Congregation of Holy Cross
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In the troubled period following the French Revolution, Basil Anthony Moreau, a priest of the diocese of Le Mans, founded the Congregation of Holy Cross. To supply the needs of the devastated Catholic Church throughout the countryside, he organized a group of auxiliary priests to assist diocesan clergy in preaching parish missions. He also intended them to be educators.
Only days after this group was first assembled, at the request of Bishop Jean-Baptiste Bouvier, Fr. Moreau accepted responsibility for the Brothers of Saint Joseph, founded 15 years earlier by another priest of the same diocese, Fr. Jacques-François Dujarié, pastor of Ruille-sur-Loir. They were zealous laymen who had been meeting the need for elementary education in villages of the region.
What led to an unusual venture in the history of the church was Fr. Moreau’s decision to unite these two groups, which he did by the Fundamental Act of March 1, 1837. Priests and brothers were united within a single association to minister to the pastoral and educational needs of the French Church.
From the outset, Fr. Moreau saw Holy Cross as an apostolic religious community destined to serve the Church well beyond the frontiers of his own country. During the first 15 years, when the group was still small and struggling, Fr. Moreau’s vision compelled him to send out missionaries to Algiers, Eastern Bengal and the United States. It was his decision to accept the difficult mission of Eastern Bengal (now Bangladesh) that persuaded Pope Pius IX to grant Holy Cross official ecclesiastical recognition as a religious institute, approving its Constitutions in 1857.
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the priests and brothers of Holy Cross devoted their greatest efforts to educational ministries in the United States, Canada and France — despite the difficulties caused by the suppression of religious orders.
In 1842, Moreau sent 28-year-old Rev. Edward Sorin, C.S.C., and six other brothers to the Diocese of Vincennes, in southern Indiana, to establish parishes and schools. Fr. Sorin eventually settled in South Bend in northern Indiana, where he founded the University of Notre Dame and from there grew the Congregation in the United States. Sorin followed Moreau’s example of sending out priests and brothers to found other schools and parishes throughout the United States and Canada, including the university named for Sorin's patron saint, Saint Edward's University in Austin, TX.