We received 228 essays as part of the Brother André Bissette Scholarship Contest sponsored by Ave Maria Press. We express our deep gratitude to the students who took time to explore the life of Brother André and the events surrounding his canonization on October 17. As an apostolate of the Congregation of Holy Cross, we rejoice in the life of Brother André and thank God for his example of perseverance, devotion, and humility.

We are pleased to announce that Katie Gajdositk of Roncalli High School in Manitowoc, Wisconsin is the winner of a $500 scholarship.Katie is a dedicated student and enjoys studying Math.  Outside of school, she plays soccer for Roncalli and also in a local club.  She loves music, and plays the piano, harp, and organ.  Katie also sings in a select choral group called “Roncalli Singers.”  She is unsure of her future career plans, but thinks that music would be an interesting field of study.  When Katie was in seventh grade, she traveled to St. Joseph’s Oratory with her family and remembers it well.

Katie is the student of Mrs. Mary Ann Teshima. Mrs. Teshima is also a winner of a complete set of textbooks from Ave Maria Press. Ninety-one of her students submitted essay. Katie’s winning essay follows.

St. Joseph’s Apostle

        Aflred Bessette’s life can be summed up in one word: Poor. He had poor health, was poorly educated, and was poor financially in that he didn’t have money for anything extra. In fact, later in life, he would charge a nickel for haircuts to boys to save for a shrine to St. Joseph on the mountain. But Alfred was rich in faith, humility, and kindness, so he was successful despite his poverty. And as the beatitude goes: Blessed are the poor in spirit, for they shall see God.

        The man we know as Bl. Br. André Bessette was born Alfred Bessette. He was such a sickly infant that his parents baptized him soon after birth. By age twelve, Alfred was an orphan. His siblings drifted apart, and he went from job to job maintaining a humble lifestyle. His temporary occupations varied from farm boy, tinsmith, blacksmith, baker, and cobbler, and he was even a coachman.

        Alfred Bessette did not live an easy, comfortable life, but he always had a positive attitude, and even brought hope to suffering. He pointed out the good in bearing crosses: “People who suffer have something to offer to god. When they succeed in enduring their suffering, that is a daily miracle.”

        In 1870, Alfred wanted to enter the Congregation of Holy Cross in Montreal. His poor health made the superiors doubt his ability, but they accepted him. He was given the name Brother André, and put at the position of doorman. He was known to say, “When I entered the community, my superiors showed me the door, and I remained there forty years without leaving.” Brother André was always happy when doing good work, no matter the job. It is another way his humble nature shone through.

        Alfred had always had a devotion to St. Joseph. When people came to him for help, he would often tell them to pray to St. Joseph for his help and guidance. When André became involved in building the Oratory, he always kept St. Joseph in mind, and the monument that started as just a little chapel would become the most visited and greatest sanctuary dedicated to St. Joseph.

        Brother André was associated with many healings, but he always denied it. He strongly believed that it was God and St. Joseph who healed. And even though he believed that the Lord could do anything, he still believed that patients should see doctors. He said to doctors, “Your work is good. Your science was given to you by God. You must thank Him and pray to Him.”

        Brother André set a good example for us to live out our daily lives. When we work, we should expect nothing in return. André did a lot of volunteer work, whether it is acknowledged that way or not. In our own lives, we can and should find time to help by volunteering in some little way; working at a soup kitchen, donating clothes or money, even giving someone some of your lunch when they have none. We should be content with knowing that we helped someone in need, directly or indirectly. That is the greatest compensation we could know.

        Our “poor” beloved Brother André Bessette knew suffering, but he also knew much joy. It seems that his work and his prayer went on as long as he did. André is an example to us all: an example of love, humility, and strength. And through the intercession of St. Joseph, we should all pray that we can be a little more like Brother André.