Brother André made a saint by Pope

  • February 19, 2010
{mosimage}VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI will create six new saints Oct. 17, including Blessed André Bessette, the first Canadian-born man to become a saint.

Brother André founded St. Joseph's Oratory of Mount Royal in Montreal and was known for his intense piety, famed for miraculous cures and praised for his dedication to building the shrine to honour St. Joseph.

At a press conference at St. Joseph's Oratory, Cardinal Jean-Claude Turcotte called the announcement “the best thing that could have happened this year for the Church of Montreal.”

“I have always been impressed by this man, both a humble man and a visionary, a man of deep faith,” Turcotte said. “(He is) an example of determination, still relevant today in 2010."

Prime Minister Prime Minister Stephen Harper also praised the news.

"Brother André's life shows us the power of faith and the importance of concern for the sick and others in need," Harper said in a statement. "In this solemn act, the Roman Catholic Church is honouring a Canadian who achieved greatness through humility, determination and service to others."

Br. André was declared venerable in 1978 and beatified in 1982.

Born Alfred Bessette Aug. 9, 1845, in Saint-Gregoire d'Iberville, southeast of Montreal, he was orphaned at age 10 and suffered from a chronic stomach ailment that kept him out of school and often without work. He worked as a labourer in New England and when he returned to Montreal at 25, Blessed André could not read and his health was so fragile the Holy Cross brothers assigned him to be the doorman at Montreal's College of Notre Dame, where the congregation had just opened its novitiate.

Ordained a lay brother in 1874, he began to counsel lay people and and prayed with those who were ill. Over time he gained the reputation of a healer and someone who could perform miracles. He is credited with thousands of miraculous healings.

He once commented, "When I joined this community, the superiors showed me the door."

He founded St. Joseph's Oratory in 1904 where he lived until his death on Jan. 6, 1937, at the age of 91. The then bishop of Montreal, George Gauthier, decided to revive a medieval custom and had Br. André's heart removed and preserved in a place of honour at the Oratory.

Last December, Br. André was attributed with a second miracle by Pope Benedict, which cleared the way for canonization.

The Canadian Provincial Superior of the Congregation of Holy Cross, Father Jean-Pierre Aumont, CSC called the canonization a “wonderful gift.

“For the religious of Holy Cross, it represents more than ever a source of inspiration, a model of faith and trust in God and in the human condition,” said Aumont. “He shows us how to envision great things and how to look toward the future!"

Br. André becomes Canada's 11th saint, but the only other one born in Canada is Saint Marguerite d'Youville.

Marguerite Bourgeoys and the eight Canadian Martrys were European born.

The pope announced the date for the canonization ceremony at the end of what is known as an ordinary public consistory, a very formal ceremony opened and closed with prayer, during which cardinals present in Rome express their support of the Pope's decision to create new saints.

The other five to be canonized are Blessed Mary MacKillop, Blessed Stanislaw Soltys Kazimierczyk, Blessed Juana Josefa Cipitria Barriola, Blessed Giulia Salzano and Blessed Camilla Battista Varano.

  • Blessed MacKillop, founder of the Sisters of St. Joseph of the Sacred Heart, will be Australia's first saint. She was born Jan. 15, 1842, in Fitzroy near Melbourne and died in Sydney Aug. 8, 1909.

    Although her sainthood cause was initiated in the 1920s, it faced some serious hurdles, not the least of which was her brief excommunication and the temporary disbanding of her religious order.

    Sister MacKillop and other members of the order were committed to following poor labourers into remote areas of the country in order to educate their children.

    But local church officials disapproved of the sisters living in isolated communities, often cut off from the sacraments. Within a few months, the bishop who had excommunicated her lifted his censure and a church commission cleared the sisters of all wrongdoing.
  • Blessed Kazimierczyk was a Polish-born member of the Canons Regular of the Lateran, who lived 1433-1489. He was famous as a preacher and confessor.
  • Blessed Juana Josefa Cipitria Barriola of Spain founded the Daughters of Jesus. She died in 1912,
  • Blessed Giulia Salzano, the Italian founder of the Catechetical Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, died in 1929.
  • Blessed Camilla Battista Varano, an Italian Poor Clare, lived from 1458-1524.

    The Poor Clare's path to canonization was unusual. A formal beatification ceremony was never held for her, but in 1843 Pope Gregory XVI recognized centuries of devotion to her and gave her the title blessed. In 2005, Pope Benedict recognized that she lived a life of heroic virtues — usually the first step before beatification and canonization — and in December he issued the decree recognizing a miracle attributed to her intercession.

— With files from Catholic News Service

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