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Bessette set to be cannonized in October

Caitlin Kelshceur | Thursday, February 25, 2010

Feb. 19 brought good news to the Congregation of Holy Cross and its affiliates as Pope Benedict XVI announced that Blessed Brother André Bessette will be canonized on Oct. 17.

On campus, members of both the Holy Cross and Notre Dame communities were excited by the announcement. 

“For us in Holy Cross, we are so joyful that the church recognized the heroic virtues of a seemingly ordinary person,” Fr. Peter Rocca, rector of the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, said. “To the untrained eye, he didn’t look like a superhero, but he was indeed a superhero in living the virtuous life.”

Bessette is the first member of the Holy Cross order to receive the honor of sainthood.
“Brother André’s canonization is an extremely important moment in the history of the order because we have seen the church confirm the true and heroic virtue of Brother André,” Fr. Wilson Miscamble, a history professor, said. 

“We in the order have known of Brother André’s incredible gift for healing, his tremendous prayerfulness, his great devotion to St. Joseph and his wonderful hospitality extended particularly to the sick and those in need while he was still living,” Miscamble said.  “The canonization provides the opportunity to share him with the world.”

Bessette was born in Canada in 1845 and spent most of his youth working in a variety of jobs in the United States. Upon return to Canada, he was called to join the Holy Cross order in 1867. 

Though he was almost completely illiterate, Bessette proved to be a valuable member of the order.  He began working as a porter at Montreal’s College of Notre Dame, where he welcomed people with kindness and prayer for over 40 years.  He eventually became known as “The Miracle Man of Montreal” after several of his prayers were said to have made miracles happen.

“He was a truly great man, a humble man and one whose life was dedicated to service, praying for the sick and tending to their needs,” Rocca said.

People were amazed by his humility and hospitality and especially with the way in which he dealt with the sick and poor, Rocca said. 

“He lived the life of a humble Holy Cross religious, and his life was dedicated to the poor,” Rocca said. “He welcomed people to Montreal and saw Christ’s image in them.  He loved people and was sensitive to them.  He saw the poor and the suffering and found the poor, suffering Christ in them.”

Bessette inspired the building of St. Joseph’s Oratory in Montreal, now an enormous basilica in which he is entombed.  After his death in 1937, over one million people came to file past his casket at the Oratory. 

“He’s a reminder that greatness lies not only in prestige, power or influence, but that it lies in the beatitudes,” Rocca said. “His life has a lot to teach us on wherein true greatness can be found.”

 “All of us in the Notre Dame family are delighted to hear of Brother André’s canonization.  Brother André’s life — now recognized as a true treasure of the church — and his continuing advocacy, renew, deepen and strengthen our foundational mission,” University President Fr. John Jenkins said in a written statement.

Miscamble said that Bessette’s canonization is a teachable moment for the members of the Notre Dame community.

“Since Notre Dame was founded by the Holy Cross order and is involved with Holy Cross in so many ways, I hope that Notre Dame will celebrate the canonization in various ways and hopefully take to heart some of the lessons of André’s life, especially regarding his fidelity to the Gospel,” Miscamble said. “He was a remarkable man.”