Holy Cross Greets Students With Open Arms

For the first time in awhile, I was on campus for freshmen move-in day.

It is quite a sight to behold — car after car arrives and a swarm of current students, faculty and staff greet the freshmen and their families and immediately take all of their belongings up to their rooms.   As you can see in the video, it is a tradition for current students to greet the freshmen with the same open arms with which they were greeted when they first arrived on campus for their first day.

If this is a tradition that repeats itself year after year, then someone had to be the first to experience this ritual.  This got me to thinking about Holy Cross alum James Healy and his first day on campus — most likely he was filled with a blend of nervousness and excitement just like this year’s freshmen.

But there must have been a special anxiety to his first journey to campus.  James was born in Georgia in 1830, the son of an Irish immigrant plantation owner and a female slave.  At the time, Georgia law dictated that a child of this type of union was a slave.  But James would go on to become the very first valedictorian at Holy Cross in 1849, the first African-American Roman Catholic priest and the country’s first African-American Catholic bishop.

What must it have been like when he first arrived Holy Cross?

I can imagine what he saw – the lush, green hillside of Mount Saint James, the babbling brook at its base, the seven hills of Worcester and their inspirational vistas.

But I can’t imagine how he felt.   I do know that he was welcomed with the same open arms that this year’s freshmen were and perhaps then, a tradition began.

Andrew N. Carter
Associate Director of Admissions