‘University’ of Holy Cross is a big signal for future
"Holy Cross will grow like a mighty tree and constantly shoot forth new limbs whose branches will produce yet
others, and all nourished from the same sap and endowed with the same life."
– Blessed Basil Moreau, founder of the Congregation of Holy Cross in France, 1837
Heeding the words of their founder Blessed Father Basil Moreau, the Marianite nuns who established Our Lady of Holy Cross College and its Board of Regents set the course for the future of the college Jan. 27 by changing its name and the way it is governed.
The name change to the University of Holy Cross better reflects the university’s diverse academic offerings, which include doctoral degrees in counseling and educational leadership. Its first doctoral candidate graduated in May 2015, and 65 more are in the doctoral pipeline.
"It’s amazing the number of students in master’s and the doctorate programs,” said David “Buck” Landry, president of the University of Holy Cross since August 2014. “This puts the university and the nuns – the Marinates – in the league they deserve and gives the university the ability to grow and flourish. It’s been a wonderful thing in which to be a part.”
Currently, 65 candidates are in the Ph.D. programs, nationally accredited through the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP). The University of Holy Cross is one of only 62 universities with this accreditation, making it one of the foremost graduate counseling programs in the United States.
“If you have a large graduate school like we have – over 250 graduate students with 62 working on a doctorate – you should be a university,” Landry said. “Every other school our size in New Orleans is a university. ... So there is no reason we shouldn’t have been a university.”
In 2015, the university saw a 10 percent growth in undergraduate enrollment (to approximately 1,200 students) – pushed by a popular nursing curriculum – and a 30 percent uptick in graduate programs. The university also received approval from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools to add a four-year degree in accounting and food science with other degrees on the horizon.
“Our Ph.D. program in counseling is knocking it out of the park,” Landry said. “We have a counseling clinic on campus giving students practical experience dealing with real-life counseling problems.”
How university grew
Marianites of Holy Cross congregational leader Sister Ann Lacour said it’s been 100 years – 1916 – since her order opened a college in New Orleans to teach nuns to become future teachers. The College was first called Holy Cross Normal College, situated on Gallier Street, the current site of the congregational center.
The college grew, changed its name to Holy Angels College and awarded its first four-year degree in 1942. It continued to teach Marianites, other religious communities and teachers until 1960, when a new college was built on 40 acres donated by the Ernest Norman family and named Our Lady of Holy Cross College. The first male student was enrolled in 1967.
From the beginning, the college was dedicated to Blessed Moreau’s philosophy of educating the “whole person,” not only teaching the knowledge needed to succeed in a career but touching the heart through service to others.
“For us, as we celebrate 175 years (of Marianite women religious), we are women of prayer and compassion,” Sister Ann said. “That stems from teaching the whole person. We bring to our prayer what we’ve learned and exhibit that in the compassion we have for the people who touch our lives.”
As with any viable institution, change is necessary. In 2012, the Marianites of Holy Cross formed a task force at its General Chapter meeting to map the congregation’s next five years. One of the goals was to address options for its community-owned institutions such as the Congregation Center on Gallier Street and Our Lady of Holy Cross College.
Sister Ann said the Marianites on the corporation that once played a leadership role in the college met with its former Board of Regents and administrators to determine the institution’s needs.
The result was the renaming of the college, dissolution of its two-tiered governing system and transferring the responsibility for the university’s building and land to a new Board of Trustees, chaired by Kyle France.
“It really does give the university the ability to grow in the future,” France said. “The board felt the name change was appropriate recognizing the fact that the college has been offering programs beyond the baccalaureate degree for a number of years.”
The Marianites will remain a strong presence on the 15-member Board of Trustees with four members – three Marianite nuns and a Holy Cross brother. Two Marianites also will continue in ministry at the university – Sister Rochelle Perrier, vice president for mission integration, and Sister Keri Burke, campus minister.
The changes in leadership and name secure the legacy of the Marianites.
“This means that we are following what we have been saying since Vatican II, that we share our ministry with the laity, making them carry on the mission of Father Moreau,” Sister Ann said.
“The college is an outgrowth of Father Moreau’s vision. As our numbers diminish and our ages are older, we partner with the laity so that the mission continues. ... We are excited. We really are. We are very excited it’s happening in the 100th year.”
The centennial anniversary of the college also will be celebrated this year with a public Centennial Mass Nov. 9 at St. Louis Cathedral celebrated by Archbishop Gregory Aymond. A documentary on the history of the Marianites also is in the works.