Notre Dame University and La Salette

When you think of Notre Dame University, of course, you think of a Catholic University and sports. Have you ever heard “Our Lady of La Salette" being associated with Notre Dame... but perhaps we should.

Rev. Edward Sorin, C.S.C.
(1814-1893), founder of
the University of Notre Dame
in Indiana and of St. Edward's
University in Austin, Texas.

In the basilica of the Sacred Heart at Notre Dame University in South Bend, Indiana, the Museum Basilica holds evidence of La Salette devotion in the life of Fr. Edward Sorin, its founding father. But first, his founding of Holy Cross.

Fr. Edward Sorin, C.S.C., founder of Notre Dame University

The University of Notre Dame, the Congregation of Holy Cross' first educational institution in the "New World," was founded in the true spirit of Holy Cross' charisms of education, parish and mission. Founder Blessed Basil Moreau's vision was for an apostolic religious community destined to serve the Church well beyond the frontiers of his own country of France.

In 1841, just four years after Blessed Basil Moreau had founded the Community of the Holy Cross, he sent Fr. Edward Sorin, C.S.C., a young 28-year-old French priest, and seven others to the frozen Midwest of the United States of America.

On November 26, 1842, Fr. Sorin and his Holy Cross brothers took possession of 524 snow-covered acres that the Bishop of Vincennes had given them in the Indiana mission fields and named his fledging 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).

Nov. 30, 1842 marked Father Sorin’s first
Mass at Notre Dame offered in a rude chapel
in a log cabin, the only structure on these
grounds a amid a mighty forest of oaks.

Sorin followed Moreau’s example of sending out priests and brothers to found other schools and parishes throughout the United States and Canada. On Jan. 15, 1844, the University was officially chartered by the Indiana Legislature.

Notre Dame is rated among the nation's top 25 institutions of higher learning. Throughout Notre Dame's history, a Congregation of Holy Cross priest has served as president; University founder Rev. Edward Sorin, C.S.C., was the first.

Fr. Sorin’s statue
of Our Lady of La
Salette, presently
in the Basilica

Fr. Sorin oversaw the mission of Holy Cross in the rest of the United State. In 1865, Fr. Sorin founded Ave Maria Press to spread the Word of God through the printed word. It is a leading publisher of Catholic books.

Fr. Sorin and La Salette

Fr. Sorin, being a native Frenchman from Northwestern France, and having a great devotion to Our Lady, heard about the La Salette Apparition which happened in Southeastern France just a few years after he had left his homeland. He obtained a statue of Our Lady of La Salette which is today in the Basilica Museum.

The official information from the museum states: Our Lady of La Salette: This statue depicts the Apparition of the Blessed Mother as she appeared to two children near the town of La Salette, in the French Alps, on September 19, 1846. This statue was the last earthly object Fr. Sorin gazed upon before his death.”

(Thanks to the Notre University website and archives for most of the information for this article.)


(left) c1870s aerial view of Campus with first Sacred Heart Church on left;
(center) Fr. Sorkin with Minims, grammar school children under 12 years
of age; (right) Minim students with bicycles on Main Quad with Main Building
Dome in the background, 1892. Right photo: Fr. Alexander Kirsch, CSC)


A modern day view of the Campus of Notre
Dame University with the second Sacred Heart Church on the right.

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