As the Congregation of Holy Cross continues to prepare to celebrate on October 17 the 10th Anniversary of the Canonization of its first canonized saint, Br. André Bessette, two of the religious who had important roles in the process paused to reflect on the canonization itself, their roles in it, and the saint’s legacy. Holy Cross's first saint Br. André Bessette, C.S.C., was canonized on October 17, 2010, in Rome by Pope Benedict XVI.
Fr. Mario Lachapelle, C.S.C., Superior of the Canadian Province, and Br. Thomas Dziekan, C.S.C., Superior of the Moreau Province, are both former Vice-Postulators of the Congregation. Fr. Lachapelle served in the role from 2004-2010, and Br. Dziekan held the office from 2010-2016. As vice-postulators, they worked with the Congregation’s Postulator, Dr. Andrea Ambrosi, and helped oversee the various canonizations causes related to Holy Cross, including that of St. André Bessette.
As Vice-Postulator at the time of the Decree of Canonization, Fr. Lachapelle “had the joy of being among the very first members of the Congregation informed of this great news: our brother André will be canonized. [It was] an immense joy, indeed, and at the same time, [it meant] hours of work to be deployed to prepare us well for this grandiose event and all the celebrations, religious, festive, and ceremonial, that would mark this achievement.
“Being very involved in all the stages of the organization of this event, I can say that I experienced several emotions: joy and recognition, of course, but also a certain relief to see finally come the big day and realize that everything happened as planned,” continued Fr. Lachapelle. “Today I consider it a great privilege to have lived, with all my colleagues present at the various events that followed for this canonization, the culmination of several decades of work carried out by all those who contributed to this cause: postulators, vice-postulators, researchers, editors, etc.”
Fr. Lachapelle officially handed off the job of Vice-Postulator to Br. Dziekan just months before the canonization.
Br. Dziekan similarly found it “an immense privilege for me to be in Rome at that precise time and in a position that allowed me to be very involved. My life since I was a small boy has been entwined with Brother André from the day that my mother and sister went on a pilgrimage to Montreal and brought back a book on the life of Brother André along with some medals and St. Joseph Oil. The book intrigued me even though I was unable to read it. I was probably five years old. But I knew that we shared an important day together ... my birthday was to eventually be the same day as his feast day.”
The connections with Br. André only continued from there for Br. Dziekan: “My middle name was Andrew, and I eventually studied in Montreal and my room looked out over the Oratory. I was chosen to read the first reading at his beatification Mass at St. Peter’s [on May 23, 1982]. I was the headmaster of our boarding school in Rome at the time. So there were many connections that meant so much to me, even before I knew the Brothers of Holy Cross who taught me in high school. I often think of God’s providence providing all those opportunities to share in Brother André’s life. Eventually, I too became a Brother of Holy Cross.”
As for the canonization itself, Br. Dziekan said, the moment that most stood out to him was “the joy of the pilgrims who had come from all over. There was a real celebration aspect and Holy Cross was present and came from all corners of the globe.”
“lt was an emotional experience. I had the sense that our connection was tangible,” Br. Dziekan continued. “There was an emotional closeness to him during the ceremony and during the days following. I felt that he was drawing me into a continued closeness.”
Now, as both Fr. Lachapelle and Br. Dziekan look back on St. André’s Canonization ten years later and contemplate his legacy the world over, they both see this humble, faithful Holy Cross brother as having particular importance for the world of today.
“Ten years later, tangible traces remain of this event: places, schools, parishes now have Saint Brother André as patron, all over the world!" remarked Fr. Lachapelle. "And we must not forget that our dear Brother André has been designated, by the Canadian Church, as patron saint of caregivers.
“At a time when we are experiencing one of the worst medical and health crises of this century, this important mission that Brother André had given himself to be the servant of the poor and the sick calls us prophetically: let us not forget to pray to him to ask him to inspire us in the answer we will give to the glaring needs of our brothers and sisters who are suffering,” he said.
“Brother Andre's legacy is always constant, it is faithfulness to prayer and steadfastness in our relationship with God,” added Br. Dziekan. “Brother André knew God as Father and always explained God's love in terms of that deep and abiding love of a parent—certainly a love that we all crave today.”
The Congregation has made resources available on its website to help enter into the celebration of the anniversary. In addition, the Congregation’s General Administration has launched a series of videos reflecting on St. André that are available on its YouTube channel. The second video by Br. Francisco Gillette, C.S.C., of the District of West Africa, was just posted.