Monday, October 18, 2010

My Distant Acquaintance with Brother Andre, CSC

Brother Andre Bessette, CSC

Painting (Toronto: Sept. 29, 2010) © Joachim Romeo D'Costa

It was late 1950's. In the Little Flower Seminary -- a preparatory seminary -- at Bandura, Dt. Dhaka, American missionary Father Leo J. Sullivan, CSC, was the rector. He was a voracious reader. He even read magazines during mealtime in the seminary dining room! He used to subscribe to many U.S. and Canadian magazines, mostly Catholic. Later, after his reading, he would pass those magazines to us seminarians.

One was the bimonthly magazine, The Oratory, published, since 1927, by the Holy Cross Fathers at St. Joseph's Oratory in Montreal, Canada. This magazine would give wider coverage on St. Joseph, Brother Andre and his work, and the oratory with a lot of photos and sketches. I would read it with intense interest and curiosity. I learned a lot about Brother Andre and his work through this magazine.

I particularly felt an affinity with Brother Andre due to his qualities that resonated with those of our people in Bangladesh. Brother Andre was born and raised in a village outside Montreal. He had barely any literacy and worked as a labourer before entering the Brotherhood in the Congregation of Holy Cross. He had a kind of rustic simplicity in his manners and lifestyle.

In Bangladesh, most of the people in the late 1950's were living in rural areas with simple but hard-working lifestyle. Their literacy rate was extremely low and they barely earned enough. So, the story of Brother Andre and his work seemed all too familiar to me.

Later in life, I again came across Brother Andre when one of my children had a line of pea-like nodules in a thick neck vein. Doctors, although not sure of what the cause was, told us to be alert and said that these might turn into tuberculosis later. When American Brother Ralph, CSC, of St. Gregory's High School, where my child studied, came to know of our predicament, he gave us a relic of Brother Andre. He told us to pray to Brother Andre regularly and touch the relic on the child's neck.

To our relief, the visible round nodules gradually vanished. There was no sign of anything amiss. We do not ascribe this to Brother Andre's intervention, but that experience has a lasting effect on us.

Although Brother Andre was dead a long ago, his indirect influence touched me many thousand miles away from Montreal.

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