VATICAN CITY, ITALY–Tens of thousands of pilgrims from around the world gathered in Saint Peter’s Square on Sunday morning, October 17, to celebrate the canonization of six new saints of the Catholic Church. Among them was Brother Andre Bessette, C.S.C., the first saint from the Congregation of Holy Cross, who was formally canonized by Pope Benedict XVI in an outdoor ceremony.
Saint Andre worked as a humble porter at a school in Montreal and founded the Oratory of Saint Joseph there. He came to be known as “the miracle man of Montreal” for his outreach and compassion for the sick. The spirit of his work with the poor and sick carries over into the lives of Holy Cross religious and those to whom they minister around the world. Pope John Paul II beatified Brother Andre in 1982.
Alfred Bessette (who became Brother Andre) was born August 9, 1845, in Saint-Gregoire d’Iberville near Montreal, Canada. One of ten children, he was unable to attend school regularly because of poor health. Orphaned by age 12, the largely illiterate Bessette spent 13 years wandering and working in various places, including textile mills in the United States. When he entered Holy Cross as a brother in 1870, he was assigned to be a porter (doorman) at a Montreal school, where he developed a reputation for compassion and healing. He eventually founded the Saint Joseph’s Oratory near Montreal, which receives nearly a million pilgrims annually. Brother Andre died on January 6, 1937, at the age of 91.
“[As] doorman at the Notre Dame College in Montreal, [Brother Andre]showed boundless charity and did everything possible to soothe the despair of those who confided in him,” Pope Benedict told a crowd of about 40,000. In his homily, the 83-year-old pontiff noted the suffering and impoverishment of Andre’s early years. “This led him to turn to God for prayer and an intense interior life,” he said. “With little instruction, he nevertheless understood what was essential to his faith. For him, to believe meant to submit freely and lovingly to Divine Will….[He] lived the beatitude of the pure of heart, that of personal rectitude.”
Hundreds of supporters of the Congregation of Holy Cross from the United States attended the canonization and surrounding events. The official delegation included Fr. David T. Tyson, C.S.C., Provincial Superior, Indiana Province, and two Holy Cross school presidents: Fr. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., President of the University of Notre Dame, and Fr. E. William Beauchamp, C.S.C., President of the University of Portland.
Reflecting on Brother Andre’s canonization, Fr. Beauchamp, C.S.C., said, “Andre has something to teach us. He was a person who always found time for quiet and prayer. He did not make great plans, but simply watched the door and waited. He could not control who entered, but he saw each visitor as a call from God to respond with compassion, attentiveness, and faith. And, remarkably, miraculous healings occurred.”
“Parish, mission, education” are the three pillars of service in Holy Cross, and the delegation that traveled to Rome included pastors, educators, and students. The Indiana Province of the Congregation of Holy Cross is currently working with more than 600 men a year who are considering a vocation with Holy Cross, and 50 men in the United States are currently studying to become Holy Cross priests. They and their brothers in Holy Cross will continue the work of their founder, Blessed Basil Moreau, C.S.C., newly blessed and inspired by Saint Andre, a holy man who was raised up among them.
Also canonized on October 17 were five other saints, representing the vitality of the Church around the world and across the centuries:
- Blessed Mary MacKillop, 1842-1909, Australia’s first saint and founder of the Sisters of St. Joseph of the Sacred Heart.
- Blessed Stanislaw Soltys Kazimierczyk, a Polish-born member of the Canons Regular of the Lateran, who lived 1433-1489. He was famous as a preacher and confessor.
- Blessed Juana Josefa Cipitria Barriola of Spain. She died in 1912 and was founder of the Daughters of Jesus.
- Blessed Giulia Salzano, the Italian founder of the Catechetical Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus; she died in 1929.
- Blessed Camilla Battista Varano, an Italian Poor Clare who lived 1458-1524.
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The Congregation of Holy Cross Priests and Brothersfulfills the original vision of founder Blessed Basil Moreau, C.S.C., to make God known, loved, and served in educational, parish, and mission settings. The Congregation sponsors eight colleges and universities throughout the country-University of Notre Dame, Indiana; Holy Cross College, Indiana; St.Mary’s College, Indiana; University of Portland, Oregon; St. Edward’s University, Texas; Stonehill College, Massachusetts; Our Lady of Holy Cross College, Louisiana; and King’s College, Pennsylvania-as well as parishes, high schools, and outreach ministries throughout North America, Latin America, and East Africa.
For more information about Brother Andre Bessette, C.S.C., please review the following materials: