Holy Cross Chapel is an oasis of prayer for Catholics working in downtown Houston

March 28, 2023

Holy Cross Chapel is located at 905 Main St. to give the opportunity to busy Catholics working in downtown Houston to attend daily Mass or go to pray. (Photo courtesy of Holy Cross Chapel)

HOUSTON — Busy Catholics working in the central business district of downtown Houston for over four decades have found a place of respite from their highly plugged-in, hectic lives inside a quiet little chapel located on Main Street.

Holy Cross Chapel, founded in 1982, was located inside the basement of a building in the middle of the city at 905 Main Street. One major milestone in the chapel’s history was in 2006, when, after purchasing and remodeling the building, the chapel was moved out of the basement and onto the ground floor, where it could be seen from the street.

The daytime chapel is currently open Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Mass is offered during the middle of the workday at 11:35 a.m., and when a priest is available, walk-in confessions and spiritual direction by appointment are offered.

Father Frank Vera, director of Holy Cross Chapel, invites those who work downtown or are visiting the area to stop by and attend Mass or spend quiet time in prayer in front of the Blessed Sacrament.

“You could say that the chapel is a ‘gift’ from the Archdiocese to the great professional population in downtown Houston,” said Father Vera. “It is an oasis of tranquility within walking distance from where thousands of people work, providing spiritual support that many seek but often do not find easily accessible.”

Father Vera said professional groups were founded at Holy Cross Chapel over the years, such as the Thomas More Society, a Catholic lawyers guild, and the Business Ethics Forum, where executives discuss ethical issues. A series of talks or seminars during Lent and Advent also are available for men and women, as well as other events planned throughout the year.

Father Vera said the spiritual support that the chapel offers does not replace, but rather complements, the work of parishes across the Archdiocese. He said those who take advantage of the chapel during work hours typically become more committed to their faith and engaged at their parish.

One professional who had been a regular at the chapel since the late 1990s was Bob Schick, a recently retired lawyer with Vinson & Elkins. He said the chapel “puts the Gospel on Main Street — literally and figuratively.”

“Holy Cross Chapel and the priests who have directed it and celebrated Mass there made me a better Catholic,” said Schick. “To have such a wonderful accessible facility in the business district of Houston is a real blessing. The programs offered there throughout the year helped strengthen my faith and educate me in ways that my neighborhood parishes with thousands of parishioners simply cannot realistically provide.”

Father Vera said that over the years, the growth in attendance at Holy Cross Chapel has been steady and organic, mainly from people who work downtown like Schick or those on a business trip looking for Mass close by. He said prior to the pandemic, the chapel served an average of 24,000 each year, including approximately 80 visitors each day and 400 to 500 people on Holy Days of Obligation, including 1,300 on Ash Wednesday.

“Since the pandemic, the numbers have dropped down to about half since many people haven’t come back to downtown,” said Father Vera. “The few days they do come, many have more lunchtime meetings than before, making it difficult to attend Mass here. We hope the numbers will little by little increase again, but it will take some time.”

Father Vera said a new initiative was put into place last fall where Catholic centers of major universities in Texas and beyond were invited to organize events at the chapel specifically for their alumni who work downtown. This included Texas A&M University, Baylor University, Texas Tech University, UT-Austin and Texas State University.

“The purpose of these events is to offer the Catholic centers a venue to showcase their activities and projects and reach alumni working downtown, some who during their college days were either not Catholic or practicing,” said Father Vera. “Many alumni feel proud of their school and want to support it. We try to show them that the most direct and effective way to support their alma mater in a way that will benefit their children is to channel their resources to the Catholic center.”

Vera said this year they will promote these Catholic center events at local high schools to reach parents who are interested in finding ways to keep their children plugged into their faith while away at college.

Because Holy Cross Chapel is one of 64 ministries supported by the annual DSF appeal, Father Vera is grateful for the support of the faithful in the Archdiocese since this is the chapel’s primary funding source. He said through the DSF, parishes are partnering with them to provide spiritual nourishment to their parishioners when they are away.

“Holy Cross Chapel is really at the service of the whole Archdiocese, serving people working downtown from most parishes in the diocese,” said Father Vera. “The more we can help people downtown grow in their faith during work hours, the more fully their whole family will be present in the life of their parish on weekends and evenings. Without the annual support from DSF, we would not be able to operate.”

To learn more about Holy Cross Chapel, go to archgh.org. To donate to the DSF that supports the chapel and 63 other ministries, go to archgh.org/dsf. The DSF supports each of these ministries, whether direct service or education, which require this critical funding to remain in operation. Out of each gift given to DSF, 100% of every dollar goes directly to supporting these ministries.