Congregation of Holy Cross. Canadian Province. Records
Scope and Content
Documents from the archives of the Canadian Province of the Congregation of Holy Cross having to do with the general history of the Congregation, including foundations in Europe, America, and India, and associated congregations of brothers and sisters.
- Creation: 1763-1954
Language of Materials
French, English, Italian, and Latin.
Congregation of the Holy Cross (Catholic Encyclopedia article by Arthur Barry O'Neill)
A body of priests and lay brothers constituted in the religious state by the simple vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, and bearing the common name of Religious of Holy Cross. The essential purpose of the congregation is threefold: the perfection of individual members by the practice of the evangelical counsels; the sanctification of their fellow-men by preaching the Divine word, especially in country places and foreign missions; and the instruction and Christian education of youth. This religious body was in its inception a by-product of the great French Revolution, or, rather, of the reaction from the frenzied hatred of religion and religious education that marked the decade from the meeting of the States General in 1789 to the end of the Directory in 1799. As at present constituted, the congregation is the result of Rome's officially uniting two distinct French societies, the Brothers of St. Joseph, founded at Ruillé in 1820, and the Auxiliary Priests of Le Mans, established in 1835. An excellent summary of the purposes and original activities of the amalgamated associations is given in the following letter, dated 4 May, 1840, and addressed to Pope Gregory XVI by Msgr. Bouvier, Bishop of Le Mans: "Basile-Antoine Moreau, honorary canon, and former professor of theology and holy scripture in our diocesan seminary, has, with the consent of the present bishop, established a house near the city of Le Mans, and has there assembled certain priests burning with love for souls and enamoured of poverty and obedience, who follow the community life under his direction, and are always ready to announce the word of God, to hear confessions, to conduct retreats for communities, etc. They are called Auxiliary Priests and are already fifteen in number. They live on voluntary offerings and on the profits accruing from the board and tuition of a hundred pupils. As the Brothers of the Christian Doctrine do not take charge of establishments unless they can live at least three together and annually receive sufficient support amounting to $120 each they cannot be procured for schools in the country parishes and the small towns. A pious pastor of Ruillé, Jacques-François Dujarié, about the year 1820, gathered into his presbytery a number of virtuous young men, and prepared them to become primary teachers for the parishes in which the services of the Christian Brothers were unattainable. Thus were founded the Brothers of St. Joseph. The present Bishop of Le Mans, seeing that the novitiate of these Brothers could not be suitably maintained in the country district, took measures to transfer them to the episcopal city. With the consent of the founder who was still alive, he gave to the congregation as superior the aforenamed Father Moreau. The latter assumed the heavy burden and united the novitiate to the Auxiliary Priests. This new institute already numbers eighty professed and forty-five novices."
Father Moreau became the first superior general of the congregation, a position which he held until 1866, seven years prior to his death. In addition to his beneficent labours as head of his own community, he had founded, in 1841, the Congregation of the Sisters of Holy Cross, a religious body destined to accomplish much for the glory of God. Father Dujarié, also, was the founder of the Sisters of Providence, a society of religious women whose activities are well known on both sides of the Atlantic. His name is perpetuated in Dujarié Institute, Notre Dame (Indiana), a house for the formation of young men aspiring to the Brotherhood of Holy Cross. The name of the Congregation sprang naturally from that of the commune in which the home of the Auxiliary Priests was situated, it being called after the old church of Holy Cross, erected in the sixth century by St. Bertrand, Bishop of Le Mans. In the early years of the Congregation, the priests and professed clerics were called Salvatorists, and the professed brothers, Josephites; but these appellatives were discarded by the general chapter of 1872, since which date the two branches of the congregation have been styled simply Fathers and Brothers of Holy Cross. The letters C.S.C., following their individual names, are abbreviations of Congregatio Sanctæ Crucis.
The new institute responded so well to the needs of the period and grew so rapidly in numbers that, seventeen years after the date of Msgr. Bouvier's letter to Gregory XVI, it received the formal endorsement of the Apostolic See. The constitution and rules of the congregation were solemnly approved by Rome on 13 May, 1857. According to this constitution, of which subsequent modifications by decrees of general chapters have been authorized by the Holy See, the congregation is governed by a superior general, always a priest, who is elected for life by the general chapter, and who is aided by four assistant-generals, two of them priests, and two brothers. These assistants are elected by the general chapter for a term of six years. The Superior General is represented in Rome by a resident procurator general. This functionary, like the assistant-generals, is elected by the general chapter for a six years' term, as are also the provincials or superiors of the different provinces into which the congregation is territorially divided. The general chapter, which convenes every six years, is composed of the officials already mentioned, and of delegates, both priests and brothers, from each province, the number of delegates being proportioned to the numerical strength of the religious whom they represent. Each separate province is governed by a provincial and his council, consisting of two priests and two brothers. The provincial chapter, held annually, and composed of the provincial, his council, and representatives from each house under their jurisdiction, legislates for the affairs of the province in much the same way as the general chapter does for the whole congregation. Finally, in each house of the congregation there is a local council, consisting of the superior and of members varying in number according to the muster-roll of the religious resident therein. In the more restricted sphere of the individual life, the Fathers and Brothers of Holy Cross assist in common every day at meditation, holy Mass, particular examen, beads, spiritual reading, and night prayer. The daily visit to the Blessed Sacrament, as well as the recitation of the Divine Office by the fathers, the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin by the teaching brothers, and the saying thrice daily of the seven Our Fathers and Hail Marys by the brothers engaged in manual labour, is left as to time to the convenience of the individual religious. The weekly exercises of piety include the chapter of accusation (the avowing to the community of one's exterior infractions of the rules), the Way of the Cross, and an hour of adoration before the Blessed Sacrament. Previous to the promulgation, in 1905, by Pius X, of the decree "Sacra Tridentina Synodus," relative to frequent and daily Communion, the religious of Holy Cross were obliged by their rule to go to Confession every week and to receive Holy Communion at least once a week. Since the publication of the decree in question, its proscriptions have been adopted by the authorities of the congregation and form the normal practice of its members. Once a month, there is a retreat of one day with spiritual direction; and, once a year, a retreat of a week's duration.
In the earlier decade of the congregation's history, its members were recruited principally from the ranks of the students attending the colleges and schools conducted by the fathers and brothers, with occasional vocations discovered in the course of missions, triduums, and retreats preached by members of the congregation. Later on, each province was supplied with a "little seminary," or house of preparatory studies, specifically designed for the education of boys or young men manifesting an inclination for the religious life. Holy Cross Seminary and Dujarié Institute at Notre Dame, Indiana, are examples of such establishments for the preliminary training of prospective fathers and brothers. The novitiate lasts two years. In so far as ecclesiastical recruits are concerned, they enter upon their novitiate only on the completion of their collegiate course and their attainment of the baccalaureate degree. Their secular studies are then intermitted until they have made their religious profession, when they begin a four years' course in theology and the other branches of ecclesiastical science proper to a regular seminary. Save by exception, becoming more and more rare, they do no professorial work until after their ordination to the priesthood. Similar precautions are taken with the formation of the novice brothers prior to entrusting them with the function of teaching. Mention must be made of the mission in Algeria, which was one of the Congregation's earliest establishments. The work accomplished for the Church in the French possessions of Northern Africa about the middle of the nineteenth century, included the humble but essential task of furnishing primary education to the young. During a third of a century, the brothers of the congregation devoted themselves to this work in different portions of Algeria with an ardour and success that won for them the affection and esteem of the people, and the generous praise of their ecclesiastical superiors. These latter desired the permanent residence of one of the fathers in each of the houses confided to the congregation, but the home government repeatedly refused to sanction such a proceeding, alleging that "the Algerian budget did not provide for the additional expense." The brothers were obliged to leave the African mission, shortly after the close of the Franco-Prussian war, in consequence of the policy, even then inaugurated in some of France's colonies, of laicizing the schools. Regrettable as this abandonment of their colonial mission was felt to be, it was of minor importance when compared with the trial to which the congregation was subjected a quarter of a century later in the home country, France itself. The activities of Holy Cross in the land of its birth had, in the course of half a dozen decades, become practically restricted to educational work, primary and secondary. When the Law of Associations was passed in 1901, the fathers and brothers were conducting a number of flourishing colleges, academies, and schools in different departments of France. The College of Notre Dame de Ste Croix, at Neuilly-sur-Seine, alone had an average attendance of from six to eight hundred students, and the excellence of its courses was attested by the uniform success of its graduates in passing the governmental examinations for degrees. On the passage of the law in question, application was at once made to the French government for the "authorization" of the congregation; but, as had been feared and foreseen, the application was unsuccessful. Schools and colleges were closed, the buildings and properties were "liquidated," liquidation in this case meaning confiscation; and, in 1903, the province or Holy Cross had been reduced to a handful of aged and toil-worn brothers leading, with one of the fathers as the chaplain, a precarious existence at Angers. Fortunately the Religious of Holy Cross, when expelled from France, had other provinces of their order in which they could lead, though in exile, the community denied them at home. Accordingly, numbers of them went cheerfully to Bengal, Canada, and the United States. The Province of Eastern Bengal, coextensive with the Diocese of Dacca, is the special field of foreign missions confided by the Holy See to the Congregation of Holy Cross. The field is a large one, the area of the diocese being more than 50,000 square miles, with a population of 17,000,000, the overwhelming majority of the people being Hindus and Mussulmans. The connection of Holy Cross with this portion of the missionary field dates back to 1852, some forty years before Dacca was made an episcopal see. In 1909, Bengal received its fourth bishop from the ranks of the congregation. In the city of Dacca the fathers are devoting part of their time to the work of secondary education; in the country districts the usual routine of foreign missionary life is followed: travelling from point to point, catechizing, baptizing, preaching, instructing converts, building modest chapels, and serving on occasion as medical doctor, judge, and peacemaker. The establishment by the congregation, in Rome, of an Apostolic college specifically designed for the needs of the mission gave, in 1909, bright promise for its future prosperity.
The Canadian province of the congregation owes its origin to the reiterated requests made to Father Moreau by the saintly Bishop Bourget, of Montreal, in 1841 and the several years following. The first band of fathers and brothers reached St. Laurent, near Montreal, in 1847. The early years in Canada were marked by sacrifice and hardship, but the growth of the congregation was encouragingly steady. In the latter half of the nineteenth century, and first decade of the twentieth, St. Laurent College was habitually attended by from two to four hundred students, many of them from the New England States and New York. Of these American students very many entered the priesthood. In addition to the college, the parish, and the parochial schools at St. Laurent, the congregation has, in the geographical province of Quebec, colleges at Côte des Neiges, Farnham, St Cesaire, Sorel, and St. Aimé; large schools at Hochelaga, Côte des Neiges, Ste. Geneviève, and Pointe Claire; a novitiate at Ste. Geneviève; and a house of studies for professed ecclesiastics attending Laval University in Quebec city. The most notably effective work of Holy Cross in Canada, however, has been accomplished in New Brunswick, where St. Joseph's College, established at Memamcook in 1864, by Father Camille Lefebvre, has been the principal agency in raising the French Acadians from the condition of "hewers of wood and drawers of water" to one of professional, industrial, and social equality with their fellow-citizens of other nationalities. English-speaking Catholics in New Brunswick are scarcely less indebted to St. Joseph's. The oldest, most extensive, and most important existing province of the congregation is the United States. Its story is largely that of Notre Dame, Indiana, of which the other establishments of Holy Cross throughout the province are offshoots. Such establishments are colleges in Oregon, Wisconsin, Ohio, Louisiana, and Texas; schools, high and primary, in Fort Wayne (Indiana), Chicago (Illinois), and Austin (Texas), parishes in Chicago, Portland (Oregon), Watertown (Wisconsin), New Orleans (Louisiana), Austin (Texas), and South Bend (Indiana); and Holy Cross College, Washington, D.C., the house of studies for the young clerics of the congregation attending the Catholic University. As for Notre Dame, Indiana, widely known as the home of the "Ave Maria," Notre Dame University, and the Laetare Medal, its history dates back to 1842, synchronizing during its first half-century with the life-story of Father Edward Sorin, its founder. A brief word should perhaps be said of two institutions which serve as splendid memorials of Notre Dame's founder and of the spirit animating the Congregation of Holy Cross as a whole. The first is the "Ave Maria," a weekly magazine devoted to the honour of the Blessed Virgin. Established in 1865, and steadily growing in importance and prestige, it has attained a circulation practically coextensive with the English-speaking world. The second is the Laetare Medal. An adaptation of the papal custom of conferring the Golden Rose, this gold medal is annually presented by the University of Notre Dame, on the mid-Lenten Sunday, to an American lay Catholic distinguished in literature, science, art, commerce, philanthropy, sociology, or other field of beneficent activity. The first recipient of the Laetare Medal (1883) was John Gilmary Shea; the latest (1909) was Frances Christine Fisher Tiernan, the novelist who has achieved notable distinction as Christian Reid. Notre Dame has been tried by cholera, fire, financial stringency, and multifarious other hardships, but the spirit of its founder was perpetuated in his successors, and its growth has been uniformly progressive. In 1842, Notre Dame du Lac was a virgin wilderness whose only note of civilization was a log chapel built by the proto-priest of the United States, Father Stephen Badin; in 1909, the name Notre Dame denotes a magnificent group of more than a score of handsome edifices: collegiate church, central administration building of the university, half a dozen residence halls, institutes of science, technology, and electrical and mechanical engineering, theatre, gymnasium, seminary, novitiate, provincial residence, community house, printing and publishing offices, and other accessory structures. It is, moreover, the site of the mother-house of the Congregation of Holy Cross, the residence of Father Sorin's successor as superior general.
SORIN, Circular Letters (Notre Dame, Ind., 1880); MOREAU, Basile-Antoine Moreau et ses Oeuvres (Paris, 1900); POIRIER, Le Pere Lefebvre et L'Acadie (Montreal, 1898); CORBY, Memoirs of Chaplain Life (Chicago, 1893); IDEM, Golden Jubilee of Notre Dame University (Chicago, 1895).
55 reels of microfilm
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Archives of the CSC Canadian Province. In the mid-1970s the archivist for the Indiana Province of the Congregation of Holy Cross, Thomas Elliot, CSC, went to Canada with Notre Dame professor Thomas Schlereth and Notre Dame archivist Wendy Schlereth to arrange for microfilming of documents of interest to Notre Dame.
- Congregation of Holy Cross: Canadian Province Records
- University of Notre Dame Archives
- Language of description
- Script of description
- Language of description note
- French and English