Catholic Educational Heritage: Holy Cross

St. Edward's University

Last Updated: May 4, 2016

A Holy Cross education is both personal and global in scope. Holy Cross universities respect the dignity and individuality of each student, while helping them cultivate an international perspective and sense of social justice.

The Congregation of Holy Cross began with the Brothers of St. Joseph in post-Revolutionary France, at a time when many schools were closed and religious communities were outlawed. Church leader Fr. James Dujarie decided the local children needed education and direction in their lives, and he merged his order with a group of priests organized by Fr. Basil Moreau, a teacher in the French city of Le Mans. Together, they became known as the Congregation of Holy Cross.

In those days education consisted mainly of literature and Latin taught in a very formal way, but Fr. Moreau introduced athletics, arts, science, and service in the Holy Cross schools. The legacy of this radical move is still apparent in today’s Holy Cross universities, where extracurricular activities and sports are an important part of the college experience.

Modern Holy Cross universities follow Fr. Moreau’s decree: “We will always place education side-by-side with instruction; the mind will not be cultivated at the expense of the heart.” Students at Holy Cross universities connect their classroom instruction with service learning in the cities around them. Courses in ethics encourage students to think of college as preparation not just for a career but for responsible citizenship in the world.

Most Holy Cross universities employ priests or monks, but the majority of the faculty and staff are lay people. Holy Cross universities seek to serve a diverse student population, enrolling students from a variety of ethnic, religious, socioeconomic, and educational backgrounds. This is consistent with the order’s emphasis on adaptability, as well as with the reality of modern American society.

The universities also emphasize the development of an international perspective, so students are encouraged to study abroad and to participate in service immersion programs overseas. When students graduate, they become part of the Holy Cross family, relying on the values and perspectives they learned during college throughout the rest of their lives. 

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