St. Joseph’s Oratory, built by the Congregation of Holy Cross’s first canonized saint, Brother André Bessette, celebrated its annual novena dedicated to its patron. The nine days of prayer drew over 80,000 pilgrims to the Oratory, culminating in over 28,000 who passed through the Oratory, the largest church in the world dedicated to the husband of Mary and the foster father of Jesus, on Sunday, March 19.
"The dedication to Saint Joseph as the Patron of Canada and of the Universal Church was evident throughout the week and on the days of celebrating the Feast of Saint Joseph,” said Fr. Michael DeLaney, C.S.C., Rector of St. Joseph’s Oratory. “Pilgrims and visitors from many corners of the world—who might reside in Canada or were visiting—came together and celebrated, sang, prayed, and focused on the life of Saint Joseph! He truly is a spiritual father across the world as was evidenced by the example of so many believers, young and old, speaking many languages, from all corners of the globe and society, who made it a priority to be with us!
“Personally, it is the dedication of our pastoral team, our staff, our volunteers—so many people—who brought the success of this week about,” continued Fr. DeLaney. “It was a privilege to have a small role in it and see the fruits of the planning and the efforts made! We heard the call as Br. André would say and invited people to 'Come to Joseph,' and they did.”
To draw people into a more personal relationship with Saint Joseph, the theme for this year’s novena was Saint Joseph, Mon Ami (“Saint Joseph, My Friend”). In addition to the five regular daily Masses at the Oratory, there were three additional Masses with invited preachers and presiders dedicated especially to the Novena, one in English and two in French.
In French, there were three invited preachers, each of whom preached three days: the Most Rev. Christian Rodenbourg, Bishop of the Diocese of Saint-Hyacinthe; the Most Rev. Francois Lapierre, Bishop Emeritus of the Diocese of Saint-Hyacinthe; and the Most Rev. Yvon-Joseph Moreau, o.c.s.o., Bishop Emeritus of the Diocese of Sainte-Anne-de-la-Pocatière. The invited preacher in English was Fr. Nicolas Sengson, SVD, one of the coordinators of the Filipino Catholic community in Montreal.
This year the Oratory also offered short musical concerts each day of the Novena between the English Novena Mass and one of the two French Masses. The museum was also open free of charge every day, and there were extended hours of pastoral attention and the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
Among those tens of thousands of pilgrims to visit St. Joseph’s Oratory over the novena were 10 men in formation from Moreau Seminary of the United States Province of Priests and Brothers who came over their spring break to share in the novena. Joining them for several days was Fr. William Lies, C.S.C, Superior of the United States Province.
Capturing that International dimension of St. Joseph’s Oratory’s mission is a new video that was released on March 8, just days before the novena started, by Salt and Light Media, an international Catholic media organization based in Toronto, Canada. One of those interviewed in the video is Ms. Katia Jean-Pierre, a woman who arrived from Haiti with her daughter 12 years ago after fleeing for their safety.
“Upon arriving in Montreal, Katia first came to Saint Joseph’s Oratory and now serves as one of the receptionists here,” explained Fr. DeLaney. “Her story is profound, and she clearly is living out the mission that Br. André started and dreamed of, and is one that makes Holy Cross proud.”