On Thursday December 30, 2010, the 600 participants in the CCO National Conference traveled to St. Joseph’s Oratory where a special Mass was celebrated with all of them in the Crypt Church. Bishop Paul André Durocher, Bishop of Alexandria-Cornwall, presided at the liturgy along with religious and diocesan priests from every part of Canada. Watch the bilingual Mass below, followed by a Canadian Catholic News article on Rise Up.
Saint Brother André's words inspire Montreal gathering of 600 youth
"I am only a man, just like you" theme of CCO Rise Up 2010 ConferenceBy Deborah Gyapong
Canadian Catholic News
OTTAWA (CCN)-When 600 young people gathered in Montreal Dec. 28-31 for the annual Catholic Christian Outreach (CCO) Rise Up conference, Saint Brother André's words provided the theme: "I am only a man, just like you."
"More than seven decades after his death in Montreal, this humble porter remains an inspiration to Catholics - not only for his faith in St. Joseph, Canada's patron saint, but also for his devotion to the sick who came to him for help and later claimed to be healed by him," said Salt and Light Media Foundation CEO Father Thomas Rosica in his keynote address Dec. 28, kicking off the annual conference. Salt + Light TV, Canada Catholic digital television network had produced a documentary on the recently-canonized saint after nine months of research.
"André's story was about accepting the little he had and turning it into a holy act," Rosica said. "His story is the antithesis of what makes someone famous, notable and heroic today. He would have never been hired as a consultant or been invited to a talk show - no more so than someone who shines shoes or collects garbage for a living would ever be noted for his good work."
Rosica traced the biography of Alfred Bessette who was born into a large Catholic family, but after a series of family tragedies left orphaned while quite young. Frail and sickly, he only grew to be five feet tall, and after a stint in the United States eking out a living as a farm or factory worker, he returned to Canada and became involved in a local church parish. At the advice of his pastor, Fr. Andre Provencal, he tried to enter religious life.
Barely able to read or write, Bessette was at first refused by the Holy Cross Fathers, Rosica said, because his superiors thought his poor health would impede his future ministry. But the Bishop of Montreal intervened and Bessette was allowed to make his vows as a Holy Cross brother, taking the name of Andre after the priest who had changed the trajectory of his life.
Saint Brother Andre was canonized in St. Peter's Square on Oct. 17. "The frail, little brother from Mount Royal, whom no one really wanted in the beginning, is now Canada's first native born male Saint," Rosica said. "In an era of endless celebrity worship and enduring religious scandals, there is something majestic - beautiful - miraculous - about the timeless ritual of sainthood that shone a spotlight on little Brother André of Quebec this past October."
Rosica noted the many difficulties Saint Brother Andre faced, including some from within his own order who considered him damaging to their reputation "and a charlatan." There were also fears that the many sick seeking prayers from Brother Andre would spread contagion.
Despite his lack of formal education, Rosica described Saint Brother Andre as a highly effective teacher of the faith through his love and example. He also stressed the saint's complete trust in divine providence. Both features were relevant for CCO's campus evangelization, he said.
"During one work stoppage, when the basilica still lacked a roof, Brother André simply said, 'Put a statue of Saint Joseph in the center of the church, and if he wants a roof over his head, he'll take care of it,' Rosica said. "He always had complete confidence that, if he were really doing the Lord's will, the Lord would bring it to fruition."
Ottawa Archbishop Terrence Prendergast, who serves on CCO's board of directors, closed off the conference Dec. 31 at its New Year's Eve banquet, by calling those present to accept the challenge of becoming saints themselves, as the Lord wants.
Prendergast recalled growing up in the shadow of the Oratory, making many visits there with his parents and friends and feeling very close to both Saint Brother Andre and Saint Joseph.
He noted the problems today in the "breakdown of catechesis and erroneous teachings on faith and morals," saying they were similar to those faced by the Apostle John when he wrote that day's Gospel reading.
The archbishop exhorted those present to ask God for a "zeal for souls and a single-hearted love for Christ and his Church," similar to that which moved Angele and Andre Regnier to found CCO 22 years ago.
"We live in one of the most highly educated nations in the world," he said. "But, except for a small remnant, most Canadian Catholics are largely ignorant of God's law and his promises."
"You who belong to CCO are ready and organized to touch the lives of many hundreds, even thousands from Vancouver Island to St. John's Newfoundland, from Saskatoon to Quebec City-and everywhere in-between," he said. "And that's why we bishops, priests and religious count on you to go where we are unable to."
He urged CCO to refuse to yield to fear or discouragement despite the "sorry state of adult and youth religious education," but instead to "inspire others to place their trust in Jesus and to proceed with confidence."
Prendergast warned the path would not always be easy. "Anyone familiar with the lives of the saints will know that hardships and criticism will come to us who strive for holiness because of our fidelity to the Church's teaching and to the essentials of our life of faith."
He asked for special prayers for priests, "many of whom are called today to embrace their priesthood after the example of Jesus, who was both Priest and Victim."
"Pray that, with God's grace, they may be able to accept the difficulties, rejections and sufferings that come to them as ways to draw closer to Christ and to conform their lives to that of their Lord," he said. "May they see the 'white-martyrdom' of their lives as an aspect of being a priest today, and thereby grow closer to their Lord."
He also asked them to pray for more vocations to the priesthood. "If CCO is to grow and flourish in the future, it will only be if they are accompanied by zealous and holy priests."
Cardinal Jean-Claude Turcotte, Archbishop of Montreal, welcomed the young people to the city Dec. 28. "Why aren't the media here?" he asked. "This is good news that should be broadcast across the country, that the faith is alive among young university students!"