On Sunday, September 21, the Holy Cross family will celebrate the inauguration of the International Shrine of Basile Moreau in Le Mans, France. The shrine is located at the Church of Notre-Dame de Sainte-Croix, which was built under the leadership of Blessed Basile Moreau, the founder of Holy Cross. It is the Conventual Church of the Congregation of Holy Cross and Moreau’s burial place.
“The inauguration of the International Shrine of Blessed Basile Moreau is a great moment for the entire family of Holy Cross, including our lay collaborators and the men and women we serve in our schools, parishes, and social ministries,” said Fr. Richard V. Warner, C.S.C., Superior General of the Congregation of Holy Cross. “It is also a great moment for the entire People of God as the shrine will help spread the rich spiritual legacy of our founder, whose holiness of life and service has been recognized by the Church in his beatification.”
The shrine’s mission includes facilitating pilgrimages from around the world to the heart of Holy Cross’ heritage and history. Even though the official inauguration takes place this weekend, international groups have already begun visiting the shrine to encounter Moreau and Holy Cross firsthand. At the same time, the shrine also seeks to foster greater knowledge and devotion to Moreau in the local Church, especially through collaboration with the parish community that exists at Notre-Dame de Sainte-Croix.
“The shrine will be a place where pilgrims can come from near and far to seek Moreau’s intercession, to learn about his life, and to be immersed in the charism and spirituality of Holy Cross at the heart of where it all began,” Fr. Warner said. “This is a great opportunity that we encourage our ministries and friends to take advantage of to deepen their relationship with Holy Cross.”
The establishment of the International Shrine of Basile Moreau at the Congregation’s Conventual Church is particularly fitting given that Moreau himself viewed its construction and consecration as one of his important works and one of his greatest joys in founding Holy Cross.
“My idea was to erect a lasting memorial of our love and gratitude to Jesus Christ, the sole founder of our congregation, whose Sacred Heart has been made the object of our titular feast; to Mary, whose protection over our work has always been so evident; and, finally, to St. Joseph, who has so often showed himself its guardian,” wrote Moreau in a letter to the Congregation before the church’s consecration. “Besides, from the very beginning, I have often thought that, if I could build a dwelling place for God, which would be as worthy of him as our limited resources would allow, his providence would never leave us without a home in the different places to which he would call us, and that, above all, he would deign to admit us into the abode of his glory.”
From the beginning of its construction, Moreau foresaw the Church of Notre-Dame de Sainte-Croix has having a larger purpose than simply serving as the chapel for the Congregation’s school which bore the same name.
“In Circular Letter 86, Father Moreau says that our Conventual Church, Notre-Dame de Sainte-Croix, is not only a place for the religious of Holy Cross and the students of Notre-Dame de Sainte-Croix School to gather, but a place for the people of the neighborhood to gather for prayer with his religious,” said Br. Thomas A. Dziekan, C.S.C., the Vicar and First Assistant of the Congregation of Holy Cross. “This is at the root of what we bring to our ministry, gathering those around us to be with them in prayer and work.”
The inauguration of the shrine is an extension of this original vision of Moreau for the church.
“The International Shrine of Blessed Basile Moreau aims to be a place of prayer, of welcome, and of evangelization, in service to both the Church in Le Mans and beyond,” said Fr. John DeRiso, C.S.C., first rector of the shrine. “Blessed Basile Moreau has a way to holiness and a way to the Lord to share with us. The Shrine of Basile Moreau, in addition to being a place of peace, also aims to make his way known. It will contribute to the greater glory of God through the sanctification of souls.”
According to Br. Dziekan, the inauguration not only reveres Blessed Moreau’s life; it also acknowledges the work of Holy Cross religious.
“The inauguration of the shrine is an act of deep reverence for Fr. Moreau’s holy life and the sacredness of his founding of the Congregation of Holy Cross, a religious congregation that is unique in the Catholic Church,” Br. Dziekan said. “As expressed in our Constitutions, we are religious priests and religious brothers who share the same constitutions, history, legacy, and traditions, and live and work together in a spirit of equality.”
The centerpiece of the Inauguration of the Shrine of Basile Moreau is a Mass of Inauguration at which the Most Rev. Yves Le Saux, Bishop of Le Mans, will preside. Moreau was a priest of the Diocese of Le Mans prior to founding his religious family of Holy Cross. Bishop Le Saux has been a driving force and great support in envisioning and creating the shrine as a means of increasing devotion to Moreau. The Mass will be at 3:30 p.m. on Sunday, September 21, in the Church of Notre-Dame de Sainte-Croix.
The leadership of the Congregation of Holy Cross, including Fr. Warner and Br. Dziekan, will be in attendance at the Mass of Inauguration. They will be joined by the leadership of the three communities of religious sisters that form a part of the Holy Cross Family: Sr. Ann Lacour, M.S.C., Congregational Leader of the Marianites of Holy Cross; Sr. M. Véronique Wiedower, C.S.C.; the President of the Sisters of the Holy Cross; Sr. Kesta Occident, C.S.C., Congregational Animator of the Sisters of Holy Cross.
The weekend festivities of the shrine’s inauguration, however, will begin the day before, Saturday, September 20, with a Mass at the Cathedral of Saint Julien, the mother church of the Diocese of Le Mans. Following the Mass, a procession will take place from the cathedral to the Church of Notre-Dame de Sainte-Croix, a distance of 1.6 kilometers (about one mile). A procession was also a major part of the consecration of Notre-Dame de Sainte-Croix in 1857.
That afternoon at 4 p.m., Fr. Jean Proust, C.S.C., a noted historian of the founding of Holy Cross and the life of Moreau, will give a talk on “The History of the Church of Notre-Dame de Sainte-Croix and of the Solitude of the Savior.” The talk will take place at the home of the Marianites of Holy Cross (35 rue de la Solitude), where the Solitude is located and the room there used by Moreau can be visited.
In the evening at 8:30 p.m., a concert will be held at Notre-Dame de Sainte-Croix to draw to a close a novena of prayers that started back on September 12 to prepare for the inauguration of the shrine. The instrumental ensemble “Concerts of Le Mans,” under the direction of Dominique Fanal, will perform the symphony “At the Holy Sepulcher” by Vivaldi and the “Stabat Mater” of Pergolèse.
Following the concert, there will be Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament in the church overnight. A similar night of Adoration was organized by Moreau the night before the church’s consecration in 1857. The Eucharistic Adoration will close with Benediction at 9:30am and then Lauds, or Morning Prayer, at 10 a.m. Sunday, September 21.
Following Lauds at 10:30 a.m. in the church, Br. Joel Giallanza, C.S.C., one of the leadings experts on Moreau and his spirituality, will present a talk: “A Work of Resurrection: the Heritage and Wisdom of Blessed Basile Moreau.”
These events to mark the inauguration of the Shrine of Basile Moreau were planned by Fr. DeRiso and the Shrine Advisory Committee he created to assist in the ministry and mission of the shrine. The committee consists of 12 lay men and women, not only from the parish of Notre-Dame de Sainte-Croix, but also from surrounding parishes. All of these events are free and open to the public.
“On this great occasion of the shrine’s inauguration, we renew our invitation to all people of faith to turn to Moreau as an inspiring model for their lives and as a powerful intercessor for their needs,” said Fr. Warner. “We continue to pray for the canonization of Moreau so that the entire Church may draw more grace from this holy man whose life speaks to us of enduring hope.”