In 1837 the Congregation of Holy Cross was founded. The Congregation of Holy Cross took its name from a district in the city of LeMans, France – Saint Croix or Holy Cross. Holy Cross School enjoys a distinction of being the second oldest sustained foundation worldwide in the Congregation of Holy Cross, second only to the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana, founded in 1842.
In 1849, at the invitation of the Most Reverend Antoine Blanc, Archbishop of New Orleans, five brothers of the Congregation of Holy Cross were sent by Father Basil Moreau to assume responsibility for St. Mary’s Orphanage. On May 18, 1849, Brother Vincent Pieau wrote to Moreau:
“I went there on April 25 and entered the orphan asylum on May 1. Our establishment is composed of five Brothers, two for the classes (Brothers Basil and Louis), one for the dormitories (Brother Francis de Sales), one kitchen director (Brother Theodule), and finally I am in charge of the house and am liaison with the administration of which the Bishop is spiritual head, and the other members, all lay, are temporal heads.”
During the early years of the foundation New Orleans was devastated by a series of epidemics: cholera, yellow fever, and malaria. The city suffered privation as a result of the northern blockade during the War Between the States. There was the continuing aggravation of the climate of which Brother Vincent said, “was unhealthy, especially for strangers.” More than once consideration was given to withdrawing from New Orleans. In the late 1850s, Father Moreau was prompted to write:
“I have followed your progress in mind and heart all along and if there is one place in which I am deeply interested and for which I have great affection, it is most certainly New Orleans. This place has experienced various kinds of hardships from the day of its foundation, but that is proof that it will also become a place of great blessing.”
In 1859 the congregation purchased Reynes Farm, a riverfront plantation. In 1879, as the need for an orphanage diminished, St. Isidore’s College, a boarding and day school was opened. This became the original site on which Holy Cross School stood and it is here that Holy Cross’ history officially began.
On June 20, 1890, the General Assembly of the state of Louisiana chartered the institution, empowering it to confer bachelor’s and master’s degrees.
In 1895 the original administration building was erected for $15,000, and at the suggestion of the Archbishop Francis Janssens, St. Isidore’s College was renamed and solemnly dedicated Holy Cross College. Expansion of the facilities soon became imperative and in 1912, two wings were added to the main building and a gymnasium was built to accommodate the steady increase of students. At approximately the same time, though chartered as a college, the school became a secondary institution confining itself to activities on that level.
In 1945 the Holy Cross alma mater was introduced.
In 1954, a new building with classroom facilities, science labs, a library, and a cafeteria was erected to meet the needs of the growing student body. Five additional facilities were added: the Student Center in 1962, the Brothers’ Residence in 1964, the junior Olympic swimming pool in 1965, the middle school building which was originally built as a new boarders’ residence in 1966, and an athletic building which housed a weight training room and video facility in 2002.
The boarding program attracted as many as 150 students a year from across the south as well as Central and South America. Resident students were housed in two dormitories located in the administration building as well as two residence halls which provided private accommodations for upperclassmen. In 1972 the boarding school was discontinued and the middle school opened.
On August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina struck the city of New Orleans devastating the original school complex at 4950 Dauphine Street.
In 2007 Holy Cross entered a new chapter in her long, rich history. In order to continue the mission of Holy Cross in the New Orleans area, the brothers of the Congregation of Holy Cross and the board of directors selected a site in Gentilly to relocate the campus.
On March 20, 2010 Holy Cross School solemnly dedicated a 20-acre campus at the new location in Gentilly, and in 2015, the school opened a primary campus on Elysian Fields, adding a program for boys in pre-kindergarten through fourth grade.
The school’s legacy is summed up by our motto: “Become the Man You Are.” To meet this challenge the faculty has committed itself to creating a sequential curriculum, grades Pre-K–12.
Today more than half of the young men are students of legacy having followed a great-grandfather, grandfather, or father to Holy Cross. This legacy is embodied in the school code “The Holy Cross Man” and quoted from memory by Holy Cross men young and old.