Marianites of Holy Cross

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The Marianites of Holy Cross (MSC) is a Roman Catholic congregation of nuns, founded in Le Mans, France, in 1841, by the Blessed Father Basil Anthony-Marie Moreau, CSC. Originally, founded as a third distinct society within the Congregation of Holy Cross (that is, the congregation of the priests and brothers of Holy Cross), the Marianites of Holy Cross is now an independent congregation.


Bl.Basil Anthony Moreau

Basil Anthony Moreau

In 1835 Father Basil Anthony Moreau, then assistant superior of the seminary at Le Mans, founded a group of priests to assist him in his endeavors to re-invigorate the Church throughout the diocese. He called them the Society of Auxiliary Priests. He also assumed supervision of the Brothers of St. Joseph when their founder Father Jacques Dujarié became too ill to continue their direction. In 1837 the two organizations were combined to form the Association of the Holy Cross.[1]

The following year he gave a rule of life to a group of devout laywomen who assisted the priests and brothers, first by doing domestic work, then in teaching and nursing. These women became the Marianites of Holy Cross. In 1841 the first Marianites received the religious habit. The Marianites were dedicated to Mary, under the title of Our Lady of Seven Dolors. The women of Holy Cross came to form three distinct congregations: Marianites of Holy Cross, Sisters of the Holy Cross, and Sisters of Holy Cross.[1]

Leocadie Romaine Gascoin

Leocadie Romaine Gascoin was born 1818 in Montenay, the 4th of 6 children. Her parents were middle-class farmers. Her mother died in 1822. Leocadie spent most of her early life at home taking care of her family. 1841 she became one of the first Marianites, entered the novitiate in Le Mans. She received her religious formation at the Monastery of the Good Shepherd in Le Mans under the direction Mother Mary of St. Dosithee. Gascoin pronounced first vows in 1844 and the following year she was named the first Superior General of the Marianites, taking the name Mother Mary of Seven Dolors (Mere Marie Des Sept Douleurs). She died in 1900 in Le Mans.[2]

As the congregation grew throughout the 1840s and early 1850s in the United States and Canada, Fr. Moreau would always send groups of priests, brothers and sisters to work together and support each other's mission within the Family of Holy Cross. The sisters initially supported the priests and brothers by providing domestic services. Very quickly, however, particularly in the United States, the sisters began their own educational institutions. In 1844, in Bertrand, Michigan, the sisters started a school for girls. By 1855, this school would move the 6 miles to Notre Dame, Indiana to become Saint Mary's College, one of the leading Catholic women's liberal arts colleges, even today.

In 1856, Rome approved the constitutions of Holy Cross for the men. Doubting the propriety of a mixed congregation of men and women, Rome separated the women into an independent community at that time. Fr. Moreau, in his role as their founder, continued to work for Rome's approval of the sisters' constitution. In 1865, Rome approved the constitutions of the Marianites of Holy Cross, granting them the status of "congregation" within the Church. Meanwhile, the sisters' works continued to grow and multiply, particularly in schools in New Orleans, Louisiana, Le Mans, France and Quebec, Canada.

The unity of the Marianites of Holy Cross would not last long. Competing authorities at Notre Dame and Le Mans, complicated by slow communications over large distances, led to the withdrawal of the sisters at Indiana in 18?? and Quebec in 18??. They formed two new, independent congregations: the Sisters of the Holy Cross at Notre Dame, Indiana and the Sisters of Holy Cross at Montreal, Quebec.

The Marianites of Holy Cross continue to work in their traditional geographical areas of Le Mans, France and New Orleans, Louisiana. They continue to operate several significant institutions including: Our Lady of Holy Cross College, founded in New Orleans in 1916 and Holy Family School, in Port Allen, Louisiana, founded in 1949.


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