Holy Cross Fathers and Brothers

By: William H. Dunn, C.S.C.

Type: General Entry

Published: February 1, 1995

Updated: September 16, 2020

The Congregation of Holy Cross, a Catholic religious community, has had members serving in Texas since 1870. The congregation was founded by Father Basil Moreau in a suburb of Le Mans, France, called Sainte Croix and takes its identifying initials, C.S.C., from its Latin name, Congregatio a Sancta Cruce (the Congregation from Holy Cross). The work of the community in America began in 1841, when a small band of religious arrived in Indiana under the leadership of Father Edward Sorin. In the next year they founded the University of Notre Dame at South Bend. Subsequently, with growing numbers, Holy Cross religious took up work at many other locations in America.

They first came to Texas in 1870, at the request of Bishop Claude Marie Dubuis of Galveston, to staff St. Mary's College in the island city. The congregation withdrew from this school after a few years, and since then most of its work in the state has been done in Central Texas. A gift of farmland south of Austin from Mrs. Mary Doyle first brought Holy Cross religious there. In 1874 they began operating the farm and took charge of St. Mary's Church (now St. Mary's Cathedral), near the Capitol. Since the farm had been given to them for the purposes of Catholic education, in 1878 they began educational work there that developed into St. Edward's University and High School. Working out of the church and the school, the priests served missions and assisted parishes in the area for many years.

Until the early 1900s St. Mary's was the only Catholic parish in Austin. In 1906 Mexican Americans of the city, with a Holy Cross priest as their pastor, built Our Lady of Guadalupe Church at Fifth and Guadalupe streets. In 1925 this church was transferred to the Oblates of Mary Immaculate and moved to the east side of town. From the 1930s Holy Cross religious have pioneered and served at several other Austin parishes and missions. One of these is St. Ignatius Martyr in South Austin. Four others-San José, also in South Austin, Dolores in the Montopolis district, and San Francisco and Santa Cruz on the southern rim of the city-were established especially for Hispanic people. Holy Cross Church in East Austin was founded especially for Blacks. Holy Cross Hospital in Austin, although never operated by the congregation, was begun with the help of Father Frances Weber, C.S.C., then pastor of Holy Cross Church, especially to help the city's minorities; it closed in 1989. Other Central Texas locations-Georgetown, Belton, Round Rock, Taylor, Copperas Cove, Killeen, Gatesville, Garfield, Burnet, Leander, Marble Falls, and more-have at one time or another been served by the congregation. Holy Cross clergy still serve most of these.

Since 1957 Holy Cross High School, on the west side of San Antonio, has served a predominantly Hispanic population. Nearby is the Holy Cross Family Center, developed in the 1980s, which provides medical and social services to the neighborhood. Holy Cross apostolates at St. James Parish in Spring and at Our Lady of Sorrows parish in Houston were begun in 1976 and 1977, respectively.

The Congregation of Holy Cross is divided into a priests' society and a brothers' society, autonomous at the provincial level but with a common general administration located in Rome. The total membership, reported as 1,989 in 1985, is divided among twelve provinces on five continents. Headquarters for two of the provinces, the priests' Southern Province and the brothers' South-West Province, are located in Austin.

William H. Dunn, C.S.C., The Finest Country in the World: The Brothers and Priests of Holy Cross in Texas, 1870–1983 (Notre Dame, Indiana: Province Archives Center, 1985). William H. Dunn, C.S.C., St. Edward's University: A Centennial History (Austin: St. Edward's University Press, 1986).

  • Peoples
  • French
  • Religion
  • Catholic

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

William H. Dunn, C.S.C., “Holy Cross Fathers and Brothers,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 21, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/holy-cross-fathers-and-brothers.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

February 1, 1995
September 16, 2020