History of Holy Cross


dsc00014In the troubled period following the French Revolution, Blessed 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 Indiana Province. Sorin followed Moreau’s example of sending out priests and brothers to found other schools and parishes throughout the United States and Canada. The Indiana Province grew to include parishes, universities, schools and ministries in the U.S. and Mexico, along with overseas missions in Chile and East Africa.

Prior to 1948, there was only one United States Province of the Congregation of Holy Cross and it was headquartered at Notre Dame. The Eastern Province was established in 1948. As “educators in the faith,” two more colleges were established, along with other ministries and an overseas mission in Peru.


On July 1, 2011, the Eastern Province merged into the Indiana Province, making it the United States Province of Priests and Brothers. The ministries of the new province now include four colleges and universities: University of Notre Dame (Notre Dame, Ind., 1842),University of Portland (Portland, Ore., 1901), King’s College (Wilkes-Barre, Pa., 1946) and Stonehill College (Easton, Mass., 1948).

We have 13 parishes from Vermont to Florida and Oregon to Texas and two in México. Our ministries/apostolates include André House in Phoenix and the Saint André Bessette Catholic Church in Portland, which both serve the homeless and the working poor. Ave Maria Press is the leading Catholic publisher of spiritual books, parish resources and Catholic high school religion textbooks. Holy Cross Family Ministries in North Easton, Mass., was founded by Servant of God Patrick Peyton and encompasses Family Theater ProductionsFamily Rosary and Father Peyton Family Institute. Our international mission work reaches into México, Chile, Perú, Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania. Please view a map of all the locations that the new United States Province serves.

The Congregation’s United States Province comprises approximately 400 priests and brothers and more than 100 young men in formation in the U.S. and the Districts of Chile, East Africa and Peru. The administrative offices of the Province are located in Notre Dame, Ind.

Globally, there are more than 1,500 members of the Congregation of Holy Cross. We live and work in some 16 countries on five continents. To read more about the global community of parishes, missions and educational institutions, please visit the website of the Congregation of Holy Cross‘ Superior General in Rome.

As Holy Cross looks forward to the first century of the next millennium, we are continuing to serve the Church as “Educators in the Faith,” bringing to fruition much of Blessed Moreau’s original vision.