A relic of St. John Vianney — his heart — will visit St. John Vianney Parish, 54045 Schoenherr Road in Shelby Township, from 2 to 8 p.m. March 30. This is the first time that the relic has visited the United States.

A relic of St. John Vianney — his heart — will visit St. John Vianney Parish, 54045 Schoenherr Road in Shelby Township, from 2 to 8 p.m. March 30. This is the first time that the relic has visited the United States.

Photo provided by Evan Holguin


Saint’s heart to visit Shelby Township parish

By: Kara Szymanski | Shelby - Utica News | Published March 29, 2019

 An icon of St. John Vianney will also visit the parish with the relic.

An icon of St. John Vianney will also visit the parish with the relic.

Photo provided by Evan Holguin

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SHELBY TOWNSHIP — A relic of a French priest — his physical heart — will be at a Shelby Township parish March 30 for people to visit in veneration.

The relic of St. John Vianney is making a pilgrimage across the country, visiting 97 public locations plus other locations for private veneration, through May 4. The tour began in November.

The relic is scheduled to visit St. John Vianney Parish, 54045 Schoenherr Road in Shelby Township, from 2 to 8 p.m. March 30, with Mass at 5 p.m.

John Lajiness, a pastoral associate at St. John Vianney Parish, said that it is a privilege for St. John Vianney Parish to have the relic visit, and it means a lot to the congregation.

“I think they take a great source of pride that we were given this opportunity. This is the saint that the parish was dedicated in honor of … and people see it as a unique opportunity to grow closer to God in a once-in-a-lifetime way,” said Lajiness.

The relic usually remains in France.

“It has never visited our parish before and has never been to the United States. Usually it’s where he was a pastor in Ars, France. The Knights of Columbus sponsored and worked with the church in France to provide finances and staffing for the relic to travel safely here,” said Lajiness.

He said they are planning on having hundreds of visitors, maybe even thousands.

“Even if you’re not Catholic or familiar or understand about it, it’s an interesting way to understand what Catholics believe and what god works through,” Lajiness said.

The Archdiocese of Detroit provided some information about relics in a press release about the visit.

“In Catholic tradition, a relic is a physical object associated with a saint that may be offered to the faithful for veneration. Neither the relic nor the saint are to be worshipped, but are rather venerated as holy objects in recognition of the fact that God has worked through the saint. A major or first-class relic was part of the saint’s body, as opposed to something that the saint touched or wore. The term ‘incorrupt’ refers to part of a human body that has avoided the normal process of decomposition after death. It is a sign — but not a proof — of the person’s holiness, and is sometimes seen in Catholic saints and blessed,” the press release states.

The first-class relic is being kept in a 17th century French reliquary for the pilgrimage.

St. John Vianney was born in a small village in France in 1786 and lived through the French revolution, when churches were being destroyed, and he had to receive his first communion in secret, according to the Knights of Columbus. Vianney became very involved in his work and heard confessions up to 18 hours a day, as many people traveled from all over Europe and farther to see him, according to the archdiocese.

He died in 1859, and almost 1,000 people attended his funeral, according to the Knights of Columbus.

The Rev. Tim Mazur, pastor of St. John Vianney Parish, shared his hope that the tour would open the hearts of the faithful.

“Our culture is longing for radical, life-changing, genuine love — the kind of love that goes beyond just a good feeling once in a while, but that stays with us no matter what and lifts us up to be our true selves. This love poured from the heart of the Lord to the heart of St. John Vianney,” Mazur said in a prepared statement. “I pray that this time with the relic of his heart will inspire and encourage all of us to open our hearts to that kind of radical love, and let it pour out of us,” he said.

The relic will also stop for public veneration at Sacred Heart Major Seminary, 2701 Chicago Blvd. in Detroit, from 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. March 31.

Father Stephen Pullis, director of evangelization, catechesis and schools at the archdiocese of Detroit, helped set up the relic’s visit to southeast Michigan.

“I know many priests and the faithful are very excited for the opportunity to pray with the incorrupt heart of St. John Vianney,” Pullis said in a prepared statement. 

“We are in the midst of a time of great trial and purification in the Church. What better model of priestly holiness and dedication to priestly service can we have than the patron saint of all priests?” he said.

“I am very confident that his witness and intercession will bring great blessings to the Archdiocese of Detroit and our movement to Unleash the Gospel,” Pullis stated.

Lajiness said that an icon will be traveling with the relic.

“An icon is different because the artist isn't trying to make an artistic statement, but a spiritual one. It tells a story about what God did through something,” Lajiness explained.

He said that the event is a chance for everyone to come together whether they are Catholic or not.

“I think all of us feel that whether or not you’re Catholic, or you're unfamiliar with praying, you can come and it can be a way to be close to the Lord, and it’s a chance to pray in a different kind of way,” said Lajiness.

To find out more about the relic or donate to the shrine of Ars, which is renovating its welcome center, visit www.kofc.org/vianney.

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