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Archives ‘St. André is such a special person to me’

January 12, 2022

By Mary Beth Bracy
Contributing Writer

MALONE – St. André Bessette’s feast day – January 6 – reminds us to always seek his patronage. So many faithful in the North Country have and continue to be blessed by their patronages. When visiting St. Joseph’s Oratory in Montréal, pilgrims are greeted by a beautiful state of St. Joseph. On the base of the statue are the words: “Go to Joseph!”

St. André was clear whose intercession miracles were wrought through: St. Joseph. Msgr. Joseph Aubin of Holy Cross Parish, Plattsburgh shared that three of his aunts were Sisters of St. Joseph. In 1935, one of his aunts and his mother traveled from Rochester to Montréal. Msgr. Aubin’s aunt had arthritis and his mother said “We’ll go down to Brother André and see if he will bless you.”

The day they went there were about 50 people pressing to see him in a small waiting room, Msgr. Aubin recalled his mother saying.

“It was a mob scene,” he said.

They were only there for about a minute and a half. When they met Brother André, he looked at Msgr. Aubin’s aunt and said to her: “Sister, aren’t you a Sister of St. Joseph? Why bother me, go to your patron.”

St. André was a first cousin to the grandfather of Mary Steenberge (née Bessette), a Malone resident. She still has a lot of cousins in that area. Brother André visited her uncle in Chateauguay around the late 1920s. As a family, they’ve always prayed for St. André’s intercession. They took a trip once to where St. André was born in St-Grégoire-d'Iberville, Québec. For several years, Steenberge said she has read every book that she could find on St. André.

“St. André is such a special person to me, he was chosen by God from the moment he entered the world,” she said. “When he was born, they didn’t expect him to live. One of his relatives baptized him immediately. How precious that was that God accepted him and purified him from the moment he was here.

“His life was typical of the way life was in those days,” Steenberge continued. “They were extremely poor and lived in a one-room cabin.”

Steenberge noted that life was “extremely hard” for St. André, the ninth of 13 children, four of whom died in infancy.

“His father was killed by a tree that fell on him,” said Steenberge. “His mother died when he was 12, and he was very close to his mother. He was farmed out with other relatives. He was very prayerful and he always said, as French families did and my family did, the Rosary at night. When saying the Rosary, he was always at his mother’s knee. His little fingers would be on the Rosary with hers. It was normal in those days. It was so simple, it was God, Jesus, Mary and Joseph and that was their faith. They worked hard and did a lot of sacrificing.”

Steenberge said she believes St. André was gifted by God and was gifted to God’s people.

“He just was a very special child, and I’ve always thought that God had him from the beginning,” she said. “He was just a miracle from the time he was born. God’s hand was out there and said that ‘you are mine, you will always be mine,’ and he was. His faith was given to him by God, not any book, he couldn’t read or write. It just shows that God chooses those that are so empty that He can work with them. And that’s how he accomplished everything, prayer was with him perpetually.”

Some of the books Steenberge read said that when he was with his relatives, St. André would spend a lot of time in a corner of the barn looking at the Crucifix that one of his uncles had bought for him.

“His whole life was one of sacrifice and openness to God and to St. Joseph,” Steenberge said. “It was normal for all families at that time to pray to St. Joseph, to the Blessed Mother, and Jesus. That’s all they knew. It was just that blind faith and hope, these theological virtues were things they lived on.”

Speaking of St. André, Ms. Steenberge relayed “The history of how God used him through the years, because he was so open, he didn’t question, he truly believed. That’s just how his life unfolded.”

A lot of St. André’s sisters were in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island where there was a lot of employment opportunity, she explained, but “his health was so fragile that he had to go back to Canada. It was a miracle that the Holy Cross Fathers accepted him. He was so holy and they sensed that he was like a living saint. He was a doorkeeper for more than 40 years. Miracles started there. He was such a quiet, gentle person, but he did have a lot of humor. He spoke very little. There were a lot of people that thought he was crazy or when he started healing people, they were against it. This didn’t distract him; it’s the Holy Spirit was involved him all along the way.”

St. André, Steenberge said, “had a lot of innocence. The story is how he healed. He and St. Joseph, in my mind, are so much alike because St. Joseph was such a humble, chaste, and obedient man. God was able to mold him into what the world needed. My personal feeling is that there is a mystery that surrounds St. André that we will never know, we will never know as humans how close he was with God, St. Joseph, and Our Blessed Mother. It is a great, great secret, when God uses people. St. André was empty so God was able to mold him into what He wanted.”

Only in Heaven will we know the vast numbers of people who have been healed through the intercession of St. Joseph and St. André. On a personal note, when my maternal grandmother Bertha Hamel Bennett was a young child she was brought to see Brother André because she was suffering from debilitating arthritis. When Brother André prayed over her, she was healed. As a result, my family has always had a devotion to Brother André, so much so that one of my nephews is named André. I think it’s safe to say that, if it wasn’t for the intercession of St. Joseph and St. André, I also wouldn’t be here right now.

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