Basil Moreau

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Blessed Basil Moreau
Official Moreau high density.jpg
Blessed Basil Moreau
Born (1799-02-11)February 11, 1799
Laigné-en-Belin, France
Died January 20, 1873(1873-01-20) (aged 73)
Le Mans, France
Venerated in Roman Catholicism
Beatified September 15, 2007, Le Mans, France by Pope Benedict XVI

Basil Moreau, CSC (February 11, 1799 – January 20, 1873) was the French priest who founded the Congregation of Holy Cross from which three additional congregations were founded, namely the Marianites of Holy Cross, the Sisters of the Holy Cross, and the Sisters of Holy Cross. Father Moreau was beatified on September 15, 2007 in Le Mans, France.

Early life

Basile-Antoine Moreau was born on February 11, 1799, in Laigné-en-Belin, a small village near Le Mans, France to Louis and Louise Pioger Moreau. His father was a wine merchant.[1] He grew up in the midst of the turmoil of the French Revolution.[2] As his parents were devout Catholics involved in the underground Church, the aspect of the Revolution which most affected him was the suppression of the Church.

The ninth of 14 children, Basil was accustomed to a sparse life; yet, by the generosity of his pastor who tutored him, he was able to achieve a good primary education. The priest then made arrangements for him to enter the Minor seminary at Chateau Gontier.[1] Feeling himself called to the priesthood, Basil entered the diocesan seminary in 1812, when the hostilities of the Revolution toward the Church had subsided. The seminary was run by the Society of Saint-Sulpice and schooled him in the French school of spirituality which remained an inspiration in his preaching and writings all his life. At the age of 22, in 1821, Basil Moreau was ordained a priest[3] of the Diocese of Le Mans at the Old Visitation Convent Chapel of the Sacred Heart, while the Cathedral of St. Julien in Le Mans was under restoration. After ordination Fr. Moreau spent two more years with the Sulpicians in Paris.[1]


Basil Moreau in a stained glass window in Stinson-Remick hall at the University of Notre Dame

In 1823, he became professor of philosophy at the minor seminary of Tessé. Then in 1825 he taught at St Vincent Seminary and later became the vice-rector and spiritual director.[4] As most of the pastors and teachers in France before the Revolution were priests and religious forced into exile, by the 1820s most of the nation was ill-catechized, illiterate, and without benefit of the sacraments. Restoration of the Church was the principal theme and work of Fr. Moreau's life.[4] As a young priest and throughout his life, Basil was an effective preacher who preached parish missions and offered the sacraments on an itinerant basis to rekindle the neglected faith in towns and villages throughout the region.

In 1835, he was assigned to be the assistant superior of the seminary at Le Mans, where he was a popular and inspiring professor of theology. He founded a group of priests within the Diocese of Le Mans to assist diocesan clergy in his various endeavors to re-invigorate the Church, especially preaching parish missions. He called them the Society of Auxiliary Priests. In the same year, an older priest of the same diocese, Fr. Jacques-Francois Dujarié, who fifteen years before, in 1820, had founded a band of young men to re-establish and teach in the schools throughout the region, handed responsibility for them over to Fr. Moreau on account of his failing health.[5] While not technically religious because they had not made a novitiate or taken public vows, these young men were known as the Brothers of St. Joseph.[4]

Foundation of Holy Cross

Following the developments of 1835 which placed in Fr. Moreau's hands all the pieces of a nascent religious community, he began to lay the groundwork for just that. In 1837, under the leadership of Fr. Moreau, the Brothers of St. Joseph and the Society of Auxiliary Priests joined by signing together the "Fundamental Pact of Union", becoming two equal societies in one community, the Congregation of Holy Cross.[3]

The congregation took its name from the neighborhood of Sainte-Croix in Le Mans, where the 12th-century church, Notre-Dame de Sainte-Croix, was to become the mother church of the new foundation.[5] Holy Cross, following the example of its founder, would be ultramontane in its outlook, even adopting at the behest of Pope Pius IX the Roman collar and the black cape for the priest (which is identical to the pope's, but in black).

Foundations of sisters

There is evidence that Fr. Dujarie's dream was to found a religious community of three societies, priests, brothers, and sisters under one rule and one superior general. Fr. Moreau made good on that vision by founding in 1841 a third society within the Congregation, that of the sisters.[3] There are three distinct congregations: the Marianites of Holy Cross (France), Sisters of the Holy Cross (United States), and Sisters of Holy Cross (Canada).[5]

Taking his inspiration from Fr. Dujarie, Moreau named the societies the Salvatorists, the Josephites and the Marianites, after the three persons of the Holy Family. To this day, though in separate congregations, the priests, brothers and sisters of Holy Cross call themselves informally the Holy Cross Family.

Later life

In the late 1850s, several influential members at a general chapter had him ousted as superior general over differences in what direction the congregation should take. Forced to live apart from the community, he moved in with his sisters but continued to preach retreats in the country parishes around Le Mans. Moreau died on January 20, 1873.[6]

Important dates in the life of Fr. Moreau

  • 1835 Taught and served as assistant superior in Le Mans; named leader of the Brothers of St. Joseph founded by Fr. Jacques Dujarié. Founded the society of Auxiliary Priests.
  • 1837 United the brothers and priests into the Association of Holy Cross.
  • 1844 Received the vows of Léocadie Gascoin and three Marianites.
  • 1857 Received papal approval of the constitutions for the Association, which became the Congregation of Holy Cross.
  • 1866 Resigned as superior general, but continued an active preaching and retreat ministry.
  • 1873 Died on January 20 at age 73.


In 1957, Basil Moreau was declared a Servant of God. On April 12, 2003, Pope John Paul II proclaimed him Venerable.[7] Basil Moreau was beatified in Le Mans by Pope Benedict XVI on September 15, 2007, the feast day of Our Lady of Sorrows, and feast day of the Congregation of Holy Cross.[2] Blessed Basil Moreau is commemorated on January 20.[8]


Education is Moreau's lasting legacy.[6] Moreau Seminary, located on the University of Notre Dame campus, is the main seminary for the American congregation of the Holy Cross Fathers. Moreau is credited with playing a key role in the foundation of the University of Notre Dame as well as Saint Mary's College in Notre Dame, Indiana. He had a vision for unifying the two same-sex schools, but was prevented from doing so by the Vatican in Rome due to their historical beliefs that men and women should not live together. He was eventually stripped of his responsibilities for the two schools.

In 1966, the Josephites (or Brothers of Holy Cross) founded the third institution of higher education in Notre Dame, Indiana to base its educational philosophy on the teachings of Basil Moreau. Holy Cross College began as a community college with the mission of helping students with the intent to transfer into one of the other two institutions. However, in 2003 Holy Cross College became a residential baccalaureate liberal arts college with its own reputation for superior teaching.

St. Edward's University in Austin, Texas is a Holy Cross school and has a co-ed residential hall called Basil Moreau Hall.[9]

The University of Portland in Portland, Oregon is run by the Congregation of Holy Cross. It features the Moreau Center for Service and Leadership, which connects students to service opportunities throughout Portland and beyond.[10]

Moreau Catholic High School is located in Hayward, California, about 25 miles (40 km) southeast of San Francisco. It is among nine Catholic high schools in the Diocese of Oakland, and it is sponsored by the South-West Province of the Congregation of Holy Cross. Moreau Catholic is affiliated with many other Holy Cross educational institutions worldwide, but they are the only one named after the founder of Holy Cross, Blessed Father Basil Anthony Moreau.

The Holy Cross High School, New Orleans in New Orleans, Louisiana was founded by Fr. Basil Moreau. It was once called Holy Cross College, but is now known as Holy Cross School. It is located on Paris Avenue.

See also


  1. ^ a b c "History of Father Moreau", Marianites of the Holy Cross
  2. ^ a b "Blessed Father Basil Moreau, C.S.C.", The Brothers of the Holy Cross
  3. ^ a b c ""Blessed Basil Anthony Moreau", Sisters of the Holy Cross". Archived from the original on 2014-02-21. Retrieved 2014-02-26.
  4. ^ a b c "Bl. Basil Anthony Mary Moreau (1799-1873)", Vatican News Service Archived April 2, 2014, at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ a b c "Holy Cross: Blessed Basil Moreau, C.S.C.", University of Portland
  6. ^ a b "Pitre, Dan E., "Father Basile Moreau: France's Blessed Teacher", St. Anthony Messenger". Archived from the original on 2007-09-13. Retrieved 2016-03-23.
  7. ^ "Cleary, Hugh C.S.C., "The Beatification of Rev. Basil Moreau C.S.C., Congregation of the Holy Cross, USA". Archived from the original on 2016-02-15. Retrieved 2016-02-10.
  8. ^ "MacEoin, Gary. ""Basil Moreau, Founder of Holy Cross", Congregation of the Holy Cross, USA". Archived from the original on 2016-02-15. Retrieved 2016-02-10.
  9. ^ ""Basil Moreau Hall", St. Edward's University, Austin, Texas". Archived from the original on 2015-09-05. Retrieved 2015-08-18.
  10. ^ Moreau Center, University of Portland, (Oregon) Archived June 13, 2011, at the Wayback Machine

External links

  • "Bl. Basil Anthony Mary Moreau (1799-1873)", Vatican News Service
  • Basil Moreau, newly published biography available from Ave Maria Press
  • The Congregation of Holy Cross, United States Province of Priests and Brothers
  • The Fighting Jardiniers, a play by Bill Lawrence, commissioned by St. Mary's College, Notre Dame, Indiana
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