I have known the Brothers of Holy Cross since the day of my birth. My uncle is Br. Fulgence Dougherty, C.S.C. Growing up in Buchanan, Michigan (in the shadow of the Golden Dome), every three-to-six years this mysterious relative would visit us with exotic gifts and coins from a place called Bangladesh. The day I was born – the same for my five older siblings – a telegraph was sent to the Holy Cross Community in Dhaka alerting them (and my Uncle) of our birth. When Uncle Jimmy (this is what we called him) visited, he was treated as a celebrity, and his presence was always a reminder to my father to speak to us kids of Brother André.
Part of my father’s commitment and devotion to Holy Cross and Brother André concerned our summer vacations. For a family with eight kids summer vacations were special, and they had to be done within a very strict budget. Often we would head to campgrounds at or near Lake Michigan because the price was right and they were close.
But, on two occasions, I remember wonderful extended trips to Montreal, Quebec. My father felt that it was very important for us children to get to know this wonderful man who so inspired his older brother (my uncle) a man called André ... the miracle worker of Montreal.
On my first trip to Quebec I was only 7 years old, and I wondered why these people walked up all those stairs on their knees and why were all those crutches on the wall. The second trip I was 16 years old and, with all those memories from nine years ago, I wanted to investigate. I looked at those people on their knees (they were still there) and in their faces I saw a faith that was awe-inspiring. As I went into the Oratory and, once again, saw those crutches and canes, I realized that these people had been healed through the intercession of this wonderful and holy man, Brother André Bessette, C.S.C.
I truly believe that my own vocation in Holy Cross goes back to Saint André Bessette. It amazes me that my uncle and André were alive at the same time. Although they never met, they were cut from the same cloth. As a “younger” Holy Cross religious I hope that I can share in their devotion to Saint Joseph and our Blessed Mother. Each day at Mass I pray that through the intercession of Saint André Bessette that my parish, myself, and all of Holy Cross will embrace his simplicity and prayerfulness.
Fr. John Dougherty, C.S.C., is the pastor of Holy Redeemer Parish, which is a parish sponsored by Holy Cross in Portland, Ore. He wrote this reflection on his connection to St. André Bessette for the Spes Unica Blog as part of our celebration of his feast day. Learn more about the first canonized saint in the Congregation of Holy Cross.