On February 11, 1799, at Laigné-en-Belin, a village near Le Mans, France, Basil Anthony Moreau, who was to become the founder of the Congregation of Holy Cross, was born. He was ordained a priest of the diocese of Le Mans in 1821 and soon became a member of the faculty of the diocesan seminary, teaching Scripture and providing spiritual direction for young men studying for the priesthood. Within a few years he had gathered some of the priests who were his colleagues in the faculty into an association of “auxiliary priests” whose mission it was to assist parish priests through their preaching and ministry.
In addition Moreau was asked to undertake the direction of a group of religious laymen, who, since 1820, had been known as the Brothers of St. Joseph. He joined the two groups into one body in 1835, which he called the Congregation of Holy Cross, after Sainte Croix, a suburb of Le Mans in which he owned some property and which became the first headquarters of the new group.
He also began to accept women into a division of the congregation known as the Marianites of Holy Cross. The brothers taught in schools, at first in the parishes of the diocese of Le Mans, as the priests conducted their ministry in the same area. The sisters undertook a number of ministries as teachers and in support of the work of brothers and priests. Soon, however, Moreau was responding to calls for assistance in distant places. By 1853 there were Holy Cross religious in North America, Africa, and in East Bengal, as well as in France. Eventually the sisters were split off into an autonomous society and today exist in three religious congregations. Today members of the Congregation of Holy Cross serve in France, North America, South America, Africa, and Asia. For more history from this week, see the University Almanac at www.up.edu/almanac.