Saint Andre Bessette was born in 1845 in the village of Saint-Grẻgoire d’Iberville, in what is now the Archdiocese of Montreal, Canada. Baptized as Alfred, by the time he was 12 he had to work because both of his parents had died. At age 22 he moved to the United States, where he labored alternately in mills and on farms in New England. He returned to Montreal where he joined the Congregation of Holy Cross in 1870 with the encouragement of Father André Provençal, who had observed Alfred spending whole nights in prayer and sent a note with Alfred that read, “I am sending you a saint.”
Alfred made his final vows in 1874 and was given the religious name of André. For some forty years Brother Andre served as janitor, porter, infirmarian, gardener, baker of the altar bread and in other capacities at the College of Our Lady of the Snows near Montreal. In 1905, at age 60, Brother Andre was transferred to Montreal.
From his childhood Brother Andre had a strong devotion to Saint Joseph and spent his life promoting devotion to the foster-father of Jesus. He founded and helped to build the Oratory of St. Joseph. The popularity of the oratory grew as it became a place of pilgrimage because of the many healings attributed to the intercession of Brother André and Saint Joseph. It was referred to as the “Lourdes of Canada,” and became one of the most popular shrines in North America drawing millions of pilgrims to Montreal.
Much attention centered on Brother André himself because of the number of cures that were attributed to him, so many, in fact, that he was called the “Miracle Man of Montreal.” Brother Andre died on January 6, 1937, at age 91. Over a million mourners processed past his casket. He was beatified by Saint John Paul II in 1982 and he was canonized a saint in 2010 by Pope Benedict XVI. His feast is on January 6.