World’s largest shrine to St. Joseph celebrates 100 years

The world’s largest shrine dedicated to St. Joseph is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year.

St. Joseph’s Oratory of Mount Royal will kick off its centennial celebrations Oct. 17 with a mass, celebrated by Jean-Claude Cardinal Turcotte, archbishop of Montreal, who will consecrate the basilica.

The basilica, which was begun in 1924 and completed in 1967, has never been consecrated. In 1954, Pope Pius XII raised the oratory to the status of Minor Basilica.

Visited by some two million people per year, the oratory is the most popular pilgrimage site in Montreal.

The rector, Fr. Jean-Pierre Aumont, CSC, has issued “a friendly and warm invitation…to come and discover or rediscover a unique place of spirituality, dialogue and peace, where nature, the sacred, history and culture come together in harmony.”

Centennial celebrations include several religious ceremonies, art exhibits, a theatrical production, music concerts, a family picnic and several pilgrimages, undertaken by the Canadian Armed Forces, the Knights of Columbus, the Scouts and Guides, and the Montreal police and fire departments among others.

Humble servant

The oratory was founded by Blessed Br. André Bessette, CSC. The humble Holy Cross brother had served for 40 years as the doorkeeper at Collège Notre-Dame, located just across the street from the present-day oratory.
He dreamed of building a shrine to St. Joseph on the slope of the hill, saying “St. Joseph needs a place.” He would often walk and pray on the slope of the mountain, dropping medals of St. Joseph into the soft soil and asking St. Joseph to provide a means for his congregation to purchase of piece of land.

In 1904, Br. André built a small wooden chapel on Mount Royal and lived in the tight quarters above it. Ten years later, the construction of the church began and the small chapel developed into an expansive site, which now includes a crypt church, a basilica, a votive chapel and a museum. Its grounds include a garden and a larger-than-life-sized Way of the Cross.

The oratory, with its many meeting rooms, is also the site of numerous religious conferences and events. It continues to be under the care of the Congregation of the Holy Cross.

Br. André was also renowned for healing physical ailments. Many miraculous cures took place, thanks to Br. André’s prayer and intercession with St. Joseph’s Oil, oil which he burned in front of a statue of St. Joseph. Many of the crutches and canes of the people who were healed are on display in the votive chapel. The Holy Cross brother always credited the healings to St. Joseph.

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