Edward Sorin & the Founding of Notre Dame

On February 6, 1814, Edouard-Frédéric Sorin was born and baptized in the small town of Ahuillé, France.  He was born the seventh of nine children into a relatively well-to-do Catholic farming family, a generation or so after the bloody French Revolution.  The Revolutionaries heavily persecuted the Catholic Church, sending thousands of priests to the guillotine or exile.  However, by the time Sorin’s birth, France had begun mending fences with the Church.  In this resurgence of peace, Sorin saw an opportunity for leadership to rebuild the Catholic Church in France through the priesthood, a calling he had since childhood.

Chateau de la Roche - Birthplace of Rev. Edward Sorin, CSC, in Ahuille, France, 1939/0715.
Chateau de la Roche – Birthplace of Rev. Edward Sorin, CSC, in Ahuille, France, 1939/0715.

In 1834, at St. Vincent’s Seminary in Le Mans, France, Sorin met the charismatic professor Rev. Basil Moreau, who was on the brink of founding the Congregation of Holy Cross.  Sorin was ordained on May 27, 1838, and assigned to be a parish priest in Parcé-sur-Sarthe.  A year later, Sorin jumped on the opportunity to join Moreau’s new ambitious order that focused on education and foreign missions, rejoining the novitiate in Le Mans.  On August 15, 1840, Sorin officially took vows in the name of the Congregation of Holy Cross.

At the appeal of the Célestine Guynemer de la Hailandière, Bishop of Vincennes, for clergy in a predominantly French Indiana,  Moreau offered to send six brothers led by a young priest – Edward Sorin.  As would echo throughout Sorin’s life, Sorin saw this assignment as a direct mission from God and he threw himself into the idea with unabashed zeal.  Before he even left French soil, Sorin declared his allegiance to America, which to him was a relatively blank canvas upon which he could help build the Catholic Church:

“How happy I am to be able to assure you that the road to America stands out clearly before me as the road to heaven. … Henceforth I live only for my dear brethren in America.  America is my fatherland.  It is the center of all my affections and the object of all my thoughts. … At the present time I see clearly that our Lord loves me in a very special manner as has been told me many times.” [Sorin to Hailandière, summer 1841, as quoted by O’Connell, page 52.]

The group left France on August 5, 1841, the Feast of Our Lady of the Snows, a coincidence not lost on Sorin a year later, and headed to New York.  Hailandière arranged for Samuel Byerley to meet the group in New York, who remained friend and benefactor to the Community throughout the years.  From there, they took an arduous journey primarily across a series of canals and rivers to Vincennes, with none of them knowing English.

Portrait of Rev. Edward Sorin, CSC, c1860s.
Portrait of Rev. Edward Sorin, CSC, c1860s.

Fr. Sorin and the Brothers were assigned to St. Peter’s parish near Washington, Indiana, tasked to build a novitiate for the Brothers of St. Joseph.  The hope was that novices would serve as teachers within the diocese.  A poor harvest, lack of monetary resources, and struggles between the strong personalities of Sorin and Hailandière led both of them looking for new opportunities.  As it happened, the Diocese of Vincennes had in its possession a tract of land in Northern Indiana, near the south bend of the St. Joseph River.

The land now occupied by the University of Notre Dame has a long tradition of being a place of Catholic missions.  French Jesuit Rev. Claude Allouez founded a mission along the lakes and christened it Sainte-Marie-des-Lacs.  Rev. Stephen T. Badin, the first priest ordained in the United States, came to the area at the request of Leopold Pokagon, leader of the Potawatomi, for Catholic priests to minister to his people.  He bought the parcels over time in 1830-1832.  As one who was often negotiating real estate deals, Badin sold the land and a few dilapidated buildings to the Diocese of Vincennes in 1835 for $751 with the condition that it be used for a school and orphanage.  Rev. Ferdinand Bach was given the task to build such institutions on the land in 1840.  His failure to do so and abandonment of the post timed perfectly with Sorin’s ambition to build a college in America.

Perhaps as a way to physically distance himself in Vincennes with Fr. Sorin, Hailandière offered the northern land to Sorin as a place for him to build his envisioned college, giving him only two years to do so.  Sorin was so determined to make it a reality that he made up his mind to leave Vincennes in the middle of a harsh Indiana November without first seeking permission from Fr. Moreau.

Fr. Sorin and seven of the Brothers – Mary (later changed to Br. Francis Xavier), Gatien, Patrick, William, Basil, Peter, and Francis – left Vincennes on November 16, 1842, and their 250 mile trek was not an easy one.  They only gained five miles on the first day in the cold, snow, and high winds.  Impatiently, Fr. Sorin and four of the Brothers went ahead of the other three, who were slower with all the gear loaded on a broken-down ox-drawn wagon.  Eleven days later, Sorin and the four Brothers arrived in South Bend.  Alexis Coquillard, nephew of the South Bend merchant of the same name, greeted the band and showed them to their new home that same afternoon.

Engraving of Rev. Edward Sorin, CSC, and the founding of Notre Dame in November 1842.  The artist is F.X. Ackermann, who was a faculty member from 1890-1937. Caption:  "Father Sorin's Arrival, Nov. 22, 1842."
Engraving envisioning Rev. Edward Sorin, CSC, and the founding of Notre Dame in November 1842 [the exact date is left up to interpretation, but is generally acknowledged as November 26th].  The artist is Francis Xavier Ackermann, who was a faculty member from 1890-1937.
Finally writing to Moreau over a week after arriving at Notre Dame, Sorin basks in the majesty of the land:

“Everything was frozen, and yet it all appeared so beautiful.  The lake, particularly, with its mantle of snow, resplendent in its whiteness, was to us a symbol of the stainless purity of Our August Lady [Our Lady of the Snows], whose name it bears; and also of the purity of soul which should characterize the new inhabitants of these beautiful shores. …  Yes, like little children, in spite of the cold, we went from one extremity to the other, perfectly enchanted with the marvelous beauties of our new abode.  Oh! may this new Eden be ever the home of innocence and virtue!  There, I could willingly exclaim with the prophet: Dominus regit me … super aquam refectionis educavit me! [“The Lord guides me … beside still waters”; Psalm 23]  Once again in our life we felt then that Providence had been good to us, and we blessed God with all our hearts.”

The great dreamer continued,

“While on this subject, you will permit me, dear Father, to express a feeling which leaves me no rest.  It is simply this: Notre Dame du Lac has been given to us by the Bishop only on condition that we build here a college.  As there is no other within five hundred miles, this undertaking cannot fail of success, provided it receive assistance from our good friends in France.  Soon it will be greatly developed, being evidently the most favorably located in the United States.  This college will be one of the most powerful means of doing good in this country, and, at the same time, will offer every year a most useful resource to the Brothers’ Novitiate; and once the Sisters come – whose presence is so much desired here they must be prepared, not merely for domestic work, but also for teaching; and perhaps, too, the establishment of an academy. … Finally, dear Father, you may well believe that this branch of your family is destined to grow and extend itself under the protection of Our Lady of the Lake and St. Joseph.  At least such is my firm conviction; time will tell whether I am deceived or not.”
[Sorin to Moreau, December 5, 1842]

The men quickly got to work clearing the land to build a new log chapel, which opened on March 19, 1843, the Feast of St. Joseph.  Sorin nearly exhausted his finances buying lumber and bricks with the hopes of building a grand main building.  Unfortunately, the hired architect showed up months too late for it to be open in 1843.  In the meantime, the Community built the sturdy brick Old College so that at least the Brothers wouldn’t have to spend another drafty winter in the log chapel.

In the summer of 1843, more support personnel came from Le Mans – “two priests, Fathers Francis Cointet and Theophile Marivault; a seminarian, Mr. Gouesse; one Brother, Eloi; and four Sisters, Mary of the Heart of Jesus, Mary of Bethlehem, Mary of Calvary, and Mary of Nazareth” [Wack].  Each had his own talents, which contributed greatly to the growth of Notre Dame.

Among the first students to arrive were Theodore Alexis Coquillard and Clements Reckers in 1842.  Others slowly trickled in and Notre Dame had 18 students enrolled by June 1844, although many didn’t stay long enough to earn a degree.  Ever ambitious, Sorin saw Notre Dame as a central beacon for the influx of Catholic immigrants in America.  Notre Dame would be the model for all levels of Catholic education – elementary, preparatory, collegiate, seminary, vocational.  He envisioned satellite campuses and most definitely institutions for girls and women.  Notre Dame applied for a charter with the State of Indiana to grant degrees with the authority of a college and formed an administration.  On January 15, 1844, Indiana chartered Notre Dame as a university, even though it would be some time before Notre Dame would have a strong collegiate student body and faculty.

Engraving of the first Main Building in 1844
Engraving of the first Main Building in 1844

Mr. Marsile, the main building architect, finally arrived in August 1843.  Sorin was running out of funds, but knew that if he delayed building, it might never happen.  He boldly decided to start the project right away.  Fortunately, the winter of ’43 wasn’t as harsh as the year before and “[b]efore the first snow fell, the walls were raised and the building was partially under roof.  The remainder of the work, particularly the inside plastering and preparation of the rooms, was left to be finished in the spring.  By June, 1844, the main college building was complete. This first main building did not include the two wings which had been planned; these were left to be added in later years” [Wack].  Notre Dame was well on the way to success, although not without the obstacles and growing pains that many American colleges faces at this time.


Chronicles of Notre Dame du Lac by Rev. Edward Sorin
Edward Sorin
by Marvin O’Connell
The University of Notre Dame du Lac: Foundations, 1842-1857 by John Theodore Wack
The University of Notre Dame: A Portrait of Its History & Campus by Thomas Schlereth
Sorin to Moreau, December 5, 1842
GNDL 21/08
GCSC 04/30
GCSC 04/32

Sorin’s Golden Jubilee

In 1888, Rev. Edward Sorin, CSC, celebrated his Golden Jubilee – fifty years since his ordination as a priest on May 27, 1838, in LeMans, France.  Shortly after his ordination, Sorin joined Rev. Basil Moreau’s fledgling Congregation of the Holy Cross, which sent Sorin as a missionary to America in 1841.  Father Sorin arrived at Notre Dame in November 1842 and for the next fifty-one years he grew the University and the Congregation into world-renowned institutions.

Appropriately enough for a man who dedicated his life to the Blessed Virgin Mary, the grand celebration was scheduled for August 15th, the Feast of the Assumption.  One problem with that, however, was that classes didn’t resume until September, so many of the Notre Dame students would not be on campus to participate in the festivities.

Souvenir of the Golden Jubilee of the Very Rev. Edward Sorin, August 15, 1888. Seated:  Bishop Richard Gilmour (Cleveland), Archbishop William H. Elder (Cincinnati), Father Sorin, Cardinal James Gibbons (Baltimore), Archbishop John Ireland (St. Paul), Bishop Joseph Dwenger (Fort Wayne), Bishop John Watterson (Columbus), Bishop Richard Phelan (Pittsburgh) Standing:  Bishop James Ryan (Alton), Bishop John Janssen (Belleville), Bishop John Keane (Washington, D.C.), Bishop Maurice F. Burke (Cheyenne), Bishop John Lancaster Spalding (Peoria), Bishop Steven V. Ryan (Buffalo), Bishop Henry J. Richter (Grand Rapids). The group is seated between Sacred Heart Church Basilica and the Main Building. Photo by A. McDonald of McDonald Studio, South Bend, Indiana.  The 09/08/1888 issue of Scholastic, page 48, mentions that copies of this photograph are being sold "at the low price of $1.00 each."
Souvenir of the Golden Jubilee of the Very Rev. Edward Sorin, August 15, 1888.
Seated: Bishop Richard Gilmour (Cleveland), Archbishop William H. Elder (Cincinnati), Father Sorin, Cardinal James Gibbons (Baltimore), Archbishop John Ireland (St. Paul), Bishop Joseph Dwenger (Fort Wayne), Bishop John Watterson (Columbus), Bishop Richard Phelan (Pittsburgh)
Standing: Bishop James Ryan (Alton), Bishop John Janssen (Belleville), Bishop John Keane (Washington, D.C.), Bishop Maurice F. Burke (Cheyenne), Bishop John Lancaster Spalding (Peoria), Bishop Steven V. Ryan (Buffalo), Bishop Henry J. Richter (Grand Rapids).
The group is seated between Sacred Heart Church Basilica and the Main Building.
Photo by A. McDonald of McDonald Studio, South Bend, Indiana. The 09/08/1888 issue of Scholastic, page 48, mentions that copies of this photograph were being sold “at the low price of $1.00 each.”

To accommodate the students’ schedule, Acting University President Rev. John Zahm scheduled another celebration on the actual anniversary of Sorin’s ordination.  This celebration was a private affair for the Notre Dame students to express their gratitude to their adored Founder and few visitors were invited.

On Saturday, May 26th, the eve of Sorin’s anniversary, every building on campus was decorated with flags, banners, flowers, and garland.  At 4:00 pm, there was a reception with the students, faculty, and administration in Exhibition Hall.  The afternoon’s entertainment included student speeches, poems, and recitals as well as performances by the Orchestra and South Bend St. James Vocal Quartet.

Card from Rev. Edward Sorin's Golden Jubilee, 1888/0815
Card from Rev. Edward Sorin’s Golden Jubilee, 1888/0815

After dinner, Sorin, Zahm, and faculty members retired to the Main Building porch, where below the Band played and the student military units gave their gun salutes.  Then a barouche drawn by two black horses came up Notre Dame Avenue by surprise.  Professor John Ewing presented the carriage and steeds to Sorin as a gift from the students, faculty, and alumni.

As night fell, “there was a grand illumination of the college buildings and grounds. … Chinese lanterns of every hue and size swung from tree and arch and fountain in the beautiful parterre before the college, while flags and festooning and colors gay made the solemn towering walls of the main building put on a look of gladsomeness.  And out of every window of the massive pile… there beamed the noon-day brilliancy of the Edison light.”  The Band, gun salutes, and student cheers continued underneath a fireworks display.  “The wonted sylvan stillness of Notre Dame was kept in exile far into the night” [Scholastic, 06/02/1888, page 595]

Sunday, May 27th, began with Solemn High Mass sung by Rev. Edward Sorin with Rev. William Corby delivering the sermon.  Afterwards, under threat of rain, Sorin quickly blessed the cornerstone of Sorin Hall, a dormitory with private rooms for the collegiate students.  The day continued with more banquets, speeches, toasts, performances, and military drills, in typical Notre Dame fashion.  Due to the weather, the scheduled baseball games and and boat races were deferred to Monday.

[photoshelter-img i_id=”I0000jZvDw1WUsco” buy=”1″ caption=”Sorin Hall exterior, c1893. Corby Hall is under construction in the background.” width=”576″ height=”480″]

The official celebrations for Father Sorin’s Golden Jubilee took place on August 15, 1888.  Thousands of people, clergy and lay, were on campus for the event and many more sent Father Sorin letters and telegrams, congratulating him on his milestone.  Due to the far-reaching influence of Sorin and Notre Dame, formal invitations were not issued.  Rather, Father Corby issued general invitations in newspapers across the country via the Associated Press.

The arrival of James Cardinal Gibbons to South Bend the day before itself was the cause of much fanfare.  “An immense concourse of citizens was gathered at the station in South Bend on Tuesday evening together with several Catholic societies, bands and any number of people in vehicles. So great was the crowd and the desire to see the Cardinal when the train arrived that it was almost impossible for him and his suite to reach their carriages.  Very Rev. Father Corby took charge of the Cardinal in Father Sorin’s barouche, and the long procession filed down South street into Michigan, and then across the Water street bridge and on out to Notre Dame.  Bands of music were playing, the great bell of Notre Dame could be heard, and all along the line of march were decorations and illuminations.
The society of the Ancient Order of Hibernians of South Bend acted as escort” [Scholastic, 08/25/1888].

There ceremonies of August 15th started off at 6:00 am with the consecration of Sacred Heart Church.  Bishop Joseph Dwenger of Fort Wayne led the consecration ceremony, which lasted three hours.  Bishop Maurice Burke of Cheyenne then blessed the large bell in the tower of the Basilica.  The cornerstone for the Basilica was laid on May 31, 1871; the first mass and blessing was held on August 15, 1875.  The Lady Chapel addition was completed in late 1887, in time for Sorin’s Jubilee; but the steeple wouldn’t be complete until 1892.  In February 1888, Father Sorin requested that Sacred Heart Church be elevated to the status of Basilica Minor, a title that would eventually be realized over a hundred years later in 1992.

[photoshelter-img i_id=”I0000RFMbX5hkSik” buy=”1″ caption=”Basilica of the Sacred Heart exterior without the steeple, 1888.” width=”576″ height=”352″]

Father Sorin said low Mass at 9:30 am.  Just after 10:00am, Cardinal Gibbons celebrated High Mass and a choir from Chicago sang Haydn’s Imperial Mass. “The  Knights of St. Casimir, clad in the full uniform of the Polish guard, were drawn up before the communion rail with sabres drawn, and all this, with the glittering tapers, the clouds of incense, the thunder of the great organ, and the solemn nature of the celebration, made the scene an impressive one” [Scholastic, 08/25/1888].

Archbishop John Ireland gave the sermon, which was later published and distributed, including in Scholastic‘s Jubilee issue.  Mass let out at 12:30 pm, which was followed by a lavish banquet with numerous toasts and speeches in the Main Building refectories.

Front page of the banquet program for the celebration of Rev. Edward Sorin's Golden Jubilee, featuring an engraving of Main Building by A.C. McClurg & Co., 1888/0815.
Front page of the banquet program for the celebration of Rev. Edward Sorin’s Golden Jubilee, featuring an engraving of Main Building by A.C. McClurg & Co., 1888/0815.

Later in the afternoon, Bishop John Watterson of Columbus, Ohio, dedicated and blessed the buildings of the “New Notre Dame.”  The Second Main Building had been consecrated in 1866, but it and several other buildings were destroyed by fire in April 1879.  The evening concluded with fireworks and musical performances by local bands and the Chicago musicians who earlier sang at Mass.

Sorin’s Golden Jubilee and Notre Dame’s Golden Jubilee a few years later marked a long history of growing success for the Congregation of Holy Cross and her famous University.  These Jubilees also held deeper ramifications for the Catholic Church in America:  “What had been accomplished at Notre Dame under [Sorin’s] stewardship seemed to a wider public emblematic of the growth and maturing of the American Catholic Church as a whole, an there were those in high places anxious to give expression to this fact.  To honor the founder of Notre Dame was in effect to proclaim the enduring and legitimate status of the Church, after much struggle, had attained within American society.  In accord, therefore, with the late nineteenth century’s predilection for gaudy celebrations, featuring bands and banquets, fireworks and fiery oratory, plans were formulated at the beginning of 1888 to solemnize Father Sorin’s golden anniversary as a national as well as personal triumph” [O’Connell, page 702].


Edward Sorin
by Marvin O’Connell
“History of Sorin College” (http://www3.nd.edu/~otters/history.php)
GNDL 22/19
CEDW 30/16
GGPN 15/10
GMLS 04/02
CSOR 04/01

Rev. Edward Sorin Lost at Sea

On a beautiful November 13, 1875, the steamship L’Amerique left New York and set sail for Le Havre, France.  Aboard were Rev. Edward Sorin, making one of his many journeys between America and Europe, and Catholic artist Miss Eliza Allen Starr.  They were supposed to arrive on November 23, but their plans took a great detour.

Around 3:30am on Sunday, November 21, 1875, the shaft of the L’Amerique broke and left her stranded near the Scilly Islands in the Celtic Sea.  The nearby Royal Mail Steamship China was able to take on a few of L’Amerique’s passengers and cargo, but many stayed behind.  November 23rd newspaper reports claimed that L’Amerique was proceeding under sail for Havre, all well” [The Patterson Weekly Press, November 25, 1875].  Scholastic reported similar news, not knowing yet that L’Amerique and many of her passengers were still stranded, although not sinking.

Father Sorin and Miss Starr were among the passengers left behind on the disabled steamer.  They hoped a rescue ship would come by that Friday.  The week’s weather was beautiful and calm:  “On Friday evening the ship seemed actually to stand on a sea of glass, so profound was the calm.  The sounds on board were as peaceful and domestic as those of a country-house.  In fact the stillness was so deep as to be solemn, and almost oppressive; for no ship had come, as we had so confidently expected” [Starr, “Pilgrims and Shrines”].  Then the weather turned and the sea became rough.

A German rescue boat finally found L’Amerique on Tuesday, November 29th.  However, “the roughness of the sea and the darkness preclude all thoughts of a transfer. She could only take our dispatches to Southampton, and go on her way” [Starr].  While the weather once again cleared, no ships arrived to the rescue.  Fortunately, there were enough provisions on board to sustain the crew and passengers the extra week at sea.  However, thoughts of not being rescued lingered in the minds of Starr and Sorin.  They were comforted by prayer and both vowed to keep the devotion of a Thousand Hail Marys.

On Sunday December 5th, L’Amerique was approached by a group of fishermen from Newfoundland.  Unfortunately, their boats were not capable of rescuing the steamer.  L’Amerique had no means of communication and they could only hope that a passing steamer would find them before it was too late.  Back home, the Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s students worried greatly:  “The non-arrival of the ‘Amerique’ causes great anxiety—
Telegraphic reports from Paris and London describe the ‘Amerique’ as going slowly but surely to the destined port.  But though these reports allay any extreme fears for the safety of our Venerated Very Rev. Father Sorin, and the other dear friends on board—still, the suspense and anxiety will be very painful till certain tidings of the safety of her passengers reach us” [Scholastic, 12/11/1875].

The Ville de Brest had gone in search of the incapacitated L’Amerique on November 24 and finally spotted her on December 5th and approached closer at midnight.  The weather and rough seas prevented a rescue for another week.  On December 12th, the crew of the Ville de Brest transferred the ninety passengers from L’Amerique and towed the disabled steamer back to Ireland.

Father Edward Sorin (in the center with the long, white beard and black cassock), Miss Eliza Allen Starr, and other passengers being transferred to the Ville de Brest, the steamer sent out by the French Transatlantic Steamship Company, which save passengers from the disabled steamer L’Amerique and which towed her into Queenstown harbor, and thence to Havre, 1875.

Father Sorin wrote to Scholastic about the ordeal and said that during the transfer to the Ville de Brest Miss Starr “went down bravely enough half the length of the rope ladder along the side of the big boat, but when she reached the lower boat I could see she was still alive by the sign of the cross she was making and repeating.  Ah! she is a Christian woman” [Scholastic, 01/08/1876].

After the Ville de Brest rescued L’Amerique, the continued storms prevented a swift return to port.  They wouldn’t arrive safely at Queenstown harbor until December 18, 1875, nearly three and a half weeks after their original anticipated arrival date in Le Havre.  Ville de Brest then took the passengers to Le Havre through more storms.  From there, the travelers took the train to Paris, arriving on Christmas Day.  They went to Mass at Notre Dame des Victoires, where prayers and Masses had been said for weeks earlier for their safe rescue.

In January of 1876, Fr. Sorin commissioned artist Luigi Gregori to paint a mural in the newly built Church of the Sacred Heart (now the Basilica) in thanksgiving of his rescue.  The mural depicted Christ walking on water with Saint Peter sinking below the waves while the other apostles remain in the boat.  Unfortunately, the murals on the southern wall on either side of the organ were painted over sometime between 1951 and 1977.


“A Memorable Voyage” by Miss Eliza Allen Starr from “Pilgrims and Shrines,” as reprinted in Scholastic issues 01/31/1885 and 02/07/1885
Accident to the Amerique,” The Patterson Weekly Press, 11/25/1875


175th Anniversary of the Congregation of Holy Cross

On March 1, 1837, in the town of Saint-Croix near Le Mans, France, Blessed Basil Antoine-Marie Moreau joined his band of auxiliary priests with the Brothers of St. Joseph, which was founded by Father Jacques-François Dujarie.  The Vatican officially recognized this group of priests, brothers, and sisters as the Congregation of Holy Cross in 1857.

Portrait of Rev. Basil Moreau, c1860s

In 1841, Moreau sent Rev. Edward Sorin, CSC, from Le Mans, France, to a newly formed diocese in Vincennes, Indiana.  Sorin’s ambition was stifled in Vincennes, so when Bishop Celestine de la Hailandiere conceded to let Sorin establish a college elsewhere in the diocese, he quickly jumped on the opportunity.  As luck would have it, Rev. Stephen T. Badin had sold the Diocese of Vincennes land just north of South Bend, Indiana, in 1835, with the intent of using it for an educational institution.  The land became available to Sorin and upon his arrival in November 1842, he renamed the area Notre Dame du Lac.  After serving as President of the University of Notre Dame for 23 years, Sorin became Superior General of the order in 1868 and served in this position until his death in 1893.  As such, Notre Dame’s history is inevitably an important part of the history of the Congregation of Holy Cross (CSC).

The Notre Dame Archives houses many records concerning the Congregation of Holy Cross and its members, particularly of those who have connections to the University of Notre Dame.  Other notable repositories of Holy Cross materials in the Notre Dame area are the Indiana Province Archives, the Midwest Province of the Brothers’ Archives, and the Sisters’ Archives.


Fundamental Act of Unity, March 1, 1837
Holy Cross Celebrates 175 Years” by Fr. Arthur J. Colgan, C.S.C. (published 03/01/2012)
Moreau’s Faith & Vision:  A quick biography of Blessed Basil Moreau, CSC
“The University of Notre Dame:  A Portrait of Its History and Campus,” by Thomas Schlereth


Founder’s Day

October 13th is the feast day of St. Edward the Confessor, patron saint of
Rev. Edward Sorin, founder of the University of Notre Dame.

Statue of St. Edward the Confessor, holding a model of the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, outside of St. Edward’s Hall, 1978

In the early 1840s, this feast day naturally became a day to honor the University’s most prominent figure and it quickly became one of the highlights of the school year for the students of all ages.  The students from Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s Academy celebrated the day, and often the eve as well, with theatrical and musical performances, athletic matches (such as three-legged races, boat races, baseball and football games), and a much anticipated feast in the dining hall.

Students running in a backward race on Cartier Field on Founder’s Day, 1913

Amid the festivities, students, clergy, and other well-wishers sent Fr. Sorin letters, telegrams, and cards, wishing him a happy feast day, expressing their gratitude and affection towards Sorin, of which a number are currently housed with the University Archives in Fr. Sorin’s papers.

Address to the Very Rev. Edward Sorin, CSC, Superior General [of the Congregation of Holy Cross], on his Patronal Festival by the Juniors 1885. The address contained the following excerpt: “It is in this wise dear Father General that St. Edward’s Day has come to be a kind of royal feast day at Notre Dame. For it is your name day and you are the illustrious founder and generous protector and director of our beloved Alma Mater.”

Cover of the hand-drawn card the Novices presented to Fr. Edward Sorin on the feast day of St. Edward, c1880s.

In the 1910s, the Columbus Day celebrations were combined with Founder’s Day.  In 1912, the Knights of Columbus Council at Notre Dame organized the Discovery Day celebration.  “The celebration [was] partly the result of a country wide campaign by the order to make the day a legal holiday in the various states” [South Bend Times, 10/12/1912, from PNDP 70-Sa-03].

Over the years, the exuberance of the feast day waned.  In the 1950s and 1960s, students placed wreaths at the base of the Fr. Sorin statue.  Today Mass will be celebrated in the Basilica of the Sacred Heart to honor St. Edward and to give thanks to Fr. Edward Sorin, who, in all of his tenacity, quickly turned a small school in the wilderness of Indiana into a nationally renowned institution.

Students and unidentified priest placing a wreath at Sorin Statue on Founder’s Day, 1960/1013.

Also of interest, AgencyND produced this video in 2008 regarding Founder’s Day, using a number of assets from the University Archives:

Notre Dame:  100 Years
, by Arthur J. Hope, CSC
PNDP 70-Sa-03
CSOR 3/06-19
GMIL 2/06
GPHR 45/4037
GNDM 78/041