BESSETTE, ALFRED, named Brother André, lay brother of the Congregation of Holy Cross was born . 9 Aug. 1845 in the parish of Saint-Grégoire (Mont-Saint-Grégoire), Lower Canada, son of Isaac Bessette and Clothilde Foisy; died. 6 Jan. 1937 in Notre-Dame-de-l'Espérance hospital in Ville Saint-Laurent, Que.
January 6th we celebrate the life of one of Canada’s truly inspiring people, Alfred Bessette whom most Canadians know as Brother Andre. I remember many years ago my mother telling me that we were indirect descendants of Brother Andre and from a very early age I have always addressed him in my prayers as “mon cher oncle Andre”. Today I know that brother Andre was more likely a very distant cousin but I love to call him “mon cher oncle Andre” just the same and so when I ask him to pray for me and for my family and others I continue to address him in this manner. Through the years I have seen answers to many of my prayers which I credit to the intervention of my dear cousin. There are literally hundreds, if not thousands of Brother Andre’s relatives living in Ottawa today: i.e. the Maloney, Brousseau, Guillet, Toomey,Evans and McCann families just to name a few. The way mom explained the connection is like this.
Mom’s grandfather Modeste Guillet’smother’s maiden name was Marie Bessette. This is a small photo I have of my great grandfather on the left. What I was told many years ago was that Marie Bessette was the sister of Brother Andre’s Father Isaac Bessette. However, recently I have found that Isaac did not have any sisters and so this information was incorrect. I am related to him but not as closely as I originally thought. I think we are fourth cousins, four times removed. Thankfully my cousin Valerie Lafleur's husband Claude recently unravelled the mystery and for this we are all grateful.
Please see footnote at the bottom of the page below for more details on my Bessette lineage.
In the year 2005 Elmridge Catholic School in Gloucester was considering changing the name of the school to Brother Andre Catholic School. This was initiated by former principle Maureen Atherton who is now retired. Coincidentally our grandson Kyle Marcotte, John’s son was attending the school the year of the name change. Also that year, my good friend Jennifer Snell had just begun her first year of teaching kindness classes with her dog Smokey http://www.thekindnessprogram.org/ in Ottawa Schools. Dr. John Dorner who was the principle of Elmridge Catholic School had heard great things about the kindness classes from Ms. Kimberley Giles the principle of Divine Infant School in Orleans and asked Jennifer if she would visit his school as well. On Jennifer’s last day at “Elmridge Catholic School” which was 23 March 2005, she told Principle John Dorner that one of his students Kyle Marcotte was an indirect descendant of Brother Andre ( I will explain how she came upon this information in the next paragraph) . Anyways, John Dorner was quite delighted to hear this bit of news and asked Kyle if he would say a little about Brother Andre at the School Board meeting when the matter of the name change would be discussed at an upcoming Spring meeting in May. When the time came Kyle did a great job and even got a standing ovation when he told everyone around the table the story of his humble cousin from Saint Gregoire D’Ibverville who later joined the Congregation of the Holy Cross.
He took the name Brother Andre, and worked for the next 40 years as the porter of Notre Dame College which is situated across the Street from Saint Joseph’s Oratory which he founded.
As porter of the College, thousands of people came to know and love him and he instilled a great devotion to his best friend Saint Joseph to all who passed his way. When a miracle happened in the presence of Brother Andre, and there are countless stories of these, it was Saint Joseph, he would tell everybody, who should be thanked. He was just Saint Joseph’s little dog.
The sequence of events which led me to learn about the Name change for “Elmridge Catholic School” to “Brother Andre” was absolutely Divinely inspired and was connected to Jennifer’s visits there. On March 17th 2005 I decided to attend mass at Saint Patrick Basilica for their yearly Saint Patrick Day celebration. I sat near the front and in no time the place filled up. When Jennifer arrived she saw a seat next to someone wearing a red coat near the front. I looked up when she asked me if there was room for her. It was just then that she noticed it was me. I had met Jennifer the previous year during the Good Shepherd Parish trip to Ireland and the British Isles which was organized by their pastor Father Joe Muldoon. I hadn’t seen Jennifer for a while so we chatted a little before mass and it was then that I found out that Jennifer chose the feast of the Epiphany that year as her retirement date from the Military in order to spend more time in prayer and in doing God’s work. At that time I told Jennifer that January 6th is the day the Church honors Brother Andre since it is the day he died and I told her about my family connection to him. By coincidence I happened to have a book about him with me which I offered to her and which she was delighted to receive.. I do not remember why I had the book with me that day; probably just to have something to read before mass. Then the conversation went on where I mentioned to Jennifer that the school that my grandson Kyle attended, Elmridge Catholic School had a beautiful statue of Brother Andre in the front entrance and I wondered why. At that point Jennifer told me that she taught kindness classes at that school earlier in the month and would be returning a few days later to see the remainder of the classes. She then told me about the wonderful Principle John Dorner telling her that they were in the process of changing the name of the school to Brother Andre Catholic School. The remainder of the story I have related in the second paragraph from the top of the page..
I love Brother Andre. I know he had a great sense of humour, he loved to garden and greet people wherever he was, whether it was in the garden or at the door and he had a heart as big as the sky and showed his love and concern to all who passed his way. I recently learned that he will be declared a saint by Pope Benedict XVI later on this year. For more about his life and works please go to this link on my website. http://sites.google.com/site/faithfulcatholics/Home/saints-and-blesseds/blessed-brother-andre
and the Archbishop's Blog at this link http://archbishopterry.blogspot.com/2010/01/brother-andre-en-route-to-canonization.html
Blessed Alfred Bessette, pray for us.
Thank you Claude Lafleur ( husband of my cousin Valerie Lafleur -nee Toomey) for figuring this out!!!
Brother Andre's Connection to me
Jean-Bessette (b 27 Dec 1672, d 18 May 1751) and Madeleine Plamondon (b 22 Mar1682, d 5 May 1750).
Their children were:
Nom Naissance Décès Père Mère Époux(se)
Marie-Jeanne Bessette 09 Fév 1696 28 Mai 1697 J. Bessette M. Benoit
Marie-Charlotte Bessette 18 Avr 1702 01 Mai 1702 J. Bessette M. Plamondon
Marie-Josephe Bessette 09 Sept 1705 05 Avr 1752 J. Bessette M. Plamondon
Madeleine-Charlotte Bessette 20 Mars 1708 J. Bessette M. Plamondon
Jean-Baptiste Bessette 28 Mars 1711 J. Bessette M. Plamondon Paquet
Jean-Francois Bessette 19 Mai 1714 J. Bessette M. Plamondon Girard
Marie-Marguerite Bessette 20 Août 1716 J. Bessette M. Plamondon
Guillaume Bessette 24 Oct 1717 03 Mai 1763 J. Bessette M. Plamondon Paquet
Brother Andre (Alfred) descended from their son Jean-Francois and his spouse
Maureen descended from their son Guillaume Bessette and his spouse Marguerite Paquet.
Brother André's ancestors:
Jean Bessette & Madeleine Plamondon
Jean-Francois Bessette & Marguerite Legrain
Joseph Bessette & Marie-Francoise Barrierre
Joseph Bessette & Angelique George
Isaac Bessette & Clothide Foisy
Jean Bessette & Madeleine Plamondon
Guillaume Bessette & Marguerite Paquet
Francois Bessette & Francoise Haines
Francois Xavier Bessette & Elizabeth Dubuc
Noel Bessette; Marie Desanges Goguet
Marie Bessette; Didace Guillet
Modeste Guillet; Adelaide Murphy
Marjory Guillet; Emile Brousseau
Elaine Brousseau; Jim Maloney
Many years ago my mother told me that the Guillet’s had made a family tree and that is how we learned that we were indirect descendants of Brother Andre. I have contacted some of the Guillet relatives but unfortunately I have not been able to get any more information on this. If you are aware of how I can see a copy of this family tree please send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org