The Holy Cross Community

holi-cross-fathers-logoThe Holy Cross Fathers are members of the international Congregation of Holy Cross, which was founded by Father Basil Moreau, a priest of the Diocese of Le Mans, France in the troubled period following the French Revolution. He began by assembling a community of priests. Eventually there would also be Holy Cross Brothers and Holy Cross Sisters. A man of great vision, Father Moreau imagined that members of the congregation would move far beyond France and become world-wide Educators in the Faith.

The official name of the Holy Cross Fathers in Niagara is The English Canadian Province of Holy Cross. Originally part of la Province Canadienne de Sainte-Croix based in Quebec, they became a distinct entity in 1943, when they formalized a commitment to educating in the faith and serving the needs of the Church in English Canada.

It was the foresight of James Cardinal McGuigan of Toronto and the success of the School Sisters of Notre Dame working at their private school, Grey Gables in Welland, that God used to bring the Holy Cross Fathers to Niagara. In 1947, Cardinal McGuigan invited the Holy Cross Fathers to Welland to take over the growing high school population at Grey Gables and establish a new high school in the Cooper House at 201 Niagara Street. That marked the founding of Notre Dame College School.

The Holy Cross Fathers always acknowledge with gratitude the fraternal support they received from the local clergy, especially in the early years. The stipends received for Masses celebrated in some parishes on weekends became Holy Cross livelihood, especially in the early years, when all school fees and other funds raised were turned back into maintaining the school and accommodating its growth. Parish priests several times came to the rescue when emergency funds were required, and some priests also helped students with the fees necessary to come to Notre Dame.

Until the late 1990s, religious of Holy Cross were part and parcel of Catholic high school education in Niagara. One might summarize their contributions under the headings of leadership, education in the faith, and solid influence on both colleagues and students.

Leadership was first and foremost expressed by principals whose names have become legend as pioneers and as visionary catalysts for the growth of Catholic secondary schools in Niagara. Father Ted McCarthy, C.S.C was the first Principal at Notre Dame, followed by Father Patrick Fogarty, C.S.C., Father Ken Burns, C.S.C., Father Alphonse Bates, C.S.C. and Father Rheal LeBlanc, C.S.C. Father Fogarty was asked to head the start of Denis Morris, Niagara’s second co-educational Catholic high school, to be followed once again by Father Ken Burns. Saint Paul Catholic High School began under the leadership of Rheal LeBlanc. And finally, Father Ken Burns was persuaded to become the first Principal at Holy Cross Catholic Secondary School.

These men, along with other confreres in Holy Cross, gave to the teachers and students with whom they worked, a vision of Catholic education which makes education in the faith, the most important responsibility of the Catholic school, a commitment to standards of academic excellence, and an enduring example of what sacrifice for Catholic education means in action. The numbers are legion of colleagues, parents, and students whose lives have been enriched by the religious of Holy Cross style of leadership, collaboration and friendship. Members of the Holy Cross community have had a solid influence on both colleagues and students.

One of the Holy Cross Fathers’ most significant contributions to Catholic secondary education in Niagara has been their teaching and advocacy concerning social justice issues. Of particular note is Niagara Catholic’s Annual Pilgrimage, which began in 1976 at Notre Dame College School and today occurs in all eight of the Board’s high schools. In addition, through the Pilgrimage, a number of schools have established enduring relationships with Holy Cross missioners in Dominica, Haiti and Peru.

As the presence of the Holy Cross religious on school staffs waned, several Holy Cross Fathers have made new and distinctive contributions to Catholic education in Niagara. At various times this contribution has included being elected as Trustee to the School Board, pioneering the Board Faith Formation program and working with Board chaplains, as well as other pastoral activities.

Inducted: February 4, 2005