” she said. “This is a church family, not just a church.”

Cecil Hitchcock was the master of ceremonies for the anniversary celebration. He and his wife, Janice, have been members of Holy Cross since 1975. They saw the parish grow from a mission church to having its own mission, St. Luke in Powdersville.

“The parish is really growing,” Janice Hitchcock said. “We on the greeters committee greet new faces every Sunday.”

Father Miles, himself a native of Pickens and the first priestly vocation to issue from the faith community of Holy Cross, was granted a formal apostolic blessing from Pope John Paul II just prior to the pontiff’s death. It invokes for the parish “an abundance of divine graces” on the occasion of its anniversary year.

Robert Chase not only roasted the pig for the feast, but he also hosted a blessing of the pig party the night before when he began his work. Jennifer Bryan designed and produced a souvenir anniversary booklet for the occasion, and Mary Ann Turner compiled a parish history.

Joan Rauschenbach, a 40-year parishioner and chair of the anniversary committee, was presented with a bouquet of roses for her service to the church. She cried, but those were the only tears shed on the anniversary day of Holy Cross Church.