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Delegation to visit Vatican for Bessette canonization

Laura McCrystal | Thursday, October 14, 2010

A delegation from Notre Dame, led by University President Fr. John Jenkins, will be present at the Vatican Sunday for the canonization of Blessed Brother André Bessette, a member of the Congregation of Holy Cross.

“I think [the canonization] is an opportunity not only to reflect on the person canonized, but also the call to holiness in all our lives,” Jenkins said.

The first member of the Congregation of Holy Cross who will be proclaimed a saint, Bessette was born in Canada in 1845 and entered religious life at the age of 25, according to a University press release.

Bessette spent his 40 years as a Holy Cross brother serving as a doorman, launderer, janitor and sacristan at Montreal’s College of Notre Dame. In this position, he also received many poor and sick visitors.

“He was a person of deep compassion,” Jenkins said. “When people came to him … he would treat them with great compassion and kindness.”

Bessette visited Notre Dame’s campus at least once during his life, Jenkins said, but his greatest connection to the University was in his devotion to Saint Joseph and his spiritual example.

“I think the spirit of Brother André is closely connected with the spirit of Notre Dame in many ways — the spirit of welcome, community and compassion,” Jenkins said.

“Brother André had a very simple job of manning the door, but he made it into a real calling of holiness and I think we can all reflect on that.”

Notre Dame’s delegation to Rome also includes University Provost Thomas Burish, Associate Vice President and Counselor to the President Fr. James McDonald and Notre Dame theology department Chair Matthew Ashley.

The delegation will arrive in Rome Sunday morning to attend the canonization and remain in Rome until Wednesday, during which time Jenkins said they would attend other Masses and celebrations for Bessette.

In addition to attending the series of Vatican events surrounding Bessette, the Notre Dame delegation will meet with Vatican officials, Jenkins said. These meetings include work with the Vatican’s Office of Christian Unity regarding Notre Dame’s Tantur Ecumenical Institute in the Holy Land.

While Jenkins and the Notre Dame delegation are in Rome, on-campus events will also honor Bessette. Fr. Peter Rocca, rector of the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, said all three Masses in the Basilica Sunday would honor Bessette.

Rocca said Bishop Kevin Rhoades gave permission for the University to celebrate the canonization with readings and prayers that differ from the ordinary Sunday schedule.

“So the reading and the prayers of the Mass will be taken from the texts for the feast of Brother André,” Rocca said. “We will also have special hymns in his honor that will be sung.”

The University will also celebrate the Mass of Bessette in every residence hall Oct. 31, followed by a special night of prayer at the grotto in honor of the newly canonized saint Nov. 1, Rocca said.

“This is the first saint of the Congregation of Holy Cross, and because of that it’s more important that the University celebrate his canonization, and that our students in particular come to know who this holy man of a very humble heart was,” he said.