Thursday, October 22, 2009

New CCCB Executive and Pemanent Council - Blessed Brother Andre Closer to Sainthood

On Tuesday, the Bishops of Canada elected their new executive, headed by Saint-Jerome Bishop Pierre Morissette (President) and Edmonton Archbishop Richard Smith (Vice-President) with Alexandria-Cornwall Bishop Paul-Andre Durocher elected to a second two-year term as Co-Treasurer and Corner Brook and Labrador Bishop Douglas Crosby, O.M.I. to a first term as Co-Treasurer.

Elected as Regional Delegates on the Permanent Council were Mgr Eugene Tremblay (Amos) representing the Assembly of Catholic Bishops of Quebec, Bishop Ronald Fabbro, C.S.B. (London) representing the Assemby of Catholic Bishops of Ontario, Mgr Claude Champagne, O.M.I. (Edmunston, N.B.) representing the Atlantic Episcopal Assemby and Mgr Luc Bouchard (Saint-Paul, AB)representing the Western Canadian Assembly of Bishops.

As the principle of linguistic parity is operative, that meant the English Sector needed to elect two members for the Permanent Council, which was done yesterday. Archbishop Michael Miller, C.S.B. of Vancouver and I were chosen.

The other members of the Permanent Council serve ex officio: Cardinal Marc Ouellet of Quebec, Cardinal Jean-Claude Turcotte of Montreal, Archbishop Thomas Collins of Toronto and Winnipeg Archeparch Lawrence Huculack, O.S.B.M.

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Growing up in north-end Montreal's Ahuntsic district, I often had the opportunity of visiting St. Joseph's Oratory, sometimes guiding relatives from the United States around the legacy of Holy Cross Brother Andre Bessette's legacy, the shrine on Mount Royal.

Additionally, when my maternal grandmother Mary Skerry came to live with us for some time during my childhood, she often spoke of the time she had met Brother Andre in the early 1930s and of the consolation he had offered her in family trials and health problems (as a widow she had emigrated to Canada from Widnes, England in October 1926 with five of her ten children who had remained at home with her while the older children had been sent to America).

As I have gotten to know of Brother Andre's story, I have been filled with wonder at his faith, the tenacity of his devotion and of his heroic virtue (even as he was also known as a rather brusque person). I was happy to read that his cause for canonization is closer, perhaps nearing its end and his elevation to the altars for God's praise and glory (adapted from a report in the Montreal Gazette):

A decision by the Vatican last weekend has moved Montreal’s Brother André a step closer to sainthood. On Saturday, the Theological Commission for the Causes of Saints unanimously accepted the healing powers of Brother André, a pious porter at Collège Notre Dame who went on to found St. Joseph’s Oratory and who is credited with healing the sick, the lame and the blind.

A commission of cardinals and bishops will now study the suitability of extending devotion to Brother André throughout the Roman Catholic Church, the final step before the cause for canonization goes to Pope Benedict XVI.

If canonized, Brother André would be the first Quebec man to be named a saint. Marie Marguerite d’Youville (1701-1771), founder of Montreal’s Sisters of Charity, or Grey Nuns, was canonized by Pope John Paul II in 1990.

Brother André was born Alfred Bessette in 1845, the eighth of 12 children in a family in the farming village of St. Grégoire, 50 kilometres southeast of Montreal.

More than one million people filed past his coffin when he died in January 1937 – and ten million have signed the petition calling for his sainthood (including myself on a half dozen occasions!). And offered prayers at his tomb for his canonization.

Handwritten prayers are often left in his name at the crypt at the oratory where his remains lie, or beside the small shrine at the oratory where his preserved heart is on display in a clear vessel.

Officials at the Catholic Archdiocese of Montreal welcomed the news earlier this week, but said a formal statement would be premature.


  1. What wonderful news! Brother Andre's picture was displayed in our home when I was a child and my parents had a great devotion to him, even giving his name to one of my brothers. I haven't heard much about him for years and now this wonderful news. I am delighted and will add my prayers to those of all who are praying for his cause.
    Thanks for an interesting blog site. God bless.

  2. This is a great blessing and the Franciscans have a great love for Him!!

  3. When will this final commission meet? It would be wonderful to have Brother Andre canonized next year! I have always loved and cherished the lives of the Saints ad rely on their intercession. Now to get Mere Elisabeth Bruyere and the Vaniers beatified and canonized!!!!