The year in review - The people and places of 2010

  • December 23, 2010

Canadians united behind St. Brother André in 2010

St. Brother AndreIn a year with much doom and gloom, from the devastating Haiti earthquake to the massacre of Catholics at a Baghdad church, Canadians can look back with pride on one event that brought abundant joy — the canonization of Montreal's St. Brother André.

St. Brother André is only the second Canadian-born saint, the first male, joining St. Marguerite d'Youville who was canonized in 1990. He was Catholic Canada's story of the year.

The former doorman at Montreal's Notre Dame College and founder of St. Joseph's Oratory was elevated to sainthood by Pope Benedict XVI on Oct. 17. Some 5,000 Canadians were in the crowd of 50,000 at St. Peter's Square while thousands more came to the Oratory to mark the occasion.

Among the St. Peter's crowd was a 19-year-old Quebec man whose unexplainable cure from a cranial trauma was recognized by the Vatican as the second miracle directly attributed to St. Brother André. The man, who emerged from what doctors had called an irreversible coma at age nine, has always guarded his privacy and remains anonymous to this day.

André Bessette was a poor, illiterate orphan who, after moving between several menial jobs, was accepted by the Congregation of Holy Cross in Montreal where he lived a remarkable life of faith, hope and charity. He spent countless hours ministering to the sick and lonely and his devotion to St. Joseph and his reputation for healing attracted thousands of people. He is credited with thousands of miraculous healings and, through his determined efforts, became the driving force behind construction of the spectacular St. Joseph’s Oratory in Montreal, which draws upwards of two million visitors annually.

Anyone who walks into the Oratory can see the racks of canes and crutches stretching up the walls — hardwood evidence of the miraculous cures brought about by St. Brother André’s prayers. He freed people of pain and suffering with oil collected from under a candle in front of a statue of St. Joseph, with holy medals and with prayers — though he never looked upon himself as a healer.

The canonization made front-page news across Canada, not only in the religious press, but also in the nation's largest secular newspapers.

But perhaps most important, St. Brother André's canonization brought faith back into the equation in his native Quebec, a province that had turned its back on the Catholic Church during the Quiet Revolution of the 1960s. Now there are those who believe Quebec may be ready to rediscover a different side of its Catholic roots.

"Now people are talking more about Brother André because of the canonization," said Fr. Claude Grou, director of the Oratory. "There is a fascination with the person of Brother André."

A younger generation of Quebeckers has a more open attitude to Brother André than those whose political consciousness and cultural attitudes were formed by the Quiet Revolution, said Grou.

“Starting with people in the media — outside the Catholic media — many of the younger people I talk to are a little more sensitive,” said Grou. “They have not known the revolution of 1960, the Quiet Revolution. Their parents have known that. They have a fascination with some of the things that have been pushed aside in the past. They show a new interest.”

This interest shows in the revival of a pilgrimage to the saint's hometown of Mont Saint-Gregoire. For years the pilgrimage from the Oratory had been popular but its numbers had slowly dwindled until it was finally cancelled. But the pilgrimage was revived this year, taking place on St. Brother André's birthday, Aug. 29.

The Church will mark St. Brother André's feast day on Jan. 6.

Year in review

January 2010January

  • A devastating earthquake ravages Haiti, killing upwards of 200,000 and displacing millions. Catholics immediately join in relief efforts and contribute to more than $100 million raised across Canada.

  • Toronto welcomes its two newest bishops — Bishop Vincent Nguyen and Bishop William McGrattan.

  • The diocese of Antigonish is off to a new start with the installation of Bishop Brian Dunn. The diocese has been caught up in scandal surrounding the arrest of Dunn's predecessor, Bishop Raymond Lahey, on child pornography charges.


February 2010February

  • Vancouver welcomes the world to the Winter Olympic Games, with the archdiocese of Vancouver showing its "radical hospitality" to the world's visitors.

  • The Vatican hosts a two-day summit on the widening Irish sex abuse scandal. Pope Benedict XVI notes the "errors of judgment and omission" that fuelled the crisis.

  • Church and pro-life leaders condemn Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff for advocating Canada fund overseas abortions to "improve" women's health care.


  • Anglican groups worldwide, including in Canada, seek union with the Catholic Church, responding to the Pope's offer to come into communion with the Church.

  • Bloc Quebecois MP Francine Lalonde reintroduces her euthanasia bill in the House of Commons. It is later defeated.

  • Toronto Archbishop Thomas Collins, in addressing the world wide abuse scandal facing the Church, says while it is a challenge, it is also an opportunity to refocus on the baptismal call to live out the Gospel teachings.



April 2010April

  • Bishop James Wingle offers his surprise resignation as bishop of the diocese of St. Catharines, Ont., citing stamina issues.

  • Archbishop Thomas Collins announces a review of the archdiocese's abuse protocols in the wake of the worldwide abuse scandal.

  • The British Petroleum oil spill brings an ecological and economic disaster to the Gulf of Mexico and surrounding regions. The Catholic Church is quick to provide aid to those affected.



May 2010May

  • Pope Benedict XVI visits Portugal and the Marian shrine in Fatima amid concerns that one of Europe's most Catholic countries is losing its faith.

  • Toronto faith leaders meet with candidates vying for the mayor's seat. The candidates give their thoughts on how they could work with faith groups.

  • Quebec's Cardinal Marc Ouellet is pilloried in the national media for calling abortion a moral crime at a Quebec City pro-life conference.



June 2010June

  • The G8 and G20 Summits take centre stage in Toronto and area. Key among the agreements is the "Muskoka Initiative," a pledge of $7.3 billion to reduce maternal and child deaths.

  • Fr. Jerzy Popieluszko, a Polish priest who was murdered for standing up against communism, is beatified.

  • A sacred-fire ceremony in Winnipeg kicks off the first national event for Indian residential schools survivors as part of the national Truth and Reconciliation Commission.



July 2010July

  • Cuban Church leaders are key in obtaining the release of 52 political prisoners in the communist nation.

  • Archbishop Thomas Collins pushes Canada's bishops to help Iraqi refugees flee persecution in the region. He leads by example by sponsoring a family himself.

  • To mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of Mother Teresa, a number of her relics tour parishes across Canada.



August 2010August

  • Toronto Catholic District School Board chair Angela Kennedy is found guilty of conflict-of-interest charges for voting on a matter that would affect her children who are employed at the board.

  • Cardinal Marc Ouellet is off to Rome where he assumes his new role as Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops at the Vatican.

  • A public outcry greets news that a Muslim group plans to build an Islamic community centre just steps from the World Trade Centre site in New York.




September 2010September

  • Pope Benedict makes a historic visit to Great Britain where he beatifies Cardinal John Henry Newman.

  • After donations came up short in 2009, ShareLife announces a record year in 2010, with Catholics showing their generosity in donating $14.33 million.

  • Big changes are announced for the Hamilton diocese. After 26 years as the diocese's bishop, Anthony Tonnos retires and is replaced by Bishop Douglas Crosby.



October 2010October

  • A pro-life demonstration on the Carleton University campus ends when Ottawa police arrest four members of Carleton Lifeline.

  • The archdiocese of Toronto releases its new abuse protocols, making them more clear and expanded to include all lay employees and volunteers.

  • A terrorist attack on a Baghdad church leaves 58 dead and scores more wounded. It comes just days after the close of the Synod of Bishops for the Middle East, which had discussed protection of Christians in the Middle East.


November 2010November

  • Adding to the woes of Haiti as it recovers from the devastating earthquake, a cholera epidemic strikes, killing more than 1,000 and rising.

  • The Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace fine tunes its funding protocols to make sure none of its funding ends up in pro-abortion groups' hands.

  • St. Francis Table in Toronto's Parkdale area serves up its one-millionth meal since opening to feed the poor in 1987.



December 2010December

  • Immigration Minister Jason Kenney lashes out at Canada's Catholic bishops for criticizing his anti-human-smuggling bill.

  • The Vatican gets stung in diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks. A wide range of issues are touched on, including the Irish abuse scandal.

  • For the sixth year in a row, the creche scene outside of Toronto's Old City Hall is vandalized. The creche is set up by Gethsemene Ministries each year.

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