Holy Cross Mission Themes

Each year, Notre Dame lives a different Holy Cross Mission Theme. These themes stem from the philosophy, or charisms, of Holy Cross and make clear the defining attributes of a Holy Cross school. At the end of four years, students will have experienced all four Mission Themes and, subsequently, will have a strong understanding of their Holy Cross formation. Many Holy Cross high schools throughout the U.S. have adopted these themes, strengthening the cross-geographical Holy Cross community.
    • Four Pillars 2023-2024

Mission Theme:

“I have never lost hope in Providence or in your fidelity to the sublime Vocation which God has given you.”
Circular Letter 14, Blessed Basil Moreau

The hope of a Holy Cross educator is of sterner stuff than the preferred dictionary definition of hope suggests: to wish for something with the expectation of its fulfillment. To understand Christian hope we must turn to the second entry which is referred to as the archaic definition: to have confidence, trust. The Christian anchor of hope is about trust, not wishing.

When we hope, we’re vulnerable. It makes it impossible for us to dismiss, pigeonhole, patronize, or rescue. At the point of impasse with an intractable student or a fractured community, hope does not allow us to impose judgment. Instead, it empowers us to look for the gifts within the “problem” person or the truth within the issue that can be the seed of transformation. Hope nourishes and protects this kernel by helping us see the big picture, ask the right questions, and move out of the comfortable back row and onto the exposed threshold. It challenges us to continue to grow in relationship with our evolving community.

This challenge helps explain Father Moreau’s vision of the cross as “our only hope.” The cross is a stark reminder of Jesus’ spiritual courage; hope calls us to stand tall in the face of adversity and challenge. The cross bore the weight of profound responsibility; hope draws forth our greatest competence: the ability to transform lives.

Hope, like faith, is real to the extent that it is put into action. Saint James writes, “faith without works is dead” (James 2:26); the same can be said of hope. When we give up on social issues that seem too enormous or people who seem incorrigible, we don’t isolate the problem, we isolate ourselves. In contrast, hope goads us into action, engagement, connection. It builds up our resilience. And it gives us a reverence for the complexity of our lives, breaking down the compartments where it is easy to demonize what we don’t understand.

The redemptive power of hope depends on keeping our feet under the table. Our trust is about staying connected and staying the course—through service projects and immersion programs, networking with other Holy Cross schools, and outreach programs. By working in partnership, we bring the hope that can transform the world person by person.
Taken with edit from: Becoming Part of the Story
     The Legacy of Holy Cross Educators

Mission Theme:

“Union is the powerful lever with which we could move, direct, and sanctify the whole world.”
Circular Letter 14, Blessed Basil Moreau

“It feels like a family.” That feeling is part of our legacy. In unifying brothers, priests, and sisters, Father Moreau modeled the Congregation on the Holy Family, and we sustain this family spirit in our schools by praying, playing, and celebrating together. Ultimately, this spirit serves to leverage our collective talents and passion for justice—and transform the world.

That family feeling begins at the front door. We are the hosts, and the power of our invitation determines the character of our community. Holy Cross educators ask themselves: How do people know they belong? Do we contribute to faculty inservice and orientation sessions, or do we just show up? How do we create family in the classroom, reach out to parents, or respond when a student is hurting? Can we expect to nourish our students’ spiritual growth if we don’t tend to our own?

If these questions seem too much to ask, remember Joseph. Patron saint of the Holy Cross brothers, this homeless carpenter took responsibility for another person’s child—and the compassion, hospitality, hope, and calm listening Jesus expressed were all learned at his foster father’s knee. We aren’t just teaching ideas; Holy Cross educators help students “connect the dots” between what we say and do and who we are, to choose when to take risks and learn how to remain faithful in difficult times.

Three of the qualities that distinguish a good teacher, Father Moreau wrote, concern our mentoring. The core of our mission is to develop heart and soul, and reverence helps us recognize each person’s gifts and cultivate our unity through mutual respect. Through professional development, teachers can continually acquire new knowledge—and model a passion for learning. Meekness—the recognition that the work is God’s work and therefore not all up to us—helps breed love and respect between teachers and students.

Because today’s students may not know how to “do family,” we have a tremendous opportunity to model it. At the same time, the growing diversity of our school families requires us to stretch our definitions and learn new traditions from our students. Yet healthy family systems also establish good boundaries: consequences for actions, reasonable expectations. By creating a trusting environment, we can safeguard each other and constantly nourish ourselves. To our educators, being a Holy Cross family is replenishing—and a big part of our identity.
Taken with edit from: Becoming Part of the Story
     The Legacy of Holy Cross Educators

Mission Theme:

“Seeing in all the image of God imprinted within them like a sacred seal which you must preserve at all costs.”
Christian Education, Blessed Basil Moreau

Respect can seem like a dusty relic from another age. In a Holy Cross school it must be taken off the shelf and placed where it belongs: between teacher and student, teacher and teacher, student and student, and between community and society.

Our ministry—like the congregation Father Moreau founded—is not leveraged on authority, position, or status. It springs from relationships. Manners, rules and empathy foster our ability to see one another as individuals, and Father Moreau believed that our success grows from nurturing one student at a time. “Address the deepest longings in your students’ hearts,” he tells us. Building respect, relationship by relationship, is a way of building a strong, tensile web of connectedness. When Holy Cross educators model respectful relationships, students learn to align their words and actions with the greater good of our community. As one Holy Cross student observes, “It’s not what you get away with that counts.”

When we’re tired and overworked, Father Moreau’s statement, “education is a work of resurrection,” might seem like a rueful realization that relationships are never done. This work of living Gospel values requires constantly taking a second look at our needs and motivations, at “the other,” and at ways we thread our experience together. It means we see teaching as our mission, not just a job. It means not just “being like Jesus,” but being Jesus—especially to those in whom Jesus, as Mother Teresa once said, is in deep disguise.

Building respect begins in the classroom and the faculty room. It ripples out through extra-curricular activities which include “something for everyone,” personal and academic counseling and tutoring, alumni mentoring programs, admissions and hiring policies, and faculty, staff, and student orientation programs. It deepens through faculty inservice, celebration of achievements, and informal and formal employee recognition programs. Ultimately, it returns us to a place where it begins: our core of living, growing faith.
Taken with edit from: Becoming Part of the Story
     The Legacy of Holy Cross Educators

Mission Theme:

“Education is the art of helping young people to completeness”
Christian Education, Blessed Basil Moreau

Unlike the founders of some other congregations, Father Moreau did not employ only religious to teach in his schools. He simply went out and found the best educators; and since 1837, lay and vowed men and women have worked side by side in Holy Cross institutions. This holistic approach dovetails with his educational philosophy. He believed by educating minds and hearts we could change a person’s life and thereby change society.

Looking back at Moreau, we might say he “thought outside the box.” Yet he not only envisioned an alternative form of education, he nurtured the kind of communities where it could flourish. Science, music, and fencing were not subjects normally taught in his day, especially to needy children. Yet his radical model of student-centered education treated each student just as Jesus treated each individual He met: with respect for their uniqueness and a willingness to step beyond the business He had planned. “Mission in the image of Jesus,” says Father Thomas W. Smith, CSC, “is love thrusting outward, breaking down the barriers of narrowness, comfort, and prejudice that live within each of us.” (Basil Moreau: Spirituality of Mission)

Moreau’s pioneering vision is a call to action. By remaining flexible, we know when to step away from our lesson plans and tend to a student who needs our attention. By turning judgment into compassion, we live out of our hearts and liberate understanding from intellect alone. By embodying our faith, we demonstrate how to face the ambiguities of life with spiritual courage. If we do all this, our work as Holy Cross educators will reflect the ancient meaning of the term, “art”, to fit together, by integrating learning and fostering wholeness in our students and ourselves.

Our society, like Father Moreau’s, can seem chaotic and fragmented, a place where standards of integrity, loyalty, quality, and consequences are less and less clear. More than ever, we need the qualities of resourcefulness and adaptability that characterize Holy Cross, and the best source for sustaining these qualities is the wellspring of inner wholeness. Otherwise it would be easy to lose our way—the purpose and meaning of our actions, and their impact on others.

Father Moreau realized that the formation of conscience is a long-term process, and that it cannot flourish if we divide mind and heart.
Taken with edit from: Becoming Part of the Story
     The Legacy of Holy Cross Educators
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