The Congregation of Holy Cross, the international Catholic religious order whose members founded the University of Notre Dame, celebrates its 175th birthday March 1.
The Congregation was established in France on that day in 1837, when Blessed Rev. Basil Moreau, C.S.C., and six other priests of the diocese of Le Mans joined with 54 Brothers of St. Joseph, a religious community founded by Father Jacques Dujarie, the pastor of a rural parish in the diocese, to form a single community of priests and brothers. They were later joined by a community of sisters, the Marionites of Holy Cross.
Father Moreau’s community was named Congregatio a Sancta Cruce (Congregation of Holy Cross) after Sainte-Croix, a small town nearby Le Mans, which was its first home. That local name, “Holy Cross,” resonated deeply in the spirituality that animated the newly formed community and continues to be expressed in its paradoxical motto: “Spes Crux Unica” (The Cross, Our Only Hope).
The new community had its work cut for it in the Catholic parishes and parochial schools of a rural France still bruised and reeling from the Revolution, but Father Moreau soon sent missionaries overseas, to Algeria, Canada and Bengal. He also sent seven young members of the Congregation — six brothers and Rev. Edward Sorin, C.S.C. — to the Indiana frontier in the United States, where, in 1842, they founded the University of Notre Dame.
“Our mission of making God known, loved and served in our education, parish and mission settings is the same today as the day we were founded,” said Rev. David T. Tyson, provincial superior of the Congregation’s U.S. Province. “Serving God’s people in the 21st century and beyond means as ‘men with hope to bring’ that we remain committed as vowed religious to giving witness to God’s mission, forming His citizens and building His Kingdom.”
Today there are some 1,200 Holy Cross religious working in 16 countries and on five continents.
Headquartered in Notre Dame, Ind., the United States Province of the Congregation includes 500 priests, brothers and seminarians. In addition to their teaching and ministry at Notre Dame, the University of Portland, King’s College in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., and Stonehill College in Easton, Mass., they serve 13 Catholic parishes in the United States and two in Mexico.
Other Holy Cross ministries include André House in Phoenix and the Saint André Bessette Catholic Church in Portland, Ore., both of which serve the homeless and the working poor.