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An inspiring story

Once there was a man named Brother André...

Who can resist a good story? Especially one about a young boy from an underprivileged family, struggling to grow up but mainly just to survive, convinced that he had a guardian angel, striving to follow the path before him, opening his heart to all those who sought him out, and finally gaining the recognition and acclaim that he deserved as a saint who touched the lives of everyone he met.

But, this story isn't a novel, or even a Hollywood movie. It's the true story of a man of the people, who led a humble but amazing life, and who was befriended by millions of people without ever seeking the least bit of power or recognition. Thanks to his faith in a higher power, he was able to heal his followers—often their bodies, but always their hearts. He loved, and was loved in return. He showed everyone who welcomed his beloved Saint Joseph into their lives the path to God. His is the story of a modern-day saint who lives on in our collective history.

Alfred Bessette was born in the town of Saint-Grégoire, south of Montreal. He worked for a period in Saint-Césaire, and later, like countless other young people at the time, moved to the United States to work in the booming factories of New England. Many of his peers settled permanently in this new land, becoming Franco-Americans and keeping their French names and shades of their native culture.

"I am sending you a saint..."

The young Alfred, however, returned to his native Canada. He developed a close relationship with a man in whom he had complete faith and who possessed the selflessness to which he aspired: Father André Provençal.  One day, Father Provençal said to himself: "I know where I'm going to send him." He wrote to the priests at the Congregation of Holy Cross, teachers of the children in the district of Côte-des-Neiges, facing Mount Royal. He told them, "I am sending you a saint..."

In disbelief, the shy and illiterate young worker suddenly saw his life's calling appear before him: he would become a priest! Without knowing exactly how he would serve the God who had been such a central part of his life since childhood, Alfred dedicated himself totally to Him, but perhaps mostly to Saint Joseph, his long-time friend and confidante. He became Brother André.

While the early years of his career were somewhat mundane, not unlike the lives of many other young men on the same path, the events that followed were truly exceptional. Very few people in the history of North America can claim to have led such an extraordinary life, to the extent that the myriad of events that shaped the evolution of the man, the legend and the tiny chapel seem almost unbelievable. Slowly but surely, as the years went by and the pilgrims travelled to the mountain, Brother André began to be known as a miracle worker.

Then, on January 6, 1937, the sick and frail old man­—the beloved son and brother of the people—passed away at age 91. One million people came to pay homage to him. And, since that day, millions of others have remained devoted to Brother André. To all those who came to him in their hour of need, he spoke these immortal words: "Pray to Saint Joseph."

Jean-Guy Dubuc, priest