The Sisters of the Holy Cross is a Roman Catholic congregation of women religious who “joyfully participate in Jesus’ mission by proclaiming God’s transforming love for all creation.”[1] Compassion moves the sisters to “reflect on the signs of the times, discern the needs of God’s people and our world and respond as [they] are able.”[1] Approximately 370 Sisters of the Holy Cross are located in eight countries spanning four continents (Bangladesh, Brazil, Ghana, India, Mexico, Peru, Uganda and the United States). As an expression of their mission to respond to the unmet service needs in Utah, the sisters decided in 1994 to found Holy Cross Ministries to continue outreach services to the poor and underserved in the community. At Holy Cross Ministries, there are currently four Sisters of the Holy Cross on the Board of Trustees and two on staff.



The Sisters of the Holy Cross have their origins in the Marianites of Holy Cross, who were founded in 1841 by Father Basil Anthony Moreau, a priest of the Diocese of Le Mans, France. Ordained in 1821 after years of religious study in the seminaries at Chateau Gontier, Moreau devoted his life to preaching and Christian education. He taught in Le Mans as a professor of philosophy, dogmatic theology and scripture and aspired to create a religious congregation under the vows of “poverty, chastity and obedience,” serving those who sought the noble teachings of faith.

In an attempt to combat the decay of Christianity in France following the French Revolution, Moreau recruited a group of auxiliary priests in 1835, whom he tasked with preaching to parish missions and instructing youth in local seminaries. This group was combined with the Brothers of Saint Joseph (founded by Father Jacques Dujarié) in 1837 to form the Association of the Holy Cross and, eventually, with the teaching and nursing laywomen of the early Association in 1841. These women religious were placed by Father Moreau under the special patronage of Mary, Our Lady of Sorrows, and were encouraged to embrace twelve virtues as a way of life under her guidance. Together these congregations would comprise the three branches of Holy Cross: Salvatorists (priests), Josephites (brothers) and Marianites (sisters), respectively, a tripartite model of the Holy Family. From the Marianites branched two additional congregations: the Sisters of the Holy Cross from Notre Dame, Indiana, in 1869 and the Sisters of Holy Cross from Quebec, Canada, in 1883.

Holy Cross Ministries Salt Lake City Utah
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The sisters, under Father Moreau, first received the habit in September 1841, and after a year, they completed their novitiate. In June 1843, four sisters were sent to northern Indiana at the request of Father Edward Sorin, a Holy Cross priest who wrote in December 1842 that the sisters “must be prepared not merely to look after the laundry and the infirmary, but also to conduct a school, perhaps even a boarding school.” Once the sisters arrived, they used part of the log chapel at the University of Notre Dame for their convent, looking after the sacristy, infirmary and clothes rooms and performing other domestic tasks. Soon after, though, the sisters recognized a need for a novitiate for American candidates. This novitiate was opened in Bertrand, Michigan, six miles from Notre Dame, and in September 1844, the first American postulants received the habit from Father Sorin. In the same year, the sisters opened a boarding academy for the children of Bertrand, which was relocated to Notre Dame in 1855 and renamed St. Mary’s Academy. In time, this school would become Saint Mary’s College, which is still open today.


The sisters responded to the call to serve as nurses in the United States Civil War. In 1861, six sisters traveled to take care of the sick and wounded in Kentucky and were followed in the next few months by many more sisters. The sisters were soon after asked by Simon Cameron, Abraham Lincoln’s Secretary of War, to take over nursing duties in the government hospital at Louisville, Kentucky, eventually serving at 15 other military hospitals in Illinois, Tennessee, Missouri and Washington, D.C. In total, nearly half of the 160 sisters living in the United States during the late nineteenth century served in the Civil War, and 13 more served in the Spanish-American War. In addition, three sister-nurses boarded the hospital ship Red Rover in 1862 and are recognized as the forerunners of the U.S. Navy Nurse Corps.

In recognition of the Holy Cross Sisters’ service, Holy Cross Ministries was an honorary recipient of the U.S. Army Civil War Campaign Medal. U.S. Representative Jackie Walorski wrote that this rare honor was “a sign of our gratitude as a nation and a reminder of the price of freedom.”

Sister M. Veronique (Wiedower), CSC, president of the Congregation of the Sisters of the Holy Cross, commented during the November 30, 2016, ceremony at Saint Mary’s, Notre Dame, Indiana, stating that “the ‘yes’ of our Congregation and so many other women religious at this period in our history gave birth to the ministry of health care that has grown and developed in this country. The sisters read the signs of their time and responded with generosity and courage. Each in her own way contributed to preparing for a world better than her own.”

Holy Cross Ministries Salt Lake City Utah
Holy Cross Ministries archives


The Sisters of the Holy Cross continue to provide health and education aid around the world; they work globally as educators, nurses, administrators, counselors, social workers, parish and campus ministers, retreat leaders, writers, attorneys and advocates for social justice and systemic reform. At Our Lady of Holy Cross School in Ghana, the sisters are providing clean drinking water and safe on-campus housing along with preschool through junior high education to local children. In addition, the sisters help provide basic health care for incarcerated women and their children in Peru. These efforts represent just a small portion of the sisters’ service to people of many cultures around the world.

Holy Cross Ministries Salt Lake City Utah
Courtesy of Sisters of the Holy Cross


  1. Sisters of the Holy Cross. “Our Mission.”
  2. Sisters of the Holy Cross. “Father Moreau.”
  3. Marianites of Holy Cross. “History of Father Moreau.” Compucast Web, Inc.,
  4. “Congregation of Holy Cross – History.” Sanctuaire Basile Moreau,
  5. St. Matthew, Sister Mary of. “Sisters Marianites of Holy Cross.” The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 7. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910. 26 Nov. 2019
  6. Quoted in “History.” History, Saint Mary’s College, Notre Dame, IN, Saint Mary’s College,
  7. “History of Holy Cross.” History of Holy Cross, University of Portland, University of Portland,
  8. Antoine, Sister Mary. “Sisters of the Holy Cross.” The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 7. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910. 9 Nov. 2019
  9. Sisters of the Holy Cross. “The Journey Continues… A History of the Sisters of the Holy Cross.”
  10. “A Once-in-a-Lifetime Event.” InSpirit, Vol. 5, Iss. 2. 2017, p. 4.
  11. Sisters of the Holy Cross. “Global Ministries.”
  12. Sisters of the Holy Cross. “Fruits of the Holy Cross: Our Lady of Holy Cross School.”