Relics will continue on tour through November
By Marney Simon | For The Bugle
The faces of the faithful who exited St. Mary Immaculate Catholic Church Oct. 15 told a story without words.
Thousands of Catholics made the trip to the Plainfield church to visit with a child who passed away more than a century ago, paying their condolences but also seeking grace and peace. The church was one of the stops on the Pilgrimage of Mercy, a national tour of the major relics of St. Maria Goretti.
“I think it’s just a way to reflect, just having a modern saint present reconnects people with the church,” said Pat Sullivan, a member of the Knight of Columbus Assembly 3232 in Plainfield. “It reestablishes their connection with the church. It’s a very emotional bond, a lot of tears.”
The Knights provided the honor guard during the veneration for St. Maria Goretti, an all-day event to honor her life. For Catholics, the veneration was a chance to reaffirm their faith.
“Folks from all over the Midwest are coming just to pray with and honor the life and the remains of this saint,” said Ryan Essington, youth outreach coordinator at St. Mary Immaculate.
The relics are on tour for the first time in the U.S. and include the bodily remains of St. Maria Goretti, encased in a wax sculpture of her body that lies inside a glass casket.
Killed in 1902 at the age of 11, St. Maria Goretti is the youngest saint in the Catholic Church. Those attending the veneration were there to acknowledge her devotion to God and her ability to forgive in the worst circumstance.
Born into poverty in Italy, Maria was murdered by her neighbor, Alessandro Serenelli, after she fought off his attempt to assault her. She was brutally stabbed 14 times, and died the next day from an infection brought on by the attack. Her last words were, “I forgive Alessandro Serenelli … and I want him with me in heaven forever.”
During his prison sentence, Alessandro is said to have been visited by Maria, who offered her forgiveness. Alessandro converted to a holy life. He became a lay Franciscan brother, and upon his release from prison, visited Maria’s mother, who also offered her forgiveness. Both Alessandro and Maria’s mother were present at her canonization in Rome in 1950.
The Catholic church has credited Maria credited with the most known miracles by a Catholic Saint.
For those who visited the parish to view her relics, it was an opportunity to strengthen their belief in God.
“As Catholics, we believe in an afterlife,” Essington said. “There are people who have gone ahead of us, young and old, who have lived lives of incredible holiness. Who have lived lives of incredible service to the church here on earth.
“We believe that those who have given their lives fully and completely to God have made it to heaven. So it’s just important for us, because there’s a hope. There’s a hope to life after death, and there’s a hope to heaven. The saints are the people who have paved the way for us.”
The relics of St. Maria Goretti will continue on tour through November at churches throughout the country.
The complete history of St. Maria Goretti can be found online at mariagoretti.com.