Blessed Basil Anthony Moreau
Founder of the sisters, brothers and priests of Holy Cross
The example and the teaching of Blessed Basil Anthony Moreau continue to inspire the religious family of sisters, brothers and priests of Holy Cross, which he founded to serve the people of God.
Father Moreau was born on February 11, 1799, in Laigné-en-Belin near Le Mans, France, near the close of the French Revolution. Ordained a priest at 22 years of age, he taught and served as assistant superior of the major seminary in Le Mans. Deeply committed to preaching and Christian education in France, he laid the foundations for the society of auxiliary priests.
In 1835, at the bishop’s request, he took direction of the Brothers of St. Joseph, founded in 1820 by Father Jacques Dujarié. On March 1, 1837, the auxiliary priests and the Brothers of St. Joseph were united into the Association of Holy Cross. With papal approval in May 1857, this association became the Congregation of Holy Cross.
The mighty tree grows
In 1841, to respond more effectively to the mission, Father Moreau founded a group of women religious. Placing them under the special patronage of Mary, the Mother of Sorrows, Father Moreau encouraged the sisters to be associated with her as women of faith and compassion, and promoted 12 virtues as a way of life. Today, the women form three distinct congregations: Marianites of Holy Cross, Sisters of Holy Cross and Sisters of the Holy Cross.
Although Father Moreau resigned as superior general in 1866, he continued an active preaching and retreat ministry until his death on January 20, 1873.
Continuing the mission
Today, women and men religious of Holy Cross minister in Europe, North and South America, Africa and Asia. They are engaged in a variety of ministries fulfilling their commitment to continue the mission of Jesus in the spirit of Father Moreau.
With heartfelt gratitude and pride, the Holy Cross family of sisters, brothers and priests celebrated the beatification of Father Moreau on September 15, 2007.
Lord Jesus, source of all that is good, you inspired Blessed Basil Moreau
to found the religious family of Holy Cross to continue your mission among the people of God.
May he be for us a model of the apostolic life, an example of fidelity
and an inspiration as we strive to follow you.
May the Church be moved to proclaim his saintliness for the good of all people.
Lord Jesus, you said, “Ask and you shall receive.”
I dare to come to you to ask that you hear my prayer.
It is through the intercession of Blessed Basil Moreau that I ask ...
May I learn to imitate his holiness and service and look to him confidently in times of need.
Virtues of the whole person
Placing the Congregation under the special patronage of Mary, the Mother of Sorrows, Blessed Basil Anthony Moreau encouraged the sisters to be associated with her as women of faith and compassion. He asked that all members of the Congregation strive always “toward that more perfect union of hearts which is the foundation of the unity and strength of Holy Cross.” (Circular Letter 14)
Father Moreau is convinced of God’s constant presence and activity in our world, of God’s fidelity to us.
I am convinced that Providence, which has in the past done everything necessary for the development and perfection of its work, will continue to bestow on it most abundant blessings. To ensure this, we must be constantly animated by the spirit of zeal and generosity which so holy an undertaking requires. (Circular Letter 9)
According to Father Moreau, our presence and activity are to be characterized by a passion, an inner fire, which urges us to serve God’s people in holiness.
By zeal is understood that flame of burning desire which one feels to make God known, loved, and served and thus save souls. Apostolic activity is therefore the essential character of this virtue, and all (ministers) who are animated by it will fulfill the duties of their state with eagerness, affection, courage, and perseverance. (Christian Education I:1)
Father Moreau frequently reminds the members of the Family of Holy Cross that experiences of the cross are inevitable in life and ministry. Our response can be a means of transformation or a means of running from the cross.
The cross is God’s choicest grace, a grace reserved for the purification and strengthening of the saints.... After the example of the saints, let us thank God for having initiated us into this secret of His providential action on those He loves, because, as you well know, this is how His goodness deals with us. (Circular Letter 28)
According to Father Moreau, fidelity is fundamental in responding to God’s call. It constitutes the appropriate response to God’s constant fidelity to us.
There is one condition which is essential for the future of our Congregation, a condition without which not even Providence will act. This condition is your own generous cooperation and your faithful correspondence with the grace of vocation. (Circular Letter 79)
The example of the compassionate Jesus, for Father Moreau, is the basic model and foundation for our life as ministers.
Jesus had compassion for those who suffered all kinds of afflictions and he comforted those who were sad ... he shows compassion for the widow of Naim ... with great tenderness he encounters the Samaritan woman ... he weeps with Lazarus’ sisters and calls him back to life ... he embraces little children with fatherly care ... in love he prays on the cross for his most malicious enemies .... (Exercises)
Father Moreau understands community to be a powerful and prophetic force shaping our life and ministry.
The one aim of the glory of God and the salvation of souls inspires almost all the members and gives rise to a oneness of effort which tends toward that more perfect union of hearts which is the foundation of the unity and strength of Holy Cross. ...
... Union, then, is a powerful lever with which we could move, direct, and sanctify the whole world. (Circular Letter 14)
In founding Holy Cross, Father Moreau formed a family of three societies, men and women, lay and ordained, to be a sign of love and unity in a world of division. Today, that family comprises four congregations of Holy Cross.
The members of the Association are to form but one same family, united by the sweet bonds of fraternal charity and the three vows of religion. In this way, Notre-Dame de Sainte-Croix [Our Lady of Holy Cross] will grow like a stately tree and constantly shoot forth new limbs and branches, which will be nourished by the same life-giving sap. If this is to be so, however, all the members must cultivate the spirit of mutual love and cooperation, and have at heart the welfare and success of the Association as a whole rather than the private interests of egoism and self-love. (Circular Letter 65)
Father Moreau’s vision for the family of Holy Cross includes interdependence as a quality and a way of life, marking all our relationships in community and in ministry.
There will not be a single member of our Association who will not make his own personal contribution to its progress, according to his strength, intellectual ability and particular aptitudes. One will do intellectual work, and another, manual labor; this one will teach, that one will administer the Sacraments; and all the while this activity of the individual will help the community, and the activity of the community will, in turn, help each individual. Joys and sorrows will be mutual. (Circular Letter 65)
Father Moreau regularly emphasizes the importance of remaining faithful in religious life and professional in ministry.
This important work which has been entrusted to us is not yet completed. It still calls for many sacrifices and much labor. I am well aware of all that still remains to be done to form our [members] to the religious life, to afford them an intellectual formation in keeping with the needs of the times, and to establish [continuity] in their conduct and their teaching methods. (Circular Letter 14)
Father Moreau planted the roots of the Family of Holy Cross deeply within the church, placing us at the service of the local and universal church. Through this placement and rootedness, we have become an international and multicultural apostolic religious family.
For myself, as long as blood runs in my veins and my heart beats in my breast, I shall bless the Lord for having inspired the [Vicar of Christ] with so touching an interest in Notre-Dame de Sainte-Croix [Our Lady of Holy Cross] and its work. ... I thank God also that the Sacred Congregation of Propaganda has sufficient confidence in our zeal to summon us to the apostolate of the foreign missions. (Circular Letter 54)
Father Moreau insists that the members of the family of Holy Cross be open to and accepting of all cultures and countries and religious of Holy Cross.
Let us not limit our interests to the narrow confines of a particular house, a Province, or our own country. This would be egoism and self-seeking. Rather let us be one with all our houses, and regard none as a stranger to the one in which we dwell. (Circular Letter 174)
Father Moreau challenges us to be people of hope, convinced by our way of life that God is ever present and active in our world, that God has not abandoned the people. This same hope must be communicated through our ministries.
Let us, then, continue, with noble courage, my dear sons and daughters in Jesus Christ, on the difficult path which we have chosen. We should rely confidently on Him who has called us to so glorious a task, find encouragement in the hope of a better life, and keep our eyes fixed on that changeless eternity where no longer there will be succession of days, weeks, months, and years. (Circular Letter 23)