Born Alfred Bessette in Quebec in 1845, he was orphaned by the time he was 12. With little-to-no formal education, he became a Holy Cross brother and because of his sickly nature, was assigned as the doorkeeper at Notre Dame College in Montreal, a post he held for nearly 40 years. It was in this role as a porter that André was able to minister to the sick.
He prayed with them to God and St Joseph, as an intercessor. Hundreds credit their healing to André’s prayers. The walls of St Joseph’s Oratory are lined with crutches of those who were healed, but André always gave credit to God and St Joseph’s intercession as Jesus’ earthly father.
As he became known as the “Miracle Man of Montreal,” André was later assigned full-time as the caretaker of the church that he built to honour St Joseph. He spent his days seeing and healing the sick. By the 1920s, the Oratory hosted more than a million pilgrims annually, and hundreds of cures were attributed to his prayers every year.
André Bessette died in Montreal on 6 Jan 1937. It is estimated that more than a million people made the pilgrimage to the Oratory to say their good-byes to their beloved Brother André. He was beatified on 23 May1982, and canonised in October 2010, becoming the Congregation of Holy Cross’ first saint. Worldwide the Congregation of Holy Cross community observes St André’s Feast Day on Jan 7 because the Vatican and many nations observe the feast of Epiphany on Jan 6.