Holy Cross Catholic Church and School 60th Anniversary Newsletter
Holy Cross 60
Hello Holy Cross community,
Anniversary events are underway - check out our new page on our website! Please visit
to view past newsletters as well as the video of the digital art show of "What Holy Cross Means to Me."
The 60th anniversary committee will be putting together a commemorative cookbook, filled with the amazing recipes from all of you! We invite you to send in your favorite recipe and a photo, if you have it, to
. Please be sure to include how you would like to be listed under your recipe. Submissions are due by June 30.
Thank you for being a part of this wonderful faith-filled community,
Father Robert Buchmeier, Pastor
Mrs. Lisa Kane, Principal
Mrs. Megan Harbold, 60
History of Holy Cross:
History collected by MaryAnn and Karen Crespy.
Holy Cross Church Leadership,
Last month’s newsletter profiled Holy Cross Parish’s founders and early leaders, this month we continue that theme with our most recent pastors and associate pastors. And we will start with an in-residence priest who made a huge impact on our parish for many years.
Reverend Monsignor Joseph Bernard McAllister, S.T.B., Ph.D. 1968-1995
Monsignor McAllister began his residency at Holy Cross in 1968 while still affiliated with The Catholic University of America, where he taught Philosophy and served as Vice Rector of CUA from 1958 to 1967. He was elevated to Executive Vice Rector before retiring in 1971.
Monsignor remained in residence at Holy Cross and became an integral part of parish ministry often saying the 6:45 a.m. daily mass. Ever the professor, his
homilies, delivered with the intensity and passion of a university lecture, and were mini spiritual renewals with topics such as: “Sin, Guilt, and Christ’s Healing”; “The Answer to Our Emptiness”; “We Are in the World, But Not a Part of It”; and “God Gave Us a Church, Not a Book”. He referred to his homilies as “A Few Well-Chosen Remarks” which he delivered with enthusiasm, often while holding his folded reading glasses in his hand.
Parishioner Anne Martin, who shared her memories about Msgr. McAllister for this article, said her
husband, George Martin, taped many of Monsignor’s homilies to share with his home-bound mother and, fortunately for all of us, they are available for everyone to hear at
In the late 1970s, a woman in the parish asked Monsignor if he would be interested in leading a women’s study group. Besides his academic position at CUA, Monsignor had written a book on ethics for nurses, was a huge fan of C.S. Lewis and Flannery O’Connor, and was also very interested in Gregorian Chant, so he seemed like the perfect fit.
Monsignor took up the request and for 17 years, from 1978 to 1995, was an exacting teacher with selections that were challenging and required commitment from the group of between 8 and 20 participants. Monsignor named the group “Holy Cross Seminars” with monthly meetings that rotated among the participants’ homes and soon many of the husbands, hearing the discussions, asked to be included. Soon the women’s study group was co-ed!
Each January Monsignor McAllister traveled to Cartagena, Columbia and it was during this time that he prepared the material for the upcoming sessions. The “students” were expected to read the material and be prepared for the discussion. Some of the reading selections that the Seminars tackled over the years included: Confessions by St. Augustine, Antigone by Sophocles, Republic by Plato, Utopia by St. Thomas More, Anthology of Eight Works by C.S. Lewis, C.S. Lewis and the Church of Rome by Christopher Derrick, and Collected Works by Flannery O’Connor. Monsignor always distributed handouts from various sources that expanded on the current reading and related topics. He never stopped teaching!
Monsignor loved to sail and had a boat named
. One year
sank at the dock while Monsignor was away, and he was devastated. But before long,
was repaired and ready for more adventures. Monsignor would invite friends and parishioners to sail with him on the Chesapeake Bay. The younger and/or more experienced of his passengers became the crew. He frequently referenced the insights he gained from his conversations while on the boat with the high school and
college age groups as they talked about their schooling and their perspectives on life and current events; but he was often dismayed with the lack of understanding of their Faith.
Monsignor McAllister remained in residence at Holy Cross and said daily Mass until his death in 1995 at age 89. Monsignor remembered Holy Cross Parish and School in his will by leaving funds to be used for our Parish sign that sits at the top of the oval at the church entrance.
The library at Holy Cross School is fittingly named in honor of Monsignor McAllister.
Reverend Monsignor Vincent S. Gatto, KCHS 1983-2005
Monsignor Vincent S. Gatto came to be pastor of Holy Cross Church in 1983 after many years at Our Lady of Mercy, Potomac, MD. And in 1984, Father Vincent S. Gatto was elevated to Monsignor.
Holy Cross is known as “the beautiful church with the long center aisle” making it a popular choice for weddings, including many out-of-parish families. During the 1970s-1990s there were so many church weddings that two Sodality women served as coordinators to assist brides and their bridal parties
before the ceremony. Monsignor knew that this beautiful building needed to be well cared for, and his discerning vision shaped much of what we see today.
The school, church, rectory, and convent were over 30 years old, and many maintenance projects needed to be addressed—repairs, replacements, and new builds that were long overdue. Monsignor Gatto inherited an active and eager parish, and he strove to ensure it would continue to thrive inside and out.
In a letter to parishioners in 1993, Monsignor shared that “The elements and everyday wear and tear have taken their toll on our parish buildings and grounds. Crucial, necessary repairs must be made if Holy Cross is to continue to serve its spiritual community into the next century.” And with that, the Restoration Fund Campaign began with a goal of $500,000 dollars and designed to give every parish family the opportunity to help maintain the legacy of Holy Cross. Today, we enjoy the results of that hard work and generosity!
Monsignor Gatto created a list of immediate and long-range projects that included an overhaul of the plumbing, lighting, and gutter and drainage systems; repairs to masonry damage on church; replacing the exterior doors through the school; and resurface the parking lot, roadways, and walkways. Work inside the church included removing the partial wall behind the altar (where the original sacristy was located), completing the sanctuary to its original design, and adding the final stained-glass windows over the transept doors. A new sacristy was built to connect the
church and rectory. Handicapped accessible rest rooms were installed in church, and the church organ was refurbished and restored to “mint” condition. His ultimate goal was to ensure that Holy Cross had reserve funds in place to care for the campus and its buildings well into the future.
As time went on, Monsignor spearheaded even more improvements: carpeting and pew cushions were added, and a vestibule was created by partitioning the entrancewith a wall and adding dedicated windows and doors. The ‘new’ vestibule would also serve as a ‘crying room’. The Baptismal Font, which had been temporarily removed from the church in the 1980s and stored in the boiler room, was returned to the head of the center aisle. Monsignor Gatto also enhanced the sanctuary by installing an open six-ribbed wooden structure called a Baldachin to surround the Tabernacle. In 2004, one year before he retired, all the pews were removed, refurbished, and reinstalled.
Monsignor Gatto’s love of tradition was easy to see through his joy of music. For more than 20 years, he took piano lessons and played classical music, but played only for himself. He shared his love of music with the parish in other ways. Monsignor’s parents donated the electric bells to Holy Cross in honor of their parents (Monsignor’s grandparents). The bells ring out before Mass and on special occasions and play familiar hymns. For Christmas and Easter Masses, Monsignor hired professional musicians to accompany our own beautiful organ and the voices of the adult men and women Traditional Choir. It was not uncommon for the choir and accompaniment to break into Handel’s
chorus as people filed out after Mass. Those were special moments as parishioners and families, some home for the holidays, lingered outside of church to greet each other, chat, and catch up on the latest news.
Our elementary school was very important to Monsignor, and teachers and students alike benefited from his frequent visits and his close working relationship with Principal Sr. Miriam Regina Brosnan, CSC. Sister Miriam shared his forward-thinking vision and together they made Holy Cross School and Parish a very welcoming place. From the original basic plan for Holy Cross Parish, Monsignor Gatto added the layers of warmth, comfort, and beauty to enhance our community and spiritual experience.
In 2005, after 22 years as pastor of Holy Cross, Monsignor Gatto retired and spent his remaining years in-residence at Saint Raphael’s Parish in Potomac, MD, participating fully in parish life. He continued to enjoy playing golf with Monsignor Quinn (see last month’s issue for a profile of Monsignor Quinn). Upon request, Monsignor Gatto would return to Holy Cross to officiate at baptisms, weddings, and funerals. He died in 2017 at age 90.
Read a memory of Monsignor Gatto here
Today, Holy Cross parishioners are the fortunate and appreciative benefactors of all the hard work and accomplishments during Monsignor Gatto’s tenure. Monsignor summed up his love of Holy Cross by stating: “Holy Cross is prayerful, peaceful, simple, elegant, and beautiful.”
Father Joseph F. Perkins 2002-present (retired, in residence)
Father Perkins was born in Brooklyn, NY and raised in Buffalo, NY. After graduating high school, he entered Christ the King Seminary at St. Bonaventure University in Olean, NY and then attended Catholic University of America where he studied Theology and was ordained on May 18, 1968.
For the next 30 years, Father Perkins served in many different parishes, most of them in Montgomery County, before being assigned Assistant Pastor to Monsignor Gatto at Holy Cross Church in 2002.
Upon reaching the mandatory retirement age of 75, Father chose to spend his retirement in the place he loved most, Holy Cross Parish, where he continues to say Mass as he had prior to retiring. Many parishioners enjoy hearing Father’s homilies and his explanation of historical context as it relates to the readings of the day.
Father Perkins stays busy ensuring our bells ring out beautifully and on time, ordering the sacramental supplies of candles, hosts, and wine; and pre-pandemic, saying a monthly Mass for the Brighton Home residents on Tuckerman Lane.
For some parishioners, Father Perkins has been the constant parish presence for most of their lives. Father said that it has been a pleasure to serve the people of Holy Cross during their times of both joy and sorrow. Enjoy these Golden Years, Father Perkins!
Reverend Monsignor R. Cary Hill 2005-2015
Monsignor Hill was pastor of St. Stephen the Martyr Church in Washington, D.C. for three years, and spent seven years at George Washington University prior to coming to Holy Cross as its fourth pastor where he was warmly welcomed by the parish and school.
Monsignor inherited a beautiful church and a well-run elementary school with grades pre-K through eighth. A
frequent visitor to the school, he enjoyed interacting with the students and his jolly laugh told everyone that he was greatly amused by the school children. He heard their confessions and said Mass for the weekly-scheduled school Masses.
Monsignor Hill encouraged parishioner participation singing at the Saturday evening and Sunday morning Masses and made it easy for parishioners to sing along by placing song sheets in the pews with the music for that weekend’s Masses.
In 2008, Father faced an unexpected challenge when the trusses failed on the roof of Lewis Hall and the roof caved in. Lewis Hall, formerly called the Social Hall, is the lunchroom for school students and used for school performances and sports, as well as by the parish in general for special occasions, meetings, and donuts and coffee fellowship after weekend Masses.
The damage was extensive, and it needed to be torn down. Demolition began and through parish fundraising, the new and improved Lewis Hall was erected with a higher roof, a retractable stage that allowed for more floor space, a renovated and updated kitchen, and upgraded windows and doors. Following
the completion of construction, there was a Sunday open-house reception for parishioners to view the beautiful new hall and to be present when Monsignor blessed it.
Anyone who knew Monsignor Hill knew that he was a “foodie” and enjoyed eating out. He and Father Perkins never missed joining The Over Fifty Club for breakfast at the IHOP on Rockville Pike after the 8:30 a.m. First Friday Mass.
In 2010, Monsignor became seriously ill. And after many, many months of recuperation, he resumed his pastoral duties at Holy Cross. Then in 2015, having reached the mandatory retirement age of 75, he returned to his hometown New Orleans, LA, where he has spent his retirement close to relatives.
Charlene Hubbard shared that in a recent conversation with Monsignor Hill, he said that what he most remembers about Holy Cross “was the kindness of the people.”
Monsignor Hill remains in our thoughts and prayers.
Father Robert P. Buchmeier 2015-present
Father Robert was pastor at Sacred Heart Church in LaPlata, MD prior to being assigned pastor of Holy Cross Church in 2015. The parish and school welcomed him with enthusiasm and open arms.
A native of Spokane, WA, Father Robert was ordained on June 8, 1991, after studies at Blessed John XXIII Seminary in Weston, MA. In addition, Father Robert holds a degree in psychology from Seattle University.
Before entering the seminary, he spent 15 years of commissioned service in the U.S. Army as a Medical Service Corps officer and attained the rank of Major.
When Father arrived at Holy Cross, he was struck by the beautiful church and campus and heartened to see the number of volunteer ministries spreading the gospel through caring for the poor and serving the homebound and sick. Volunteers from the Eucharistic Ministry for the Homebound, the Parish Council and Social
Concerns committee call to check on the aged, ill, or infirm and have arranged for Masses to be said for their intentions. Caring parishioners have dedicated years reaching out to our Holy Cross Family.
Father oversaw a large regional school in LaPlata, so he arrived with wonderful parish school experience. What he found at Holy Cross is a small, very well-run
school under principal Mrs. Lisa Kane. He said it is a blessing to work with her. “The school is a gem,” said Father Robert “and the teaching staff is both talented and dedicated. The school families are diverse and a pleasure to be with.”
Father feels privileged to take the children through their preparation for receiving the sacraments of Penance, First Holy Communion and Confirmation; and firmly believes the school gives life and vitality to the parish.
During non-pandemic times, at the 9 a.m. Sunday Children’s Mass, Father Robert would invite children into the sanctuary to sit around his chair. Instead of a traditional homily, he talked with the children and asked them questions about Jesus. Parishioners have noted that children really enjoyed this time and enthusiastically participated.
When the COVID-19 pandemic struck the U.S. in March 2020, all places of public gathering, including churches, were closed as a precaution to stop the virus’ spread. Father has worked with Mrs. Kane and continued to visit and teach at our Elementary School throughout the pandemic to both in-person and virtual students.
After many months, churches began innovated ways to continue to serve their communities and Holy Cross was no different. Father Robert recorded weekly video Gospel reflections, and soon began to hold outdoor Sunday Mass from the front of the church—which allowed for open-air and socially distanced attendance. And once limited indoor attendance was allowed, Father safely opened the church for one Mass each weekend with pews marked off to keep parishioners apart and sanitizing wipe stations. Soon, through a donated video system, Mass and Funeral Masses
were being live streamed over YouTube. Father Robert is prayerful that more of the congregation will soon return to weekly Mass, especially as restrictions continue to be lifted.
Through it all, Father Robert has been a constant and reassuring presence at Holy Cross—greeting congregants as they enter church, helping to usher during crowded Masses (particularly at Christmas and Easter), hearing confessions, offering Adoration Hours, bringing communion to the sick and homebound, and talking to and greeting everyone outside of church after Mass—frequently wearing his Holy Cross ball cap.
Father Robert said this about being pastor at Holy Cross: “God has blessed me, allowing me to minister to dedicated Christians at Holy Cross.”
Interview by Kate Oczypok
Interview with Holy Cross Parishioner Helena Dunn
Helena Dunn has been a Holy Cross parishioner for the last four years. She was born in the Czech Republic (Prague to be exact) just after World War II. She was raised Roman Catholic and was baptized and had her First Communion in Prague.
“Religious education under the communist regime was not allowed and most churches were closed,” Helena
said. “My grandmother’s faith helped her to endure great suffering without any complaints.”
Helena recalled her grandmother as the rock of her family as she was always helping others. “She was an important part of my childhood,” she added.
Helena’s family immigrated to Canada in 1968 after the Russian Invasion. She studied interior design in Toronto and specialized in hospitality design. She was offered a design position here in the DC area with Marriott International and she accepted, eager to begin the traveling part of the position.
Helena’s husband was Episcopalian so the couple attended St. Alban’s and Grace Episcopal Churches. “I was involved with the homeless shelter, pastoral care and garden ministry,” Helena said.
After her husband passed away, she realized she wanted to go back to her Catholic roots.
Two children and three grandchildren later, Helena is proud to say her granddaughter attended Holy Cross School and Holy Cross Academy. “My first introduction to Holy Cross was during Grandparents’ Day and her precious kindergarten performance,” she said. “I loved that day and I will always remember it and the beautiful church.”
Four years ago, Father Robert welcomed Helena into the parish and she joined an RCIA class. She was
confirmed at the Easter Vigil, something she calls “a very special time in my life.” Helena has since gotten involved with the usher ministry, Social Concerns committee and contributes to hospitality for church events.
For the next 60 years, Helena hopes Holy Cross continues to be the same vibrant, warm, and welcoming community as she was privileged to experience.
“I also hope and pray for Father Robert to be with us for a long, long time!” she added.
Question from the last newsletter:
Which Holy Cross faculty member has the longest length of service to the school?
Mrs. Overly has been employed at Holy Cross School for nineteen years! Teresa Overly is a graduate of the University of Maryland and several years later received a Masters of Education (PK-6) from Marymount University. Her career at Holy Cross School began in 2002 as the Teacher’s Assistant in
the Pre-Kindergarten classroom. The following school year she was selected to become the lead Pre-Kindergarten teacher for the four-year-olds program at Holy Cross School. In 2018, Mrs. Overly became the Director of the Pre-Kindergarten Program when the PreK-3 classroom was opened. Mrs. Overly feels that her years at Holy Cross have truly been a blessing in her life and she looks forward to continuing to provide an early childhood classroom environment rooted within the Catholic faith. Mrs. Overly was recognized as the Teacher of the Year for the 2007-2008 school year by the Rock Creek Council of The Knights of Columbus. Additionally, Mrs. Overly currently serves on the school Leadership Team and is the faculty representative on the School Advisory Board. Mrs. Overly is featured discussing the school's PreK program on our virtual tour on our website's admissions page found at
We Want Your Photos!
The Holy Cross 60th Anniversary Committee is looking for photos from the far or recent past, to share as a part of celebrating the 60th anniversary of our church and school.
Please email photos to
in highest resolution and if possible, please identify "who is in the photo, what the occasion was, when it occurred, where the photo was taken". Thank you!
Thank you for celebrating Holy Cross Catholic Church and School's
anniversary with us!
Volume 4, May 2021
Mary Anne Gadbois
on Saturday, May 1 at 8:41AM