Holy Cross Mission Parish (Parroquia La Santa Cruz) was founded in 1958 by Fr. Joe Walejewski, a priest of the Diocese of La Crosse, whose missionary instincts preceded by several years the request made by Pope John XXIII, that the Catholic Church in the United States send ten percent of its religious personel, especially diocesan priests, to serve in Latin America. Having arrived a year earlier and gotten to know the area, Auxiliary Bishop and Maryknoll Missioner Charlie Brown brought "Padre José" to the outermost edge of the city on the north side and pointed out where the new parish church and rectory would be built. Since that time the parish has grown with the city of Santa Cruz de la Sierra, leaving the original parish church and rectory relatively close to the center of town today. Four other parishes have already been created from its original territory.
The first was Santo Domingo (Saint Dominic) in 1969 (and from which was formed Cristo Redentor in 1994), then La Resurrección (The Resurrection) in 1987, then recently San Miguel Arcángel (St. Michael the Archangel) in as a Cuasi-Parish in 1995 raised to the status of an independent parish in the year 2000, and finally Santa Rosa de Lima which just became a Cuasi-Parish and includes 5 chapels in all. Each of the seven remaining zones in this parish, presently estimated to include a population of 70,000 souls, has one or two chapels of its own and is projected to become a future a parish. They are, the church of the Sagrado Corazón de María (Sacred Heart of Mary), in Barrio Equipetrol, cared for by Fr. Juan Kurahashi (Salesian from Japon), the Chapel of María Reina (Mary Queen), built in 1989, the chapel of Natividad de la Virgen (Nativity of the Blessed Virgen Mary), built in 1990, the chapel of Cristo Resucitado (The Risen Christ) in Barrio Oriental, built in 1983, Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe (Our Lady of Guadalupe), which was originally a small chapel built in 1982 named Holy Family and is has the largest chapel in the parish built from 1991 to 1996, and in the same zone, Nuestra Señora de la Candelaría (Our Lady of the Presentación), built in 1986. We forsee the need for three additional chapels in Barrios Jardín, Faremafu and Macdonald, as well as a larger parish church to replace the original chapel of La Santa Cruz, where overflowing crowds even at daily masses, remind us constantly that the "harvest is abundant but the workers are few."
In many of the comunities, including those in the newly formed parishes, Holy Cross parish under the guidance of Fr. Al Wozniak, fostered and contributed to the construction of schools which doubled as chapels and meeting sites. These physical structures have always been symbolic of the spiritual temple of living stones built simultaneously, faith communities.
Holy Cross Parish School, originally named "Santa Clara" was founded in 1961 with the arrival of four sisters of the Sinsinawa Dominicans. Since 1969 the school has operarated un lay dirrection. A public school of the same name functions in the afternoon session under parish supervision. The school has continually expanded also adding classes and classrooms. The first graduation from the parish school was in 1992 and the public school will have its first in 1998. The morning school provides a quality catholic education for about 900 students while its afternoon sibling has about 750. Mass is celebrated in each session by turns with the different grades once a week. Since setting the school on firm foundations, the Sinsinawa Dominicans have dedicated themselves to full-time pastoral work as part of the parish team.
The Holy Cross Cooperative Savings and Loan (Cooperativa La Santa Cruz), was founded in 1961 with Fr. Joe Walijewski's help, to help the poor learn to save and have access to loans. It also included carpentry workshops. It quickly became independent of the parish and and some years ago was absorbed by the Cooperativa San Martin de Porres..
The Holy Cross Medical Clinic (Posta La Santa Cruz), was founded in 1962 in a small room in the rectory, but quickly moved into the new parish center built in 1963. Offering general medicine, pediatrics, gynecology, basic laboratory analysis and dental care, it serves over a thousand patients per month. On May 3rd, 1994, a new building destined exclusively for clinic was inaugurated. The Clinic of the Risen Christ (Cristo Resucitado) was built in 1988, the year of the Holy Father's visit to Santa Cruz, next to the church of the same name in Barrio Oriental, but was eventually closed as more services became available in the area and converted to a Convent for the Sisters that live there now.
One of the places that Pope John Paul II visited in Santa Cruz was the Home for the Abandoned Elderly (Hogar de los Ancianos Desparados) which is maintained and serviced by the Sisters of the Abandoned Elderly. This center of special christian love and care was funded and built with a great deal of help from the Parish and Fr. Al Wozniak starting in 1966. Over 200 elderly are cared for now in the building built in 1972 and under expansion until the present.
Since 1974, the pastoral activities of the parish have been guided by a team effort of discernment and planification. As a result the parish has made Family Catechisis, Eclesial Base Communities, Youth Ministry and Lay Formation the primary focuses of its action, following the general lines of the Latin American and Bolivian Bishop's Conferences. In conjunction with the Holy Father's visit in 1988, the parish participated in a diocesan wide evangelization campaign know as the Pilgrim Christ (Cristo Peregrino). Thereafter it became an annual parish home evangelización program called "On pilgrimage with the Cross and the Bible" carried out in september in conjunction with our parish feast day, the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, and with the goal of reaching every home within our parish. We have yet to reach this goal, but each year the program grows and sees more and more local home missioners who make this program a great success. This and other activities has given our parish a strong reputation for pastoral leadership in the diocese, and our staff members are all involved in diocesan commisions and often asked to help in leadership training in other parishes.
In 2002, we had to say good bye to the Domincan Sisters of Sinsinawa who had shared our Mission during 42 years with 13 Sisters, countless pastoral iniciatives and lots of hard work.
We also had the help of a native religious community: Sisters of Our Lady of Peace, who accompanied the community at the Risen Christ Chapel during 9 years. Shortly after they withdrew, two brasilian religious Sisters, "Sacramentinas of Bergamo", came.
Looking to the future, we realize that this oversized parish will have to be broken up into smaller parishes, leaving La Santa Cruz with an upscale population near the center of the city. It remains to be seen if it will be passed on to local diocesan priests, while perhaps the missioners from de Diocese of La Crosse and the Sinsinawa Dominican Sisters will move to one of the offspring parishes or maybe all the way out to the edge to start all over again.
The Cross and the Bible over the years
La Crosse Diocesan Priests
1956: P. Joseph Walijewski
1958: P. Aloysius Wozniak
1961: P. Emmet Faber
1963: P. Ed Penchi
1968: P. Robert Pedretti
1973: P. Tom Donaldson
1975: P. John Swing
1988: P. Robert Flock