Basil Moreau, Organizer & Superior
Basil had an exceptional ability to work under difficult circumstances. He began to see the realization of a project for which he was destined. Gathering together his Auxiliary priests and the Brothers of St. Joseph in the suburb of Le Mans known as Holy Cross, he grouped them into the Association of Holy Cross — a religious family. It had long been his desire to create a group of men and women to serve the Church as religious.
With the Holy Trinity as a Divine Model, and the Holy Family of Nazareth as its physical model, he activated the 3rd branch of his Holy Cross Family. Having been the spiritual director of the Good Shepherd Sisters of Le Mans, he brought three young women to their convent to learn the rudiments of religious life.
After trying circumstances, principally a lack of support from the Diocesan Bishop, he succeeded in providing a basic period of formation for these women under the Superior of the Good Shepherd Sisters. Under the leadership of Mary of the Seven Dolors, whom he had chosen to be his representative, he received the first vows of the newest members of his religious family on August 4, 1841. Fr. Moreau welcomed them as their spiritual father, as well as their Congregational Superior. He retained that position until Rome accepted his resignation in 1866.
With efforts to bring his religious family together, he set about preparing a Rule of Life — writing the Constitutions upon which they were to be judged and accepted by Rome as a legitimate Congregation.
The Congregation consisted of two classes of men, priests and brothers, and one of women as consecrated virgins. He worked untiringly in composing “the way of life” of his Congregation. He declared several times to his sons and daughters that the work of Holy Cross is God’s work, and to those who declared his method too slow, he wrote in Circular Letter #1: “To those who think us too slow, I say, ‘Recall where we started eleven years ago when we were without resources, without novices, and without even an outline of a rule (of Life).’” He counseled patience, and advised complete dependence on Divine Providence, petitioning his sons and daughters to be constantly faithful while he promised responsibility as their father.
This promise took form when the Constitutions were formally approved by Rome in 1856. But there was disappointment in this special favor of the Mother Church. Rome had approved the Constitutions for the men of Holy Cross, but Moreau’s daughters were excluded. Rome separated the women into their own Congregation and postponed their canonical recognition until 1865. The intervening years were a period of waiting filled with efforts to practice the Constitutions he had prepared. This work and waiting was an example of Moreau’s steadfast trust in Divine Providence.
Basil’s life was one of struggle, charity, service, abandonment to the will of God, and determination to carry out God’s plan for his religious society. He was zealous and an audacious man, a man of vigilance, ever ready to grasp the moment and its opportunity to make proper choices. He was ever conscious of God’s grace and of corresponding to it. This practice he respected in his personal life, as well as in his proposals for the spiritual development of his sons and daughters. He loved God and sought to increase that love, until, as he wrote, “God fills his whole mind, his whole heart, and exhausts his strength.”
Basil Anthony Marie Moreau, Scholar and Educator
After ordination, Basil Moreau spent two years in Paris with the Sulpicians in their seminary, and in their novitiate at Issy, where he began a friendship with Fr. Mollevaut — who stayed a close friend and advisor in material as well as spiritual endeavors. He was particularly appreciated by Basil during the many trying years of founding and establishing the Congregation of Holy Cross.
Before we approach those years, let us see Basil as a teacher in the Tesse seminary at Le Mans. As Professor of Dogmatic Theology and Philosophy, he enjoyed a reputation which would follow him as an intellectual leader, especially as a Founder of Religious Life. He established the College of Holy Cross for young men, and was selected by the Diocesan Bishop to lead the Congregation of Brothers of St. Joseph, replacing their founder, Jacques Dujarié, who could no longer govern due to age and health.
Having been confessor and spiritual director of the young Institute, he was acquainted with their ministry as educators in rural parishes. Dujarié had founded this community to assist in reestablishing the faith through education of the young. After necessary negotiations, the headquarters of these dedicated young men were transferred to Le Mans on property given to Basil. This was a second step, for Basil, in realizing his ambition of counteracting the aftermath of the Revolution.
Previous to this, Bishop Bouvier had appointed Basil to direct a group of Auxiliary Priests, who, by a system of missions and retreats, were to reinstall Catholic Doctrine and practices among the diocesan population. For this latter group, Basil sought promising young priests among those recently ordained.
The College of Holy Cross, under the leadership of Fr. Moreau, provided another means for evangelization. Basil was the untiring example of dedication to this ministry. The Auxiliary Priests were faculty members. During the early 19th century, there was a fight to keep the Catholic faith alive, and Basil used his own intuitive methods of working with the political powers of the era. He corresponded with political leaders, sought out favorable relationships with the state educational organizations, organized his own college, and fully developed it. He received the necessary permissions to operate an institution, offering courses legally recognized by the government.