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André Bessette, C.S.C.
(9 August 1845 – 6 January 1937), more commonly known as Brother André (French: Frère André), and since his canonization as Saint André of Montreal, was a lay brother of the Congregation of Holy Cross and a significant figure of the Roman Catholic Church among French-Canadians, credited with thousands of reported miraculous oil healings associated with his pious devotion to Saint Joseph.Bessette was declared venerable in 1978 and was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1982.
Pope Benedict XVI approved the decree of sainthood for Blessed André on 19 February 2010, with the formal canonization taking place on 17 October 2010.
He is the first Canadian living after Confederation to be canonized.
He was born Alfred Bessette in Mont-Saint-Grégoire, Canada East (Québec), a small town situated 40 kilometres (25 mi) southeast of Montreal. His father, Isaac Bessette, was a carpenter and lumberman, while his mother, Clothilde Foisy Bessette, saw to the education of the children. Bessette was the eighth of 12 children, four of whom died in infancy. At birth, Bessette was so frail that the curé baptized him "conditionally" in an emergency ritual the following day. In 1849, with employment scarce and his family living in poverty, Bessette's father moved to Farnham, Quebec to work as a lumberman, but was shortly thereafter killed by a falling tree. Bessette was nine years old, and his mother, at 40, remained with ten children in her care. Clothilde died of tuberculosis within three years, and Bessette became orphaned at the age of twelve.
According to Laurent Boucher, author of the book Brother André: the Miracle Man of Mount Royal, Bessette was placed under the care of Timothée and Rosalie Nadeau of Saint-Césaire, Quebec following his mother's death. While with the Nadeau family, Bessette attended catechetical lessons taught by his parish's pastor, André Provençal. It was during these lessons that Bessette developed his two lifelong devotions: Saint Joseph and the Passion of Christ. In June 1858, at age 12, Bessette was confirmed by Bishop Jean-Charles Prince of the Diocese of Saint-Hyacinthe. When Bessette was 14, the Nadeaus began to send him to school. However, Bessette was soon removed from school, having only learned to read and sign his name, both with difficulty. Timothée Nadeau intended to train Bessette as a labourer, seeing no need for an orphan to be educated. Bessette soon left the Nadeaus and was brought in by Louis Ouimet, the mayor of Saint-Césaire. While living with the Ouimet family, Bessette had a series of short-lived occupations, working as a farmer, tinsmith, blacksmith, wheelwright, cobbler, and baker, all of which Bessette was too physically weak to sustain. Searching for work, Bessette moved to Moosup, Connecticut at the age of 18, where he joined several of his relatives in work at textile mills across Connecticut and Rhode Island. Bessette returned to Canada in 1867 following the Canadian Confederation.