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Catholic faithful embrace saints' holy relics in St. Charles

'They’re all our cheerleaders in heaven'

ST. CHARLES – The holy relics of Catholic saints numbered 166, the tiny bits remaining of their existence on earth were encased in glass reliquaries on gold stands.

There was a bit of veil from Mary and a piece of the true cross upon which Jesus was crucified.

Other relics came from Padre Pio, Patrick, the Apostle Paul, Thomas Aquinas, Dismas – the good thief crucified with Jesus – Helen, Rita of Cascia and John Neumann among them.

More than 500 of the faithful came to St. John Neumann Catholic Church in St. Charles on Nov. 1 to see the exposition, the relics of Treasures of the Church, intended to encourage and support the faith.

After Rev. Carlos Martins, of Treasures of the Church, spoke about the lives of the saints as models of the godly life and as intercessors before the public lined up to go into a large hall to see the relics, to hold rosaries or pictures against them, or to pray holding them.

Alba Galla of St. Charles said she came straight after mass at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in St. Charles, where she attends.

"As Catholics, you ask the saints to intercede for you because they are already in heaven. And they set such good examples while they were on earth," Galla said. "I’m going to just be here in the presence of all of them and ask for intercession. They’re all our cheerleaders in heaven.”

Jack O’Connor of St. Charles said he was there to read about the saints, to say some special prayers, and to have an education about the saints, as each reliquary had a card next to it telling a short story about the life of that particular saint.

“It’s such a special thing,” O’Connor said. “And the fact that they came on All Saints Day makes it that much more special.”

Nina Porcello of West Chicago said she came because she is a spiritual person.

“And since I retire, I want to be closer to God,” Porcello said.

The saint she feels closest to is Maria Goretti, Porcello said.

“Because she was killed when she was a child,” Porcello said. “I saw her story. I could not stop crying when I saw it. And I have the book.”

Maria Goretti was an 11-year-old Italian girl who fought off a rapist in 1902. The would-be rapist stabbed her 14 times as she resisted. Maria Goretti died a virgin martyr for the faith, but she forgave her killer before she died.

Treasures of the Church sold copies of a book and video about her, which Porcello was carrying.

Andrea Sebby of Sycamore came to the relics exposition with her daughter, Hannah, 14. She held a rosary to the reliquary of Faustina Kowalska, a nun who was known for her conversations and visitations from Jesus, who presented himself to her as the King of Divine Mercy.

“I am really intrigued by my faith and have never seen any relics before,” Andrea Sebby said.

Hannah Sebby also had a rosary, which she had held to the 11 martyrs of Novogrudok.

The martyrs were nuns killed by the Gestapo Aug. 1, 1943 in what is now Belarus. The nuns had offered their lives in exchange for those imprisoned by the Nazis.

“It's reassurance that you are more connected … to your faith,” Hannah Sebby said.

William Hof of Aurora held a two-foot high, 25-pound statute of the Virgin Mary.

He was there with his wife, Sarah Hof, and mother-in-law, Lori Frew.

“I’m the labor,” William Hof said, smiling and nodding at the two women.

The purpose of bringing the statute of Mary to the relics exposition was to have it blessed with the veil of Mary, Sarah Hof said.

“The statue has been attributed with many stories and miracles of conversion,” Sarah Hof said. “My husband here, unfortunately, is not very strong in his faith. … He’s a lapsed Catholic.”

“I am Catholic, but I never finished the journey – so to speak,” William Hof said. “Her faith is very important to her and she is very important to me. I just don’t have the faith part.”

So something might happen?

“I’m certainly hoping for that, yes,” William Hof said.

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