Moreau House Men Grow Through Community, Service and Prayer at St. Edward's
This year, eight St. Edward’s University students made a trade: the comforts and familiarity of their current home for the chance to experience communal living with St. Edward’s University Holy Cross Brothers. This unique on-campus living environment is exclusive to young men interested in exploring their faith through the Congregation of Holy Cross. The Moreau House Collegiate program was established by Brother Larry Atkinson, CSC, and Brother Michael Winslow, CSC, in January 2001. Since then, 60 students have called Moreau House home. Collegians usually reside there for one or two years with Candidates who are studying to be Holy Cross Brothers or Priests.
“It is rewarding to see students continue to remain friends and keep in touch long after they leave Moreau House and to keep in touch with us,” Brother Larry said. “Social media and email certainly have helped.”
It’s not unusual for former Moreau House residents to stop by when they are back in town. One has coined the term "Moreaunians 4 Life."
“The original group of four Collegiates are still in touch with us and with each other, even as they have gone on to receive advanced degrees, to get married or have entered priesthood or religious life,” Brother Larry said. Two of them have now returned to be Graduate Assistants guiding current Moreaunians. Former Moreaunians say that it was a particularly formative part of their college experience.
The relaxed requirements for participation make this experience accessible to a diverse range of students and allow the Holy Cross Brothers to meet students where they are in life and their spiritual journey — an important characteristic of Holy Cross education. These young men come from different backgrounds, a variety of religious traditions and are typically in their junior or senior year at St. Edward’s. The program is open to traditional undergraduate students who are doing well in school, although there isn’t a required GPA.
“The Moreau House program leads me to believe in the true potential of young adults when they are given parameters, expectations, responsibilities and an opportunity to form relationships,” Brother Larry said. “It is very rewarding to be part of their self- discovery and growth into responsible, spiritual adulthood.”
“Our founder, Basil Moreau, would be pleased to see his ideals lived out with these young men.”
There are two St. Edward's University Brothers who live with the young men in Moreau House — Atkinson and Brother John Perron, CSC. Since Moreau House is a wing of St. Joseph Hall, the Brothers’ residence on campus, the students have the opportunity to learn from the other 16 brothers living at St. Joseph Hall or those traveling through Austin. The Collegians share meals, household chores and service ministries.
“The Moreau House has provided me an opportunity to live in a deeper community than traditional residence halls,” Mason Simmons ’12 said. “I live with guys who are like-minded as me, spiritual and academically committed. Thanks to them and the Brothers, I am further along in my personal development than I thought possible.”
“Seeing the students grow through their experiences in community living, spiritual search and commitment to service enriches me and deepens my own vowed commitment to community, prayer and service,” Brother Larry said. “They develop a sense of family and respect for one another and diversity.”
The Holy Cross values of Moreau House are lived through three pillars — community, service and prayer:
Community is achieved through working on chores around the house together, taking turns cooking dinner for each other and attending house meetings once a month. All the young men in the program eat dinner together daily. They also participate in a retreat at the beginning of the year.
“The biggest lesson I’ve learned while living in Moreau House is that people depend on one another,” Ryan Grundy ’12 said. “We rely on each other to keep a positive energy around the house, or to pick someone up when they are feeling down. The essence of a human community is that every single person matters. When one is hurting, we all hurt. Together we can help each other to be the best people we can be.”
Service is put into action every Wednesday at 6:30 a.m. by participating in the Egg Ministry, a service project which supplies the homeless community on 7th Street outside the Austin Resource Center for the Homeless with coffee and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. They are joined by others who provide hard boiled eggs and tortillas. Each Tuesday evening, half of the Moreau House men make the sandwiches. The other half wake up early Wednesday morning to distribute the food to the homeless. They trade “jobs” the next week. Many of the students are also actively involved with other service opportunities offered on campus.
Egg Ministry comes from the name given to Lynn Goodman-Strauss who, in an article in the Austin American-Statesman, was dubbed “The Egg Lady.” In the late 1980s, she would bring hard boiled eggs and tortillas to the day laborer pick-up location on the property of what is now the Austin City Hall. Eventually others, including several Holy Cross Brothers (Joseph Harris, William Dunn, Louis Coe and Larry Atkinson), joined in the ministry. When Brothers Larry and Mike began the Moreau House program, they included it as their house service opportunity.
Prayer at Moreau House is open to everyone and is led by either of the two resident brothers or by one of the Collegians. Community prayer takes place each weekday evening after dinner, and Mass is celebrated by a Holy Cross priest each Friday afternoon. They also attend Sunday Mass and services on campus or other places of worship.
Since 1984, Moreau House has been a Candidate program for those studying to be Holy Cross brothers and priests. In response to the decreasing numbers of men entering the Candidate program, Moreau House expanded into the Collegiate program to include students who are not Candidates. This type of on-campus experience is now rare at Catholic schools across the country, although the University of Notre Dame has two similar programs — Old College and Bessette House. Old College is for students interested in joining the Holy Cross priesthood. Bessette House is similar to Moreau House, welcoming both candidates for Holy Cross Brothers as well as Collegians.
"Year of the Brother"
This year is the “Year of the Brother.” On Oct. 17, 2010, the Congregation of Holy Cross celebrated the canonization of Brother André Bessette, CSC, by Pope Benedict XVI — the congregation’s first-ever saint. In honor of Bessette’s achievement, the congregation kicked off the “Year of the Brother” last October. It would be 12 months dedicated to honoring the vocation and ministry of service lived out on a daily basis.