The Body of St. Maria Goretti has arrived in the United States as part of a two-month tour, and will make its only visit to Connecticut at St. Theresa Church on Main Street Tuesday, Oct. 6.
Part of the Pilgrimage of Mercy tour, the major relics will travel around the country from September to early November. It is the first time that her body has traveled to America, and only the second that it has left Italy.
“While St. Maria is universally known as the Patroness of Purity, her greatest virtue was her unyielding forgiveness of her attacker even in the midst of horrendous physical suffering, a forgiveness that would completely convert him and set him on a path to personal holiness,” explained Joseph Pronechen, a parishioner at St. Theresa and contributing writer for the National Catholic Register.
“St. Maria is bigger than any rock star, and she should be,” added Father Brian Gannon of St. Theresa.
“She was only an 11-year-old girl and she stayed faithful to God at all costs, even in the face of great despair,” he said. “She’s a real model of Christ and provides his followers with an incredible hope, and proves through her forgiveness that God has mercy for all of us.”
Public veneration of St. Maria will begin at 10 a.m. and run through 11:45 p.m. There will be a mass to honor St. Maria at 7 p.m.
“It’ll probably go past midnight,” Father Gannon “We’re ready to go all night…
“The churches that have already hosted her have experienced thousands,” he added. “We expect to have a constant flow of people coming into the church Tuesday.”
In preparation for the large crowds, the church has expanded parking to be available on its Main Street location as well as nearby athletic fields.
Pronechen also said he expects thousands to be coming from beginning to end of the veneration period.
The body made its first public appearance on Sept. 21 at Sacred Heart Basilica in Newark, N.J. As of the latest scheduling she will tour through 25 Catholic dioceses spanning 18 states in parishes, schools, and prisons, including New York, Boston, Newark, Philadelphia, Detroit, Chicago, Atlanta, Houston, Orlando, and Oklahoma City.
In addition to being known as the Patroness of Purity, Pronechen said that Maria Goretti is the Patroness of Mercy.
“Very clearly, it is purposely a forerunner to the Holy Year of Mercy that Pope Francis declared to begin on Dec. 8,” Pronechen said.
Extremely popular, St. Maria Goretti is the youngest canonized saint in the Catholic Church. She was only 11 years old when she died July 6, 1902, after she was stabbed 14 times during a rape attempt.
As she lay dying in the hospital, her last words were of mercy towards her attacker: “I forgive Alessandro Serenelli … and I want him with me in heaven forever.”
Father Gannon called the chance to see the major relics in person a “once in a lifetime opportunity.”
“When you encounter the major relics of a saint, you get to experience the deepest sense of devotion and worship in their presence,” he aid.
“This is a wonderful blessing from God,” he added.