In 1904, Brother André Bessette, a Holy Cross religious, created a shrine to Saint Joseph in Montreal. Every March, the patron saint of the universal Church is celebrated there. Did you know that Blessed Basile-Antoine Moreau, who was born in the Sarthe department in France in 1799 and was the founder of the Congregation of Holy Cross, is considered one of the forerunners of devotion to Saint Joseph in the 19th century?
The anecdote may make you smile, but the coincidence is quite singular. While the concrete for the roofs of the new reception pavilion has been poured for a few days, 85 years ago, almost to the day, the concrete for the Oratory’s dome was completed.
The Roland Gauthier Archives and Documentation Centre has been able to continue a project to describe old photos thanks to a grant from Bibliothèques et Archives nationales du Québec (BAnQ). This year, 1581 photos were added to the 844 photos processed in 2021.
These photos come from 18 series on the following themes: the opening of Brother André’s tomb, the Original Chapel at different periods, the phases of the construction of the Oratory, the construction of the loft organ, the installation of the Beckerath Organ and its concerts, special events in the Basilica, aerial views of the Oratory, and the Oratory’s religious.
This post presents my research process, some of my discoveries and my favorite.
In June 2022, I was invited to the city of South Bend, Indiana (USA), to attend a conference on religious archives. The event was held on the campus of the University of Notre Dame. This institution shares some commonalities with Saint Joseph’s Oratory of Mount Royal. First, it was founded by a Father of the Congregation of Holy Cross, Father Édouard Sorin (1814-1893). Like the Oratory, the university was placed under the protection of the Congregation of Holy Cross. But above all, Brother André is very present there.
The Oratory’s archives contain a unique treasure: a collection of 10,000 photographs, taken mainly at the Oratory and dating from 1904 to 1980. Created by the religious of the Congregation of Holy Cross, as part of their duties at the shrine, this collection presents different aspects of the Oratory’s history: the evolution of the site, the life of Brother André, the employees, important visitors, small and large events, etc. These were subdivided into 307 thematic series a few decades ago.