Holy Cross Cemetery
About half way between the church of Our Lady of Holy Cross and the Solitude of the Savior is Holy Cross Cemetery. The land that this cemetery now occupies once belonged to Father Moreau and was ceded to the commune of Sainte-Croix per an agreement concluded in June of 1847. The agreement afforded the commune a parcel of land on which to establish a community cemetery for its growing population, while at the same time allowing Father Moreau to have the conventual cemetery that he had long desired for his religious.
The enclosure reserved for members of the Holy Cross family was blessed on August 28, 1848. The chapel, built by Brother John of the Cross – a brother of Saint Joseph from Ruillé – was blessed by Bishop Bouvier in 1850.
A larger family
The remains of Father Jacques-François Dujarié (founder of the Brothers of Saint Joseph) and of other priests and brothers who had been buried at Sainte-Croix were transferred to the newly established cemetery. Father Moreau also eventually transferred here the remains of his parents, Marie-Louise Pioger (1766-1825) and Louis Moreau (1756-1830). Today, the tomb marked “Famille Moreau” also contains the remains of Father Moreau’s sisters Cécile (1797-1848), Joséphine (1807-1853) and Victoire (1792-1878).
Father Moreau was buried here on January 23, 1873, not far from the tomb of his parents. In the 20th century, his body was transferred to the crypt of Our Lady of Holy Cross Church.
In the cemetery chapel lies Mother Mary of the Seven Dolors (Léocadie Gascoin, 1818-1900), first Superior General of the Marianites of Holy Cross and close collaborator of Father Moreau in the founding of the Marianites.
Just outside the chapel entrance is the tomb of Charles Moreau (1822-1899), priest of the Diocese of Le Mans, nephew of the Father Founder and his first biographer.
In addition to brothers, priests, and sisters of Holy Cross, the religious enclosure also contains the remains of friends of Holy Cross, including Bishop René Fontenelle (1895-1957), postulator for the cause for eventual canonization of Basil Moreau.
Other persons of interest
Also buried in Holy Cross Cemetery:
- Abbé Louis-Jean Fillion (†1861), Father Moreau’s longtime friend and confessor, whom he first met at Château-Gontier;
- Edmond Lebouc (1833-1850), a beloved and pious student at the Institution Notre-Dame de Sainte-Croix;
- Magloire Tournesac, sj (1805-1875), professor of archeology and French architect who designed Our Lady of Holy Cross church;
- Ernest Bollée (1814-1891), founder of the world-famous Le Mans bell foundry, which cast three bells for Father Moreau’s Institution Notre-Dame de Sainte-Croix as well as the famous carillon of the Basilica of the Sacred Heart (Notre Dame, USA) per request of Father Edward Sorin, csc.
Holy Cross Cemetery also contains the remains of persons of local historical interest, including the famous inventors and builders, Amédée and Léon Bollée (grandsons of Ernest). The tomb of Léon (1870-1913) includes a sculpture (signed “Verlet”) of a female mourner who keeps vigil beside his tomb. The image of the mourner’s face is considered one of the most beautiful of all of French statuary art.
Regarding the newly established Holy Cross Cemetery, from a circular letter of Father Moreau dated January 4, 1850:
“Henceforth, a common burial ground will guard the ashes of the various members of our Association. It is there that we shall await together, under the protection of the Cross, the hour of the final awakening. For us who have the gift of faith, the cemetery, which in our language means sleeping-place, is truly the spot for that rest which is a little longer than an ordinary night, and which will end with the radiant dawn of eternity. Even as we rest in our graves, our faces will be turned towards the East, as if to welcome the first rays of the new light which will rise upon us. This thought will console all of us and be an added motive for more fervent prayer over the mortal remains of those who have preceded us to the tomb. We shall be especially mindful of them when the Sacrifice of the Mass is offered in the mortuary chapel rising in the center of this enclosure which is so full of pious memories and so rich in food for serious thought. It is there that our attentive ears will hear from the depths of so many graves the plaintive plea: “Have pity on me, at least you my friends, because the hand of the Lord hath touched me.”
Portions taken from Le Très Révérend Père Basile-Antoine Moreau et ses oeuvres, by Abbé Charles Moreau, from Basil Anthony Mary Moreau, by Canon Étienne Catta and Tony Catta (English translation by Edward L. Heston, C.S.C.), and from Circular Letters of the Very Reverend Basil Anthony Mary Moreau (English translation by Edward L. Heston, C.S.C.). Other information generously provided by Sister Jacqueline Brichet, msc, archivist for the Marianites of Holy Cross.