St. André Bessette, CSC, a member of the Congregation of Holy Cross, Montreal, Canada, was a simple man who loved others. As a doorkeeper at the College of Notre Dame in the late 1800s and early 1900s, he met streams of people. Some were sick or poor, but they always found solace and grace in his readiness to listen. Many with whom he prayed experienced healing.
Decades later, before his canonization in 2010, Brother André became associated with another door, one through which healing and hope have also passed. In 1984, St. Agnes Catholic Church in Los Angeles, California, wanted to establish an outreach center for the poor. They asked the Sisters of the Holy Cross to lead the effort. Sister Patricia Ann Thompson, CSC, took the mantle of responsibility and in short order the Brother André Outreach Center was up and running.
Now, after nearly 40 years, the three remaining sisters at the center — Sisters Maryanne O’Neill, CSC (director for the past 20 years), Mary Alice Bowler, CSC, and Patricia Anne Clossey, CSC — are leaving to minister in congregational communities in Indiana and California.
Over the years, Holy Cross sisters, with the help of numerous individuals and organizations, provided food, clothing and monetary aid for utilities and rent to thousands of individuals and families. They filled the bellies of hungry children. They saved families from eviction. They helped keep electricity flowing so a household could function. The needs were always great, but the sisters were tireless in their devotion.
The dedication of the sisters and their volunteers was especially evident during the pandemic. Because of COVID-19, the sisters saw the number of people needing assistance skyrocket. Father Luis Espinoza, of St. Agnes Catholic Church, established partnerships with the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank and the University of Southern California’s Neighborhood Academic Initiative.
These partnerships allowed the sisters to increase their once-a-month food distribution to once per week. They also offered both walk-up and drive-through food distribution. More than 300 people benefited weekly from their selfless service. The sisters are pleased to know that even though they are leaving the area, St. Agnes parish will continue operating the Brother André Outreach Center.
On Sunday, June 27, 2021, the Los Angeles Alumnae Club of Saint Mary’s College, Notre Dame, Indiana, honored the three sisters with a luncheon. After Mass at St. Agnes, dozens of well-wishers offered their appreciation to the sisters. They will be missed.