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André Bessette, C.S.C.
August 9, 1845|
Mont-Saint-Grégoire, Quebec, Canada
January 6, 1937 (aged 91)|
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
(Canada and the United States, and the Congregation of Holy Cross)
|Beatified||May 23, 1982, Saint Peter's Square, Vatican City, by Pope John Paul II|
|Canonized||October 17, 2010, Saint Peter's Square, Vatican City by Pope Benedict XVI|
Saint Joseph's Oratory
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
|Feast||January 6 (January 7 in Canada)|
André Bessette, C.S.C. (9 August 1845 – 6 January 1937), more commonly known as Brother André (French: Frère André), and since his canonization as Saint André of Montreal, was a lay brother of the Congregation of Holy Cross and a significant figure of the Roman Catholic Church among French-Canadians, credited with thousands of reported miraculous oil healings associated with his pious devotion to Saint Joseph.
Bessette was declared venerable in 1978 and was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1982. Pope Benedict XVI approved the decree of sainthood for Blessed André on 19 February 2010, with the formal canonization taking place on 17 October 2010.
He was born Alfred Bessette in Mont-Saint-Grégoire, Canada East (Québec), a small town situated 40 kilometres (25 mi) southeast of Montreal. Bessette was the eighth of 12 children (four of whom died in infancy). He was so frail when he was born that the curé baptized him "conditionally" the following day, completing an emergency ritual performed at his birth. He was from a working-class family; his father, Isaac Bessette, was a carpenter and lumberman, and his mother, Clothilde Foisy Bessette, saw to the education of her children. In 1849, with employment scarce and his family living in poverty, Alfred's father decided to move to Farnham (in Quebec) where he hoped to earn a living as a lumberman. Tragically, he lost his life in an accident, crushed by a falling tree, when Alfred was only nine years old. His mother found herself widowed at the age of forty with ten children in her care. She died of tuberculosis within three years, and Alfred found himself orphaned at the age of twelve.
The pastor of his parish, the Rev. André Provençal, noticed the devotion and generosity of the young man. He decided to present Alfred to the Congregation of Holy Cross in Montreal, writing a note to the superior, "I'm sending you a saint." Although he was initially rejected by the order because of frail health, Archbishop Ignace Bourget of Montreal intervened on his behalf, and in 1872, Alfred was accepted, and entered the novitiate of the congregation, receiving the religious name of Brother André, by which he was known for the rest of his life. He made his final vows on February 2, 1874, at the age of 28.
André was given the task of porter at Notre Dame College in Côte-des-Neiges, Quebec, with additional duties as sacristan, laundry worker and messenger. "When I joined this community, the superiors showed me the door, and I remained 40 years," he said.
His great confidence in Saint Joseph inspired him to recommend the saint's devotion to all those who were afflicted. On his many visits to the sick in their homes, he would rub the sick person lightly with oil taken from a lamp burning in the college chapel and recommend them in prayer to Saint Joseph. People claimed that they had been cured through the prayers of the good Brother and Saint Joseph, and they were grateful their prayers had been heard. Brother André steadfastly refused to take any credit for these cures. Bessette's desire to see Saint Joseph honoured led him in 1904 to launch a campaign to build a chapel for that purpose.
When an epidemic broke out at a nearby college, André volunteered to nurse. Not one person died. The trickle of sick people to his door became a flood. His superiors were uneasy; diocesan authorities were suspicious; doctors called him a quack. "I do not cure," he said again and again. "Saint Joseph cures." In the end he needed four secretaries to handle the 80,000 letters he received each year.
As tensions increased at the College with so many of the sick coming to see the porter, the school officials decided that Brother André could no longer continue with his ministry. He was permitted to receive the sick in the nearby tramway station rather than the College. As his reputation spread, Brother André became quite a controversial figure. There were many religious in the Congregation of Holy Cross, teachers and parents of students at the College who supported him but many others opposed him and even considered him dangerous to the well-being of the school's reputation because they regarded him as a charlatan. Others were concerned for the good health of the children, fearing the possibility of contagion in the school spread from diseases carried by the sick who frequented Brother André.
Bessette died in 1937, at the age of 91. A million people filed past his coffin.
The remains of Bessette lie in the church he helped build. His body lies in a tomb built below the Oratory's Main Chapel, except for his heart, which is preserved in a reliquary in the same Oratory. The heart was stolen in March 1973, but was recovered in December 1974 with the help of famous criminal attorney Frank Shoofey .
Brother André was beatified by Pope John Paul II on May 23, 1982. The miracle cited in support of his beatification was the healing in 1958 of Giuseppe Carlo Audino, who suffered from cancer. St. Andre is commemorated in most of the world by an optional memorial on January 6. His memorial is celebrated in Canada on January 7.
On December 19, 2009, Pope Benedict XVI promulgated a decree recognizing a second miracle at Blessed André's intercession, and on October 17, 2010, formally declared sainthood for him. Blessed Brother André was the first saint of the Congregation of Holy Cross, the same religious order that founded the University of Notre Dame.
There is a high school built on Fanshawe Park Rd in northwest London, Ontario Canada called Saint Andre Bessette Secondary School.
A program to support student learning at Notre Dame College Prep in Niles, Illinois, is named after Saint Andre. Students in the program are known as St. Andre Scholars.
There is an elementary school, Brother André Catholic School, in Beacon Heights (a suburb of Ottawa), Ontario, Canada. Another elementary school in Brampton, Ontario is called St. Andre Bessette.
The French Catholic mission in York Region - North of Toronto - is named "Mission Catholique St-Frère-André". Services are held at the region's only French Catholic High School: ÉSC Renaissance.
St André Bessette Catholic Church is a church located in Downtown Portland, Oregon. Its former name was Downtown Chapel.
St André Bessette Catholic Church is a church located in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.
St. Andre Bessette Catholic School, will be opening in Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta in September, 2018 serving students in grades 9-12.