Brother Andre to be honored by special collection for Haiti during Notre Dame-Western Michigan game

by Michael O. Garvey

Blessed Brother Andre Bessette

A special collection in honor of Blessed Brother André Bessette will be taken up in Notre Dame Stadium during the second quarter of the Notre Dame-Western Michigan football game on Saturday (Oct. 16).

The collection will support ongoing efforts of the University of Notre Dame and the Congregation of Holy Cross to help rebuild Haiti following the devastating earthquake there in January.

Celebrated for his own service to the sick and needy, Blessed Brother André, who died in 1937, is the first member of Notre Dame’s founding religious order, the Congregation of Holy Cross, to be proclaimed a saint. He will be canonized by Pope Benedict XVI during a ceremony in the Basilica of Saint Peter in Rome on Sunday (Oct. 17).

Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., will lead a delegation from Notre Dame to the Roman ceremony. Other Notre Dame representatives in attendance will be provost Thomas G. Burish; Rev. James E. McDonald, C.S.C., associate vice president and counselor to the president; and Matthew Ashley, chair of Notre Dame’s theology department.

As a porter, or doorman, at Montréal’s Collège of Notre Dame, Blessed Brother André welcomed visitors, served as janitor, launderer and sacristan, ran errands and provided students with cheap haircuts. Throughout his half-century of service, his reputation for humility and kindness grew, as did the numbers of visitors he received. Most of these were poor and sick people, to whom he offered not only his compassion and what material assistance he could provide, but also moral and spiritual advice. Many of his visitors attributed miraculous cures to him, but he would insist, sometimes with annoyance, that any such cures were attributable to the prayers of Saint Joseph.

Brother André’s particular affection for St. Joseph, in addition to the need to accommodate the throngs of people seeking his help, advice and prayers, led to the foundation of Saint Joseph’s Oratory, at first a small structure constructed on Mount Royal with funds from small donations and Brother André’s barbershop income and now a massive basilica which attracts some 2 million pilgrims each year.

More information about Notre Dame’s support for Haitian relief may be found here.