For 175 years, the Congregation of Holy Cross has met the spiritual and educational needs of people suffering from the upheavals of the French Revolution, the Catholic pioneers of the newly formed United States and the field hands and factory workers of Peruvian sugar farms.

The United States Province of Holy Cross priests and brothers this month (March) joined 17 other provinces, vicariates and districts around the world to celebrate the 175th anniversary of founding.

The University of Portland has been guided by the Congregation of Holy Cross since the school was founded in 1901. St. André Bessette and Holy Redeemer parishes in Portland are served by Holy Cross priests.

“Our mission of making God known, loved and served in our education, parish, and mission settings is the same today as the day we were founded,” says Holy Cross Father David Tyson, provincial superior of the U.S. Province and former president of the University of Portland. 

The congregation was formed in France when Father Basil Moreau joined his auxiliary priests with the Brothers of St. Joseph, founded by Father Jacques Dujarie. The group became a single association of priests and brothers to minister and rebuild the schools destroyed by the French Revolution.

Father Moreau named his new group Congregatio a Sancta Cruce, which literally means “Congregation of Holy Cross” named for Sainte-Croix, a small French town outside Le Mans, France. Later, he would add a group of sisters, the Marianites of Holy Cross. The model for Father Moreau’s new family was the Holy Family.

A religious community comprised of priests, brothers and sisters was a revolutionary concept at the time. He called on his new community to find hope in the cross of self-emptying love, to stand by others as the Mother of Sorrows stood by her son dying on the Cross, and to work together zealously as educators in faith.

Father Moreau sent missionaries to Algeria, Canada and Eastern Bengal to spread the Gospel. He also sent seven young men — six brothers and Father Edward Sorin — to the United States, where in 1842, they founded the University of Notre Dame in northern Indiana, along with area parishes.

Pope Pius IX officially recognized the community as a religious congregation in 1857. But as part of its approval, the Holy See required that the Marianites become their own independent congregation. Today there are three groups of sisters – the Marianites of Holy Cross, the Sisters of Holy Cross, and the Sisters of the Holy Cross – who all trace their spiritual heritage and tradition back to Father Moreau.

Father Moreau died in 1873 in Le Mans and is buried at the home of the Congregation’s Mother Church. In 2007, Pope Benedict beatified him.

There are approximately 1,200 Holy Cross Religious in 16 countries. The United States Province counts 500.