Bessette clan united by saint in the family

By  Carolyn Girard, Catholic Register Special
  • November 4, 2010
descendants at massMONTREAL - It was a huge reunion for St. Brother André’s family as more than 400 relatives came from near and far to attend a Mass and special gathering at St. Joseph’s Oratory on Oct. 31 to mark the rise to sainthood of their humble brethren.

It was another influx of people to an already busy shrine, which had received an estimated 9,000 pilgrims the previous day, as pilgrims were in town for an Oct. 30 celebratory Mass at Olympic Stadium in honour of St. Brother André being elevated to sainthood Oct. 17.

But at the Oratory, relatives shared stories with each other, some even pulling a crumpled piece of paper out of their pocket to show how their family tree connected to the saint.

And as the Mass started, the Oratory’s rector, Fr. Claude Grou, gave them a warm welcome and called them all to a life lived in the spirit of St. Brother André.

“Let us applaud once more, with joy and with pride, the man who is both our brother and our saint,” he said.

Many of the English-speaking relatives — including about 55 from Rhode Island — were among some 1,200 in attendance at Mass in the Oratory’s Crypt church. The French Mass in the Basilica was attended by about 300 Bessette relatives and more than 2,000 people.

Suzanne Bessette, of Montreal, said it was refreshing to have received a special invitation from the Oratory, since the celebratory Mass at Olympic Stadium was more for the general public and dignitaries. For her, the Mass at the Oratory that St. Brother André built was a chance to share family pride in the great model they have in the new saint.

“It’s really an event that happens once in a lifetime, so it was important to be here,” said Janine Bessette, a relative originally from the saint’s birthplace, Mont St. Gregoire, Que.

Simon Bessette, who drove a short distance from his home on the south shore of Montreal, said the event helped remind them all of the stories they’ve heard. His grandfather, Ubald Bessette, was Brother André’s cousin.

“Brother André often came to his house for Sunday dinner, so my father saw him quite often,” he said, adding that his family regularly visits the Oratory throughout the year to pray and ask Brother André for favours.

His son David, 20, said their connection with Brother André and prayer is important, even though they aren’t necessarily weekly Mass-goers.

(Girard is a freelance writer in Montreal.)

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