Holy Cross, Congregation of Sisters of the
HOLY CROSS, CONGREGATION OF SISTERS OF THE
(CSC, Official Catholic Directory #1920, 1930); in 1841 Basil Anthony moreau founded at Le Mans, France, the marianites of the holy cross, a female counterpart to his community of priests and brothers (see holy cross, congregation of). Out of the missions of the sisters in the United States and Canada, the Congregation of Sisters of the Holy Cross emerged.
In 1843 four Marianite Sisters of the Holy Cross left France for the United States to join Father Edward sorin, whom Moreau had sent to Indiana two years earlier. There, the sisters cared for the domestic service at the college (later University of Notre Dame) that Sorin had founded at South Bend. In addition, they opened their first school at Bertrand, Michigan, six miles north of Notre Dame. Their first pupils included Potawatomi Indians, deaf mutes, orphans, and neighboring children.
Additional sisters, trained by Mother Mary of Seven Dolors Gascoin, arrived from France and soon American girls also joined the community. One of the latter group, Eliza Gillespie, was sent to France for her novitiate. Upon her return to the United States, Mother Angela gillespie greatly improved the congregation's educational program. In 1855 the community moved the convent, novitiate, and school to St. Mary's, Notre Dame, Indiana. Between 1855 and 1882, 45 schools were opened in the United States, and a curriculum of studies was organized and adapted to parochial and private schools.
With the outbreak of the Civil War the sisters responded to the government's call for nurses and were the first to serve on the hospital ship, Red Rover, plying the Mississippi, where fighting was heaviest. At the sacrifice of schools, which had to be closed temporarily in Washington, D.C., 80 members of the Holy Cross community staffed eight military hospitals in Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Missouri, and the District of Columbia. This experience in hospital work later expanded into a large network of training schools and hospitals in the United States and clinics in foreign missions.
During the 1860s, communications with the mother-house in France became increasingly difficult; accordingly, the government of the sisters was transferred from Moreau and the French motherhouse to Sorin and the province of Indiana. The sisters in France obtained papal approbation in 1869; those in the United States continued to live according to the rule given to them by Moreau. In 1882, with the permission of Bp. Joseph Dwenger of Fort Wayne, Indiana, they canonically elected Mother M. Augusta Anderson as superior general. Papal approbation of the U.S. Sisters of the Holy Cross was obtained in 1889.
Through the years, the community has exercised leadership in developing higher education for women. In the earliest curricula of what later became St. Mary's College, Notre Dame, Indiana, modern languages, artistsin-residence, and liberal and fine arts were integral. Following the establishment (1887) of the Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C., one of its early rectors, Bp. Thomas Shahan, organized and conducted summer schools at St. Mary's. In 1874 St. Catherine's, a Holy Cross school in Baltimore, held what was probably the first teacher-training institute for women under Catholic auspices. The establishment in 1944 of the Graduate School of Sacred Theology at St. Mary's, where lay and religious women can earn advanced degrees in sacred doctrine, was the work of Sister M. Madeleva Wolff, with the cooperation of eminent theologians.
When the Holy See assigned the missions in Bengal, India (1852), to the priests of Holy Cross, the sisters likewise became missionaries there. The American congregation has continued this work. In 1934 Rose Bernard Gehring, CSC, responding to episcopal and papal requests, organized a native sisterhood in Pakistan named the Associates of Mary, Queen of the Apostles. In 1947 the sisters opened a mission area in São Paulo, Brazil, where they conduct secondary schools and village mission stations. Graduates of St. Mary's College, Notre Dame, work as lay missionaries with the sisters in both Pakistan and Brazil.
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