Father Moreau and the Two Notre Dames

In America, Notre Dame means a university near South Bend, Indiana. In France it means medieval cathedrals in Paris and Chartres. But for members of the Congregation of Holy Cross it also means their spiritual home in the church of Notre Dame de Sainte-Croix near LeMans, France.

Early in his career Basil Anthony Moreau recognized the need to establish a home for his family of Holy Cross. From his friend, Canon de Lisle, he acquired in 1832 a house on a plot of land in the neighborhood called Sainte-Croix (Holy Cross). This property was already known as Notre-Dame, and a man so devoted to Our Lady would not think of changing such a name. The Brothers of Saint Joseph moved into this house in 1835 and soon established a novitiate and boarding school there.

At this time in his life, Moreau had 200 francs (roughly $40). He also had ambitious plans for a society of priests, brothers, and sisters all working together, and no less ambitious plans for a house, college, and church of Notre Dame de Sainte-Croix. In 1836 he acquired the house and grounds of the property just north of Sainte-Croix, and made a home there for his priests, who also started a boarding school. By 1840, the year he sent out his first missionaries, he was able to break ground for the Church of Notre Dame de Sainte-Croix.

In 1842 when one of the first missionaries of Holy Cross, Father Edward Sorin, made his way north with several brothers through the wilderness of Indiana, he arrived on a snowy day at a cabin beside a lake, a log chapel used by earlier missionaries. The place had been known as Sainte-Marie-des-Lacs (St. Mary of the Lakes). It would now be known as Notre Dame du Lac.


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