St. Joseph Oratory had indeed a humble beginning. The College Notre Dame was located on the slopes of Mt. Royal facing what you see today as the Oratory. It was Brother André's dream to build a shrine to St. Joseph and the top of Mt. Royal which he saw from his window of the college was indeed a beautiful place. Eventually the college purchased the land and Brother Andre received permission to place a statue of St. Joseph on top of the hill under a small wooden shelter. He often went up with students and friend to pray before the statue. At the same time he had permission to save the five cents he received for haircuts of students and offering given him by people who were healed. He had saved $200 which was enough to begin the project.
This first chapel was built by Brother Abundius who was the handyman at the college with the help of others. As you can see, is was small, 16X12 feet with back door which could be opened so that people sitting on benches outside could participate in the prayers and Mass offered in it. Much work had to be done before the inauguration when St. Joseph stepped into the picture. Brother Andre gives us the following account:
A man came to see me at the college. He was so thin that you felt you could
see daylight through him. He had cancer of the stomach. I asked him, ' Could
you come and work for me tomorrow morning?' 'I would like nothing better,
but since I don't have the strength, I have to eat something,' he replied.
'Good, you will come and have breakfast with me tomorrow,' I said.
"The next day I served him a good meal. He went to work the same day. All traces of his disease had disappeared. He worked for me for several months." Laurent Boucher, CSC, Brother Andre, pp.60-61)
During the next five years the chapel underwent changes. It was enlarged and a heating system was put in place so that by 1908 the chapel was open all year round. Brother André was often there leading prayers and distributing prayer leaflets to the visitors. In 1909 a pavilion was constructed to the left of the chapel which consisted of a religious articles shop, a restaurant, a living room for Brother André, office space for the shrine guardian and a waiting room for pilgrims who desired to speak to Brother André. On May 6, 1909 a crowd of 3,000 attended the blessing of the Chapel's bell. The photo shows a gathering of people next to the chapel in 1910. Brother André went from being a porter at the college and appointed guardian of the Oratory and began to live there.
Brother André soon realized that he needed a priest at the Oratory, so he asked Father Dion to assign one to hear confessions. The superior said that he did not have anyone available.
"What about Father Adoldphe Clément? asked Brother André.
"You know he is nearly blind. He cannot read his breviary nor celebrate Mass. He would be of no use to you."
"Send him to me anyway," replied the brother. (Ibid., p. 73)