Bessette, André, Bl.

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Baptized Alfred; thaumaturgist and member of the Brotherhood of the Holy Cross; b. Saint-Gregoire d'Iberville (southeast of Montréal), Québec, Canada, Aug. 9, 1845; d. Montréal, Jan. 6, 1937. Alfred, the eighth of twelve children of Isaac Bessette and Clothilde Foisy, was sickly and left orphaned by the age of twelve. He unsuccessfully attempted various occupations as a smith, cobbler, and baker. During the U.S. Civil War, he did manual labor in mills and on farms in New England, where he learned English. He returned to Montréal in 1867 and was accepted as a Holy Cross postulant despite his precarious health and illiteracy. With the help of Bishop Bouget of Montréal, Brother André professed his vows on Dec. 27, 1870.

Bessette gained a reputation as a healer during his many decades as porter of Notre Dame College. His devotion to St. Joseph, patron of the Universal Church, led him to build St. Joseph's Oratory atop Mont Royal in Montréal. The first small chapel (15' by 18') erected in 1904, was enlarged in 1908 and 1910. The cornerstone for a new crypt churchto hold 1,000 peoplewas laid in 1917, but the roof was not added until 1936. The oratory, where Blessed André served as guardian for thirty years and is buried, was solemnly dedicated as a minor basilica in 1955. He was beatified by Pope John Paul II on May 23, 1982.

Feast: Jan. 6 (U.S.A.).

Bibliography: l. boucher, Brother André: The Miracle Man of Mount Royal (Montréal 1997). k. burton, Brother André of Mount Royal (Notre Dame, Ind. 1952). j. g. dubuc, Le frère André (Saint-Laurent, Québec 1996), Eng. tr. r. prudhomme, Brother André (Quebec 1999). h. grenon, Le frère André (Montréal 1981). a. hatch, The Miracle of the Mountain: The Story of Brother André and the Shrine on Mount Royal (New York 1959). m. lachance, Le frère André (Montréal 1979). c. b. ruffin, The Life of Brother André: The Miracle Worker of St. Joseph (Huntington, Ind.1988). s. t. stein, The Tapestry of Saint Joseph: Chronological History of St. Joseph and His Apostle, Blessed Brother André (Philadelphia, Pa. 1991). Acta Apostolicae Sedis 75 (1983): 1416. L'Osservatore Romano, English edition, 24 (1982): 67.

[k. i. rabenstein]