Blessed Basile Moreau sent the Congregation’s first missionaries – a large group of two priests, eight brothers, and four sisters – to Canada in 1847. It was the Congregation’s third mission outside of France and followed on the heels of the missions to Algeria (1840) and the United States (1841).
This first group of missionaries worked in schools in Saint-Laurent and Terrebonne, both near Montreal. The work quickly spread out from there, despite the hardship and poverty faced by the missionaries. By 1864, the Congregation was also working in Memramcook in the region of Acadia.
The following decades witnessed a great expansion of the Congregation’s work in Canada, which eventually spanned from coast to coast and encompassed ministry in both French and English. This expansion included the growth of existing institutions, such as the College Saint-Laurent, and the foundation of new ones, such as St. Joseph’s University in Memramcook.
The growth of Holy Cross in Canada also allowed the Congregation to send waves of priests and brothers from the county around the world, including to new missions in Brazil (1944), Haiti (1944), and South India (1959).
Today, the Congregation remains active in promoting and working in Catholic education in the country. The Congregation also has pastoral responsibility for six parishes, both English- and French-speaking.
"Our approach to ministry is characterized by closeness to the people and the desire to empower them to use their gifts and talents to build up the community of believers. Our task is to help bring light, hope, forgiveness, and encouragement so that the richness of Jesus’ message breaks through into their daily lives." – Rev. John Vickers, C.S.C.
The work of the Congregation in Canada continues to be marked most significantly by Saint André Bessette, the humble Holy Cross brother who became the Congregation’s first canonized saint in 2010. Known as the “Miracle Man of Montreal” for the miraculous healings attributed to his intercession, St. André also built the Oratory to St. Joseph on Mount Royal in Montreal.
The Oratory is one of the largest pilgrimage sites in the world, with over two million pilgrims visiting each year. They come to pray with St. André and seek healing in their lives.
The Congregation’s pastoral staff there includes Holy Cross religious from France, the United States, India, Haiti, and Bangladesh to meet the needs of diverse pilgrims who come to the Oratory. They seek to provide the same spirit of welcome and healing that people found in Brother André. It is a spirit that has influenced many of the other ministries of the Congregation in Canada – and around the world – that reach out in a preferential way to the suffering and those in need.
"St. André’s heroic characteristics, especially his open mind and humility, help orient our mission in the secularized society in which we find ourselves. Through our ministry, the Oratory continues to be a place where they and all who hunger for God can find hospitality and healing." – Rev. Denis Prescott, C.S.C.