The history of the Catholic Church in Tennessee goes back to 1836, with the foundation of the Diocese of Nashville. In those days, both before and after the Civil War, traveling priests on horseback would come ministering to the needs of the small pockets of Catholics scattered about the state.
The first recorded gathering for Mass took place in the home of Mr. & Mrs. James M. Dean on Depot Street in Paris in 1901. Mass was said only once a month at that time and for several years thereafter, continued to be offered in various homes. As the number of Catholics increased, a larger place was needed, so Sunday use of the Odd Fellows Hall was arranged.
With the growth of Paris and the continuous increase in the size of the congregation, the need for a larger and more permanent church structure became evident. A lot was purchased on West Wood Street and plans drawn up for the original church. In 1921, the cornerstone was laid and with the completion of the construction, the dedication ceremony was held on June 18, 1922, with Msgr. D. J. Murphy, Vicar General of the Diocese of Nashville, officiating.
In early 1966, Father Heenan became the first residential pastor of Holy Cross Church. This was an important moment in Holy Cross history because up until this time, Holy Cross had been a mission of another church: first Sacred Heart in Humboldt and later, Immaculate Conception in Union City. Also during this time, Holy Cross outgrew the small building on West Wood Street, and the current property on East Wood Street was purchased for $15,000. The first Mass was celebrated in the newly completed church on December 8, 1968. The first rectory was a house next the church most of which has been incorporated into our current church office. The living room fireplace graces our current office conference area; the kitchen with washer and dryer is still being used; the pastor’s office was once a bedroom!
The diocese of Memphis was formed in 1971, and jurisdiction for Holy Cross Church was transferred from Nashville to Memphis at that time. Now a full-fledged parish, Holy Cross became responsible for the then-mission church of St. Mary’s in Camden until its independence in 1978 and the Newman Center at Bethel College in McKenzie until its closure in 1974.
Holy Cross Church has grown a great deal since 1968. A parish hall and classrooms were added first in 1991, followed by the gym, kitchen and more classrooms in 2003. The growing Hispanic community in Henry County prompted a permanent Sunday Mass in Spanish beginning June 30, 2002, and when the interior of the church was renovated that same year, it was with Durango marble flooring on the altar and appointments from Madrid, Spain, to include the new community in our parish. With every expansion, we still retain our history. The statues of Jesus and Mary which stand on either side of the tabernacle, are of hand-carved Carara, the finest statuary marble in the world and were imported from Italy in 1922. The crucifix suspended over the altar was hand-carved by master craftsmen in Oberammergau in southern Bavaria, Germany and purchased in 1968.
We added a preschool in 2004 to give the children in our area the best start possible in their education.
Over the years, the pastors of Holy Cross have purchased adjoining property bringing the total acreage to approximately nine. We are ready for the future!
The succession of priests at Holy Cross:
1936-43 Rev. Edward Dolan
1943 Rev. James Nally
1943-44 Rev. Charles O’Donnell
1945-47 Rev. William R. Nelson
1947-51 Rev. Robert Wiley
1952 Rev. Joseph B. Tarpy
1952-53 Rev. John J. Schelly
1954-55 Rev. Charles O’Donnell
1955-57 Rev. John Baltz
1957-58 Rev. Edward O. Heymer
1958-62 Rev. James W. Murphy
1963-64 Rev. Coleman M. Ballinger
1964-71 Rev. Patrick F. Heenan
1971-74 Rev. Vincent P. King
1974-78 Rev. Patrick J. Lynch
1978-81 Rev. William R. Kantner
1981-87 Rev. John B. McArthur
1987-92 Rev. Bryan P. Timby
1992-2005 Rev. Victor P. Ciaramitaro
2005-2011 Rev. Edward K. Fisher
2011-2012 Rev. Michael A. Morgera
2012-2018 Rev. Krzysztof J. Rusin (Became citizen in Feb 2016;changed name to Christopher)
2018 to present: Rev. Martin Orjianioke