To the Editor: Is there anger in Heaven? St. André Bessette, who died in Montreal (1937), might be angry with the Bishop of Manchester, Peter Libasci.
For decades, Brother André prayed over thousands of disabled pilgrims. Many were healed. But André refused credit for that. The true wonder-worker, he insisted, was St. Joseph, the husband of Jesus’ mother. In gratitude, André begged for 20 years for funds to build a chapel in Joseph’s honor, now Canada’s largest church, the magnificent St. Joseph’s Oratory.
Why might André be angry? This summer Bishop Libasci plans to demolish Laconia’s own St. Joseph Church (circa 1929). The parish — paradoxically named St. André Bessette Parish — needs cash to consolidate facilities. To get it, Libasci will raze the beautiful Irish Gothic church and sell the lot. He said this would be the only way to ensure the church is never put to sordid uses (Drapcho, A. [5/16/2019]. “Bishop: ‘Absolutely necessary’ to raze downtown church,” Laconia Sun).
Irony drips off this deal, like sweat from the brows of the hard-working Catholic immigrants who built St. Joe’s. What would poor humble André say? Surely he would reject wrecking a church named “St. Joseph” to enrich a parish named after André himself. He would want to preserve the architectural integrity of the church, while avoiding scandalous use of a former place of worship.
Laconia is weighing the proposal for an Historic District to protect St. Joseph Church. May St. André smile upon this effort.