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The founder of Notre Dame, Indiana; b. 6 Feb., 1814, at Ahuillé, near Laval, France; d. 31 Oct., 1893, at Notre Dame, U.S.A. His early education was directed by his mother, a woman remarkable for intelligence as well as virtue. After completing his classical studies, his vocation for the priesthood being marked, M. Sorin at once entered the diocesan seminary, where he was distinguished for superior ability and exemplary life. Among his fellow students were Cardinal Langénieux and others who shed lustre on the Church.
At the time of Father Sorin's ordination, glowing reports of missionary enterprise in foreign lands had fired afresh the hearts of French clergy, and inspired numerous vocations, not a few of which were those of future martyrs, particularly in China and Japan. It was to the first of these countries that the Abbé Sorin felt attracted; and to the end of his long life accounts of the trials and triumphs of Chinese missionaries had for him a singular fascination. He was influenced by circumstances to enroll himself in the Congregation of the Holy Cross, a community of priests, brothers, and sisters lately founded at Le Mans by the Abbé Moreau. The need of missionaries in the United States, so earnestly represented in letters from bishops in this country and in addresses by others who had occasion to visit Europe, was not to be disregarded by the heads of religious orders; and although France had not as yet recovered from the effects of the Revolution, she generously contributed men and means for the support and spread of American missions. Father Sorin, but recently ordained, was selected by his superiors to establish the Congregation of the Holy Cross in what was then considered a remote district of the United States.
Accompanied by six brothers, he arrived in New York in the autumn of 1841, and immediately set out for Indiana, which was destined to be the field, the center rather, of his apostolate for upwards of half a century. After a short stay at St. Peter's in the Diocese of Vincennes, he proceeded northward with five of his confreres. In the beginning of an exceptionally rigorous winter, in poverty and privation he began the foundation of Notre Dame, which, under his fostering care, from the Indian missionary station, developed into one of the largest religious and educational institutions in the new world, the centre of far-reaching activities for the work of the Church. Several colleges which Father Sorin founded elsewhere are also in a flourishing condition.
It is a far cry from Indiana to India; but the flourishing mission in Eastern Bengal, in charge of the Congregation of the Holy Cross, owes much of its success to Father Sorin's ardent zeal and active co-operation. Thither he sent its former bishop and other priests whose services could ill be spared, together with a band of sisters, the superior of whom, a native of New York, died at her distant post, a victim of her self-sacrifice. The founding of the Congregation of the Sisters of the Holy Cross in the United States is rightly regarded as one of Father Sorin's most important services to religion. Under his administration and care, this community, at first a handful, has become a host, with flourishing establishments in a dozen states. During the Civil War, thanks to Father Sorin's forethought, this sisterhood was able to furnish nearly fourscore nurses for sick and wounded soldiers on transports and in hospitals. A number of priests of the Congregation of the Holy Cross served as chaplains at the front. Another of Father Sorin's many claims to the grateful remembrance of English-speaking Catholics is the "Ave Maria", which he founded in 1865.
Father Sorin was elected superior-general of his order in 1868, and held this important office during the rest of his life. In recognition of his work in educational lines, the French Government conferred upon him the insignia of an Officer of Public Instruction (1888). Soon after the celebration of his sacerdotal golden jubilee (the same year), the venerable founder of Notre Dame entered upon a long period of mental and physical suffering, which closed with a peaceful and painless death on the eve of All Saints', 1893.
MOREAU, Le Tres Reverend Pere Basil-Antoine Moreau (Paris, 1900); A Story of Fifty Years (Notre Dame, 1905); Circular Letters of the Very Rev. Edward Sorin, C.S.C., privately printed.
Daniel E. Hudson.