Members of Holy Cross 'family' rejoice over Brother André's sainthood

By  Catherine M. Odell, Catholic News Service
  • October 15, 2010

br. andre paintingSOUTH BEND, Ind.  - Members of the Holy Cross "family" have been sharing stories about one of their own — Blessed André Bessette.

The founder of St. Joseph's Oratory of Mount Royal in Montreal — to be canonized Oct. 17 by Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican along with five others — will become the Holy Cross Brothers' first saint.

Blessed André banners, pamphlets, statues, photos and celebrations to mark the canonization can be found at Holy Cross parishes, schools, missions and university campuses all over. But perhaps the best tributes to him are the lessons members of the Congregation of Holy Cross say they have drawn from his life and applied to their own lives and ministries.

Blessed André is known for his intense piety, famed for miraculous cures and praised for his dedication to seeing the oratory built. For 40 years, he was the doorman of Notre Dame College, sponsored by his community in Montreal. He spread devotion to St. Joseph and, through his healing touch, thousands of people were cured; he became known as the "Miracle Man of Montreal."

Sr. Maryanne O'Neill, 75, works with immigrants at the Brother André Outreach Centre at St. Agnes parish in Los Angeles. One of her favourite stories about him shows he never worried about being seen as an important person, she said, and he often joked about his job. As she pointed out, he would say: "I entered Holy Cross and they showed me the door; I stayed there for 40 years!"

O'Neill, who planned to attend the canonization, said Blessed André might become a special saint for people on the fringes, such as the needy immigrants to whom she ministers.

"A lot of people think they have no worth. Brother André is a great model for people who think they have no worth and can't do anything worthwhile," she said. "He trusted in God, and God did wonderful things through him."

In South Bend, Margaret Bouffard, 24, is a University of Notre Dame graduate student in theology. She hopes to work in campus ministry but worked for a year at André House, a Holy Cross-run facility for the homeless and poor in Phoenix. Her service there and what she has learned about Blessed André since will help shape her ministry, she said.

"I can take lessons from his life," said Bouffard, who also was to attend his canonization. "He certainly practised the ministry of presence. He listened to people's stories and always redirected praise back to God."

Fr. Andre Leveille, 64, lives at Notre Dame and is a chaplain at Holy Cross Village, a retirement community sponsored by the Holy Cross Brothers at nearby Holy Cross College. Like Blessed André, Leveille is French-Canadian. His connection to the soon-to-be-saint began the day he was born in Ottawa.

His grandmother, he explained, suggested that his parents name him "André," who died Jan. 6, 1937, at age 91. More than a million people came to his funeral, Leveille remarked. "In January! In Montreal!"

Leveille said he didn't always believe in the miracles that fellow Canadians attributed to the brother.

"I believed it as a child," he said, "but when you are a man and studying theology, you start to think: 'Maybe this is superstition.' ”

But as he began to read more about Blessed André, questions he had evaporated.

As a young priest, he also spent time every Christmas at St. Joseph's Oratory. He gave bilingual tours and soaked in the spirit of the place.

"Every night I would go into the (Oratory's) crypt church and sit in the pew where he (Blessed André) would sit. ... One night, I saw this young man come in who obviously had cancer," Leveille recalled. "You could see that all his hair was gone although the lights were turned low. He put his hands on the statue of Brother André and put his head down to pray. Then, he went over to the statue of St. Joseph to pray."

Leveille was deeply touched. "I thought, 'They're still coming to ask Brother André and St. Joseph to help them.' Gradually, I came to the conclusion that something supernatural had happened in the ministry of Brother André. You can't prove it, but you just know something happened."




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