“The University of Notre Dame began late on the bitterly cold afternoon of November 26, 1842, when a 28-year-old French priest, Rev. Edward Sorin, C.S.C., and six Holy Cross brothers, all of them members of the recently established Congregation of Holy Cross, took possession of 524 snow-covered acres that the Bishop of Vincennes had given them in the Indiana mission fields.
A man of lively imagination, Father Sorin named his fledgling school in honor of Our Lady in his native tongue, L’Université de Notre Dame du Lac (The University of Our Lady of the Lake). On January 15, 1844, the University was thus officially chartered by the Indiana legislature” (www.nd.edu).
The six brothers who accompanied Sorin to South Bend were men who brought much-needed skills for the laying down of both literal and metaphoric roots á du Lac. Brother Vincent Pieau (1797-1890) was the elder and would prove to be Sorin’s most loyal colleague for over fifty years. He educated most of the young members of the fledgling congregation to embrace the “voice of Moreau.” Sorin was so in debt to Brother Vincent that he once mused about being buried in the same grave.
Next in age and a man of many talents was Brother Lawrence Manage (1816-1873), an astute business manager and a most able farmer. The third oldest was Brother Francis Xavier Patois (1820-1896), the carpenter, the undertaker and the sacristan.
The final three brothers were very young: Brother Joachim André (1809-1844), Brother Gaitan Monsimer (1826-1860), and Brother Anselm Caillot (1825-1845). Each would contribute through brawn and become the first teachers in a few of the early elementary schools. Brother Anselm who left France when he was just sixteen would drown in front of some of his students at age twenty.
Today, one will look in vain around Our Lady’s University for any recollection of these six brothers’ names. They are the men behind the king–“the six companions.” Yet Rev. Edward Sorin, if alive, would be the first to celebrate them as mes cher frères et mes collaborateurs.
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Thank you Brothers Phil and Ben for this very interesting story about the beginnings of the Holy Cross in the United States. It is worth noting that 5 years after Notre-Dame, Brothers arrived in Montréal, in the Province of Québec (Canada) – asked by bishop Ignace Bourget – to operate a school for French-Canadian Catholic boys. Bishop Bourget received more than he was expecting : 2 priests, 4 brothers and 4 sisters !
Awesome! Thanks for sharing this interesting historical detail David!