Brother André: A saintly life

  • October 4, 2010

Brother AndréCanada’s next saint has always simply been known as Brother André, nothing more. But when Pope Benedict XVI declares him a saint in Rome Oct. 17, what title will he be given?

“We don’t know,” said Danielle Decelles, a spokesperson for St. Joseph’s Oratory. “For us in Montreal, he is St. Brother André.”

Rome has not revealed to the archdiocese of Montreal or St. Joseph’s Oratory what title Brother André will be given in the document proclaiming his sainthood. That will be revealed Oct. 17, said Decelles.


Following are some highlights of Brother André’s life.

Aug. 9, 1845: Born Alfred Bessette in Mont St. Grégoire, Que., to Isaac and Clothilde Bessette.

1855: Isaac Bessette killed in a logging accident.

1857: Clothilde Bessette dies of tuberculosis. Twelve-year-old Alfred moves in with his aunt Marie-Rosalie and her husband.

1863: Eighteen-year-old Alfred moves to the United States, looking for work.

1867: Alfred moves back to Canada and eventually to Saint-Césaire, where he meets with Fr. André Provencal.

Nov. 22, 1870: Alfred arrives at the College Notre-Dame in Cote-des-Neiges. He carries with him a letter of recommendation from Fr. Provencal which pries open the door for him to enter the Holy Cross Congregation novitiate

Feb. 2, 1874: After first being rejected as a candidate for life-long vows in the Holy Cross Congregation, Alfred Bessette is allowed to pronounce perpetual vows. He takes the name André in memory of Fr. Provencal.

1893: Brother André ordered to receive his growing number of ill and suffering visitors in the tram station across from the college.

1902: Brother André becomes dangerously ill and bedridden. He convinces the college superior to allow him to build a small chapel to St. Joseph on Mount Royal.

Oct. 19, 1904: Chapel opens.

1914: Montreal’s Archbishop Paul Bruchesi gives permission for a much larger St. Joseph’s Church to replace the chapel.

May 19, 1916: Construction begins.

Aug. 31 1924: Construction begins on the big domed church above the crypt.

1931: In the depths of the Great Depression construction halts.

Jan. 6, 1937: Brother André dies at 91. An estimated one million people come to say goodbye over six days and nights.

1937: Construction on St. Joseph’s Oratory resumes.

1955: The Oratory becomes a minor basilica — a pilgrimage site recognized by the Vatican.

1960: Process seeking sainthood begins in Rome.

1967: Dome completed above St. Joseph’s Oratory.

1978: Pope Paul VI declares Brother André venerable.

May 23, 1982: Brother André declared Blessed.

Oct. 17, 2010: Brother André canonized in Rome.


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