From April 18 to May 8, the Major Reliquary of Saint André Bessette was on tour in the Archdiocese of Keewatin-Le Pas. Such tours or pilgrimages of the Major Reliquary, which consists of a few fragments of the heart of the Congregation of Holy Cross’s first canonized saint, are one of the principal pastoral outreaches of St. Joseph’s Oratory.
The first-class relic was accompanied by Fr. Jomon Kalladanthiyil, C.S.C., Superior of the St. Joseph Oratory Community and Vicar of the Canadian Province. He serves as the Custodian of the Major Reliquary of Saint André.
In an average year, the Major Reliquary goes on pilgrimage six to eight times. In recent years, it has traveled both near and far—from Toronto, Ontario, and Detroit, Michigan to New Jersey and Orlando, Florida. The goal is to spread knowledge of and devotion to St. André Bessette, as well as to inspire pilgrimages to the Oratory in Montreal.
The Archdiocese of Keewatin-Le Pas is immense, consisting of 430,000 square kilometers of rugged terrain in northern Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Northwest Ontario. The name “Keewatin” means “North Wind Blowing.” The territory includes a rich mix of cultures among the Métis, the First Nations of Cree, OjiCree, and Dene and also immigrants from other countries who now call the region home.
The tour began at the Cathedral of Keewatin-Le Pas, where the Most Rev. Murray Chatlain, Archbishop, received the Major Reliquary and Fr. Jomon in a Eucharistic Celebration. Expressing great gratitude, the archbishop remarked that it was the first time that such a pilgrimage with the relic of a saint had happened in the archdiocese, which is located on the northern periphery of the world.
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All told, 20 mission communities participated in the tour, which Fr. Jomon characterized as “fruitful.” He described the many hours of travel on gravel and forest roads—marked by two flat tires and countless encounters with wild animals—as “adventurous and exciting.”
Each visit with the Major Reliquary consisted in a presentation by Fr. Jomon on the life and ministry of St. André Bessette. Then after Eucharistic Adoration and Mass, Fr. Jomon invited those present to venerate the first-class relic of St. André’s and be anointed with St. Joseph’s oil from the Oratory.
Those who attended were grateful for having learned about St. André and having encountered him in the first-class relic; several expressed their intention to make a pilgrimage to the Oratory.