Gross Catholic was founded by the Archdiocese of Omaha with the Society of Mary (the Marianists) and the Franciscan Sisters of Our Lady of Perpetual Help. Today, Gross Catholic continues to be a Marianist-sponsored school. The mission of Marianist education is continued by a very dedicated group of Christian lay women and men and Diocesan clergy.
The Society of Mary is an international religious order of brothers and priests. More than 600 Marianists serve in the Province of the United States and sponsor three universities, 18 high schools, 12 parishes, and five retreat centers. Blessed William Joseph Chaminade founded the Society of Mary in 1817 and the Marianists have had a U.S. presence since they first arrived in Cincinnati in 1849. Founders Week is celebrated annually at Gross Catholic, and we commemorate Blessed Father William Joseph Chaminade's feast day on January 22.
Fr. William Joseph Chaminade founded the Marianist religious order of brothers and priests in 1817. Undaunted by rising political tension and religious persecution of the French Revolution, Chaminade redoubled his efforts to continue his ministry. In the first waves of the forced exile of religious and priests from France, Chaminade remained. Defying authorities, he went underground disguised as a tinker or needle peddler and continued to bring to the church of Bordeaux his compassion and ministry. Hunted by the political authorities, he was finally captured and exiled to Spain.
During his years of exile in Saragossa, Spain, Chaminade's prayer called him to see his mission to the Church of France in a new way. Deep in prayer before the statue of Our Lady of the Pillar in the Cathedral of Saragossa, Mary's role in the Incarnation of Jesus became for him the archetype of all his efforts to rechristianize France: the most faithful imitation of Jesus, Son of God become Son of Mary.
Early in 1800 Chaminade was given permission to return to France. Inspired by his vision at Saragossa, he began in Bordeaux the gathering of people into communities of faith dedicated to Mary and to the mission of forming other communities.
Fr. Chaminade believed schools were instrumental in changing the world. He saw education as the means to solve problems and transform society. Fr. Chaminade's beliefs provided the foundation for the Characteristics of Marianist Education, which guide Gross Catholic today.