Fr. Moreau established the first foreign mission in Algeria followed by that in the United State. Bishop Hailandiere of Vincennes, Indiana, requested of teaching Brothers. In 1840 the diocese covered 12,000 square miles or the whole state of Indiana which consisted of about 300 catholic families scattered here and there with only 20 priests to care for them.
Fr. Moreau chose Fr. Edward Sorin to head this mission because Fr. Sorin experienced an inner calling toward America. He was inspired by Bishop Bruté of Vincennes who visited France and wrote to him concerning his longing thus: "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 thought." (Catta, Vol. 1, p. 503) Sorin was a priest full of dignity and piety who had a remarkable devotion of the Virgin Mary "Notre Dame" of whom he spoke with the simplicity of a child. He was a man of boundless energy and enthusiasm and completely self-confident.
At the request of Bishop Hailandiére of Vincennes, the successor of Bishop Bruté, Fr. Moreau sent Fr. Sorin along with six Brothers (three teachers, one farmer, a carpenter and a tailor). These seven souls left Le Mans on August 5, 1841 and after a long and fatiguing journey arrived at Vincennes on October 19, 1841. The Bishop gave them St. Peter, a 60 acres farm thirty miles from Vincennes consisting of log cabins and a small run down chapel. The day after, they started digging a well and building an oven. Here they spent a year enduring a very cold winter.
In 1842 the Bishop gave Fr. Sorin and Brothers a peace of land in St. Joseph county, far north in Indiana on which to build a college. After a gurney of eleven days through the snow and the icy wind they arrived in South Bend on November 22. Fr. Sorin relates, "A few hours after [our arrival in South Bend], we came to Notre Dame, where I write you these lines. Everything was frozen, yet it all appeared so beautiful. The lake particularly, with its mantle of snow, resplendently white, was to us a symbol of the stainless purity of Our Lady whose name it bears, .... Our accommodations here appear as indeed, they are -- but little different from those at St. Peter's. We hurried about looking at the various sites. . . . Like little children, in spite of the cold, we ran from one end to the other perfectly enchanted by the beauty of our new home. . . . We found the place too small to accommodate us for the night. And as the weather was becoming colder, we hurried back to the village, where we stayed that night." (Sorin to Moreau, December 5, 1842, first letter written by Sorin fromNotre Dame. Circular Letters of Fr. Sorin, pp. 259 ff.)
This than is the beginning of Notre Dame du Lac (Our Lady of the Lake), today the University of Notre Dame. It was founded by Fr. Sorin with much of the work done by the Brothers of Holy Cross.
The rapid expansion of Notre Dame du Lac which Fr. Sorin engineered meant that he had to go into debt and he expected the Congregation to pay for it even when he had no approval for a particular work. A letter of Fr. Moreau, March 23, 1844 will make the situation evident.
|"...As for the note of five thousand francs, you should, my dear friend, at least have warned me ahead of time, for by not so doing you left me open to the risk of losing my credit here and making you lose yours in America, if I had refused to honor the note, as my council wanted me to do. But I am willing to forget all of this, and to turn my thoughts only to the consolations you have offered me by your spirit of devotedness and the success God is granting to your apostolate. You may be sure I have a share in all your crosses, my very dear Sorin, and if I could take them off yours shoulders, I would do so gladly. But you should remember that I have mine also, and that for me one of the heaviest, would be to see my efforts on your behalf poorly understood or even misinte Holy Cross, it is to you that I have vowed the greatest esteem, confidence, and affection, and I shall suffer until my dying day for your departure...." (Archives of Notre Dame)|
Father Moreau expected from Fr. Sorin a financial account of his works since he ultimately had to pay for them. Father Sorin was impatient with these restrictions and at times reacted bitterly. Despite these aggravations, Fr. Moreau always tried to calm Fr. Sorin assuring him of his support and love. In this a see the sign of a great soul in Fr. Moreau, a sign of his saintliness.