June at Holy Cross: A celebration of youth, culture, Dads, academics

A spotlight was shining on the young people of Holy Cross Durham in June – from preschool through college. 


It began with preparations for Vacation Bible School, which was held June 13-17 and attended by about 25 children, ages three to 10. They learned a lot about Egypt, Joseph and his journey from slavery to the palace – and the importance of his experience to all of us. This year’s program included a number of youth from the area as well as a greater participation by Holy Cross children.

VBS also had strong participation on the part of Holy Cross adults, including Dominique Burchette and Rita Anagor, two parishioners who painted the large mural depicting an Egyptian scene, which has been on the wall of the gathering space throughout the month. That scene served as a backdrop for many of this year’s VBS activities and remained on display for a few weeks after VBS ended. Activities included storytelling by Joseph (played by Warren Harris), plus prayer, dance and other activities led by a number of adults in the parish.

Setting the scene

“Making the backdrop was fun,” said Dominique Burchette, who painted the mural with the help of Rita Anagor and a few others. “We both have backgrounds and formal training in art. I've taken several classes throughout my life and have had a personal lesson as a young girl with my grandfather, Howard Burchette, Sr., who was the art professor at St. Augustine's College for many years.

“I do it (art) both professionally, in order to provide a more personal touch to the events I plan, and in my spare time as a hobby. This was my first backdrop of this size,” she said. Her goal for the project was to create a display that presented all the elements included in the VBS Egyptian theme: pyramids, palaces, tombs, the Sphinx, and the Nile River, giving the youth a real sense of the environment and times that they were learning about through the VBS program. The artists’ tools for creating the artwork: white paper, finger paint and paintbrushes.

When Dominique offered to create the backdrop for this year’s VBS theme, Jeanetta Hopkins, director of religious education at Holy Cross, connected her with Rita, who also has a background and expertise in art.

“This project took many hours; long and tiring but entertaining when you have a love for art,” Dominique said.

They began the evening of May 9 and finished as the children were walking through the doors for their first VBS session on June 13. Among those helping Dominique and Rita were June Sansom and her son, who helped to sketch out the design and apply the base coat for the sky. Leslie Tobin, member of the Holy Cross choir and Pastoral Council, helped apply a base coat for the shrubs, trees and bushes, saying, “I got my art in for the day” as she wrapped up her part of the project.

Rita's youngest sister provided additional help on June 12, and Fr. Oji, who celebrates the Igbo Mass at Holy Cross and was filling in for Fr. Andy that weekend, “made his mark on one of the palm trees,” Dominique said.

Photo of completed VBS scene“It was awesome. We tried to make it seem as realistic as possible, adding live plants (in front of the image) and spray-painting rocks (for) the display. We also added in blue plastic table cloths and tried to make them seem like they were ‘flowing’ from the Nile River. … We had a great time doing it for the kiddos.”

“I really appreciate all the help that we had from our parishioners for this year’s VBS, with the art, the activities, and the food for the kids,” Jeanetta said. “And thanks, also, for all those who attended. It was a great success!”


The Sunday prior to the start of VBS, June 12, was Student Recognition Sunday, a time to celebrate academic achievements by Holy Cross high school and college graduates.

Following are those who were recognized and those who received Holy Cross scholarships


High school graduates receiving Holy Cross Scholarships

  • Matthew Anagor graduated from J.D. Clement Early College with A and B honor rolls and will be attending North Carolina Central University, majoring in accounting. His parents are Rita and Mathew Anagor.
  • Monica Crump graduated from Jordan High School and will be attending the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. Her parents are Lori and Eric Crump.
  • Truman Crump graduated from Jordan High School and will be attending the Savanah School of Art and Design majoring in animation. His parents are Lori and Eric Crump.

Receiving Holy Cross Scholarships for continuing undergraduate studies

  • Sarah Crump, daughter of Lori and Eric Crump, is a rising senior at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill majoring in journalism and romance languages.
  • Camille Fulbright, daughter of Geneva and Ed Fulbright and a rising senior at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill majoring in health policy and management.
  • Ashley McLaughlin, daughter of Tahra Mclaughlin and Gregory Tanner, is a sophomore at Durham Technical Institute majoring in English.

Collegiate achievements

  • Rita Anagor received her bachelor’s in social work from NC Central University and plans to continue in graduate school, pursing a master’s in social work.
  • Mary Black received her bachelor of science degree in environmental science and certifications in waste management and hazardous materials from North Carolina A&T. Her future plans: law school focusing on environmental law.
  • Tessa Byrd, daughter of Valentina and Herman Byrd and a student at NC Central University, is working in Belize on a special project.
  • Christopher Fisher graduated with a master’s in business administration.
  • Alex Mask, daughter of Allen and Deirdre Mask, received a master’s in physiology from North Carolina State University.
  • Gabriel Odeh received his Master of Law degree from UNC-Chapel Hill.
  • Harvey McMurray, son of Faye Banks, received a bachelor’s degree from Pfeiffer College and is now working in California. 

View photos in the parish’s photo gallery and stay current with parish happenings at the parish’s Facebook and Twitter accounts. 


The first Sunday Mass in June was celebrated with a Caribbean beat, as Holy Cross parishioners shared their Caribbean culture, in praise and in the Taste of the Caribbean reception that followed Mass. Fr. Jeffery Ott, pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church in Atlanta, Ga., was guest celebrant for Mass. Read more about the history of the Caribbean Mass and its connection with our parish's history.  


The ladies of the Altar Society honored Holy Cross fathers with a game theme, providing the Dads in the parish a chance to show their skills at a quick game of darts for their dinner. View photos from the Father’s Day celebration in the Photo Gallery.


The Holy Cross Community Garden Project continues to grow – both in number of participants, in the number of people stopping by after Mass to take a tour, and in the volume of produce being harvested. Since the start of the 2016 growing season, the parish has donated more than 150 pounds of produce to Catholic Charities, including most recently a wheelbarrow-full of potatoes (85 pounds worth), most of which were planted on Good Friday. Thanks to Warren Harris for making frequent deliveries of the produce. 

Parish gardeners will continue to plant, water, weed and harvest through November, or as long as the weather holds up. All are welcome to help, for any length of time. Contact Anna Rzewnicki if interested in getting involved. Those who sign up will be added to the parish garden's shared file, which includes a 'To Do' list for the coming weeks, and the option to track volunteer hours. Youth, their parents and all adults are welcome to help for an hour or two, or more. 


Because of your willingness to give, Holy Cross has reached an all time high of 84% of our Bishop's Annual Appeal goal! We had 160 families support the campaign, allowing the appeal to surpass its goal allowing agencies such as Catholic Charities and the various campus ministries to help and evangelize even more people.

Thank you very much to everyone who contributed and participated in the campaign. As I have said before, and will continue to say, I cannot do any of the things we do without you help and support. ‚Äč- Fr. Andy

Tags: Youth Recognition

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