Holy Cross Hungarian Church

Hidden Treasures
Church anniversary celebration planned
Restoration taking place at Holy Cross in Delray area


The Holy Cross Hungarian Church on South in Delray was built by full-time workers in the day and parishioners continued the work at night. It was dedicated Sept. 20, 1925.

By Christopher Singer / The Detroit News

    Work crews are busy repairing and polishing Holy Cross Hungarian Church on South in Delray in preparation for the church's 75th anniversary later this summer.
   The parish, recalled current pastor Fr. Barnabas, a Franciscan born in the city of Kapuvar, Hungary, was established in 1905. Its second church was built in 1925 as the number of Hungarians climbed in the heavily industrialized Delray section of southwest Detroit.
   The silver anniversary of the church will be marked Sept. 17 when Catholic Bishop Attila Mikloshazy of Toronto celebrates mass in Holy Cross Hungarian Church.
   An estimated 1.5 million Hungarians migrated to the U.S. between 1890 and 1910 as troubles swept the old Austro-Hungarian empire. Many went to work in the coal mines of Pennsylvania.
   Some came to Detroit for the factory jobs. During the 1920s, many more Hungarians left the Allegheny mines and headed for Detroit's auto plants. The third wave came in 1956 as refugees from the failed Hungarian Revolution.
   Delray had been settled and populated around the 1880s. It was an area along the Detroit River near Fort Wayne of metals plants and foundries working for the city's stove manufacturing and shipbuilding industries.
   Today, virtually all of the plants are gone and the neighborhood is the most polluted in Detroit.
   At its peak, six masses were celebrated in Holy Cross every Sunday. The church seats 520 worshipers. Today, two masses are celebrated on Sunday.
   Following the construction of I-75 right through southwest Detroit, the city's Hungarian population began moving downriver, many of them to Allen Park. Metro Detroit has 60,000 citizens of Hungarians descent, most of them living downriver, where the Hungarian bakeries, meat markets and restaurants also moved.
   "We are not a Hungarian church anymore," Fr. Barnabas explained. "We have parishioners all over."
   Fr. Barnabas who, like all Franciscans, gave up his first name when he was ordained, is proud an original parishioner, 99-year-old George Lajtos, still lives in the neighborhood. Holy Cross today has a membership of 500 families.
   The parish hired Henrik Kohner, an architect born in Hungary of German parents, to design Holy Cross. Kohner designed seven movie houses around Detroit and the Seward Hotel in the Cass Corridor. He lived in the neighborhood, on West Jefferson, and was also asked to serve as general contractor to hold down expenses. Full-time builders worked on the new church during the day and, nights and weekends, parishioners continued the work.
   The final cost of the do-it-yourself church was held to $157,674.
   The church was dedicated on Sept. 20, 1925, by Catholic Bishop Michael Gallagher.
   The church draws on various styles and features a huge main altar area under a tall vaulted ceiling. Frescoes depicting the mysteries of the Holy Rosary decorate the walls.
   Stained glass windows around the sanctuary also came from the neighborhood, manufactured by Stain Glass Works on West Fort in Detroit. The windows depict Hungarian saints, including St. Stephen, and his son, St. Emery.
   St. Stephen became king in 997 and united the various pagan tribes in the Danube River region under his rule. Tradition says he then made a deal with Pope Sylvester II: Stephen would convert to Christianity if the Holy Roman Empire would recognize his nation with him as king. The Vatican sent Stephen the crown used in his coronation in 1000.
   The other stained glass windows in Holy Cross were manufactured in Columbus, Ohio.
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