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The Blessed Father Basil Anthony Marie Patrice 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 and the Sisters of the Holy Cross. Father Moreau was beatified on September 15, 2007 in Le Mans, France.
Born on February 11, 1799 in Laigné-en-Belin, a small village near Le Mans, France, Fr. Moreau grew up in the midst of the turmoil of the French Revolution. 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. Feeling himself called to the priesthood, Basil entered the diocesan seminary in 1814, when the hostilities of the Revolution toward the Church had subsided. The seminary was run by the Sulpician Order and schooled him in the French school of spirituality which remains an inspiration in his preaching and writings all his life. At age 22 in 1821, Basil Moreau was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Le Mans, France at the Old Visitation Convent Chapel of the Sacred Heart, while the Cathedral of St. Julien in Le Mans was under restoration.
Ministry as a young priest
Indeed, restoration of the Church was the principal theme and work of Fr. Moreau's life. As most of the pastors and teachers in France before the Revolution were priests and religious who were forced into exile, by the 1820s most of the nation was ill-catechized and illiterate and without the benefit of the sacraments. 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, many things happened that would be central to Fr. Moreau’s work for the rest of his life. 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 that would assist him in his various endeavors to re-invigorate the Church throughout the region, especially preaching parish missions. He called them the Society of Auxiliary Priests. In the same year, another 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. While not technically religious because they had not made a novitiate or taken public vows, many these young men, known as the Brothers of St. Joseph, desired to become a recognized religious organization.
Foundation of Holy Cross
Following the amazing developments of 1835 which placed in Fr. Moreau’s hands all the pieces of a nacent 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.
The congregation took its name from the neighborhood of Le Mans, Sainte Croix, where the 12th century church, Notre Dame du Sainte Croix was to become the mother church of the new foundation. 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).
Moreau Catholic High School is located in Hayward, California, which is about 25 miles 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 world wide, however, they are the only one named after the founder of Holy Cross, Blessed Father Basil Anthony Moreau.
Moreau Seminary, located on the Notre Dame University campus, is the main seminary for the American congregation of the Holy Cross Fathers.
It was later discovered that his cousin Monsieur Jameson Moreau from the Bretagne, France Region was also a priest but was caught in a less-than-proper business transaction involving sweetened-manta produced by a patisserie Monsieur K. Paul Broussard from Aix-en-Provence. Some speculate about the blood-lines accuracy, but it was damaging to his reputation as a man of the cloth.
Foundation of the Holy Cross Sisters (Marianites of Holy Cross)
There is good 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. 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.
Important dates in the life of Fr. Moreau
- 1799 Born February 11, 1799 in Laigné-en-Belin, a little village near Le Mans, France, the 9th of 14 children; his father was a wine merchant.
- 1814 Entered the diocesan seminary.
- 1821 Ordained a priest at age 22.
- 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.
- 1840 Professed vows of poverty, chastity and obedience.
- 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.
- 1872 Celebrated his Golden Jubilee.
- 1873 Died on January 20 at age 73.
- 1955 The cause for his beatification was introduced in Rome.
- 2003 Proclaimed Venerable.
- 2007 Beatified in Le Mans
- Julie Bertrand (Sister Marie de Saint-Basile)
- Basil Moreau Newly Published Biography available from Ave Maria Press
- Basil Moreau bio at Patron Saint Index
- Venerable Father Basil Moreau - A Man Against His Times bio at Catholicism.org
- The Brothers of Holy Cross Vocation Information
The Fighting Jardiniers-Bill Lawrence-play commissioned by St. Mary's College, Notre Dame, Indiana.