Brother André to be canonized

  • February 25, 2010
{mosimage}MONTREAL - Just 73 years after his death, Brother André will become the first Canadian-born man elevated to sainthood.

The news of his Oct. 17 canonization, one of six announced by Pope Benedict XVI Feb. 19, was met with elation by the members of the church in Montreal.

“The announcement of the canonization of Brother André is the best thing that could have happened this year for the church of Montreal,” Cardinal Jean-Claude Turcotte said in a statement. “I have always been impressed by this man, both a humble man and a visionary, a man of deep faith, an example of determination still relevant today in 2010.”

Brother André, born Alfred Bessette and a member of the Congregation of Holy Cross, was the founder of St. Joseph’s Oratory in Montreal, the largest shrine dedicated to St. Joseph in the world. The Shrine sits atop Mount Royal overlooking the northern half of the city.

“It’s very moving news for me and I wasn’t surprised,” said Claude Poulin, the founder of a home for teens recovering from drug and alcohol addiction in St-Frédéric de Beauce, Que.

Poulin, inspired by Brother André since his first visit to the Oratory as a boy, opened Maison André-Bessette about 10 years ago. He said Brother André communicates five major values which he is inspired to share with the people he welcomes: work, prayer, ecology, hospitality and living humbly.

Poulin helps his parish priest lead a prayerful pilgrimage to the Oratory every year. They bring more than 60 people, and this past year more than half were newcomers — an indication that Brother André continues to inspire many, he said.

In the Toronto suburb of Markham, staff and students at Brother André Catholic High School happily acknowledged that Brother André’s canonization would coincide with the school’s 25th anniversary.

“We were delighted to hear that,” said Jim Niccoletti, the school’s principal. “I went over the P.A. myself and announced to the whole school a little bit of history about his background and why we’re so proud. It’s an amazing story and we’re very proud to have the namesake as our school and in the future, we should consider calling ourselves St. André Catholic High School.”

Similarly, Brother André Catholic School in Ajax is planning to celebrate. As one of the Durham Catholic District School Board’s newest schools, opened in 2006, it was named after Brother André because of his dedication to the Catholic Church and its people, board chair Jim McCafferty said.

Pope Benedict will also canonize Australia’s first saint, Blessed Mary McKillop, Polish-born Blessed Stanislaw Soltys Kazimierczyk, Blessed Juana Josefa Cipitria Barriola of Spain, Italian Blessed Giulia Salzano and Blessed Camilla Battista Varano, an Italian Poor Clare.

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