Biography of Blessed Basile Moreau
Blessed Basile Moreau, the founder of the Congregation of Holy Cross, was born in Laigné-en-Belin, in the Diocese of Le Mans, France, on Feb. 11, 1799. In 1821, he was ordained a priest for the Diocese of LeMans. He later became a seminary professor, teaching philosophy and theology, while enthusiastically continuing to engage in pastoral work. He was known not only as an inspiring professor, but also a man of God who faithfully sought to grow in the image of Christ through prayer, personal asceticism, and service.
Moreau grew up amidst the turmoil of the French Revolution, and as a young priest he felt compelled to revitalize a Church devastated by years of civil war. With nearly two-thirds of France’s clergy and religious exiled or killed, Moreau organized a group of Auxiliary Priests to preach, teach, and bring the message of Christ to those in neglected towns and villages.
In 1835, his bishop asked him also to oversee the Brothers of St Joseph, which had been founded by Rev. Jacques Dujarié to work as educators in rural parishes. He merged the priests and the brothers in 1837. This association took its name from the town where it was based, Sainte-Croix or Holy Cross.
Moreau’s vision was to maximize the spiritual vigor of this association by modeling it after the Holy Family. He completed the Holy Cross family by founding a group of sisters, known as the Marianites, who were also involved in education and evangelization.
Moreau gave to each of the three groups a patron. He consecrated the priests to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the brothers to the pure heart of St. Joseph, and the sisters to the Immaculate and Sorrowful Heart of Mary. He also established Mary, under her title of Our Lady of Sorrows, as patroness for all of Holy Cross.
Soon the Church outside of France began seeking the assistance of Moreau’s fledgling congregation. He sent priests, brothers and sisters to other countries, including Algeria, the United States, Canada, and Bangladesh.
The Holy See officially declared Moreau’s group to be a religious congregation – the Congregation of Holy Cross – in 1857 by approving the association's Constitutions. The Holy See required that the sisters be separate from this congregation of priests and brothers. The sisters later were approved as three separate congregations.
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Moreau had composed the Constitutions that had been approved by the Holy See, as well as the set of Rules that accompanied them. He also had written Meditations, Spiritual Exercises, and a treatise on pedagogy entitled Christian Education to aid in the spiritual and ministerial formation of his religious. In this way, Moreau, the founder, always remained Moreau, the educator, and teacher. He sought to teach his Congregation a particular spirituality and charism to serve the Church and the world.
Later, amid crises and controversies in the Congregation, including financial issues in France, Moreau resigned as Superior General. He lived his last days estranged from his community but remained active preaching missions until his health failed. The Marianites cared for him until his final days, when Moreau died in Le Mans on January 20, 1873, as recounted by Mother Mary of the Seven Dolors, Mother General of the Marianites.
Moreau was beatified, by order of Pope Benedict XVI, on September 15, 2007, the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, in Le Mans, France. Blessed Basile Moreau remains an inspiration to men and women who live his vision of bringing hope to others. Work continues today on his cause for canonization.
On January 20, 2023, the Congregation of Holy Cross will mark the 150th Anniversary of the entry of our founder, Blessed Basile Moreau, into eternal life. To commemorate this important anniversary, the 2022 General Chapter declared “a celebration to honor our founder, Blessed Basile Moreau, beginning on January 20, 2023, and ending on June 7, 2024, the Feast of the Sacred Heart”.