By Marilyn Rodrigues and Debbie Cramsie
Broken Bay Bishop Anthony Randazzo announced an extraordinary double blessing for the diocese on Divine Mercy Sunday – two new shrines with first-class relics of beloved modern saints.
A precious bone relic of St Faustina Kowalska was installed at the Divine Retreat Centre in Somersby on 24 April, to the joy of hundreds of pilgrims who gathered to celebrate the feast day.
And on 22 October, the feast of St Pope John Paul II, a relic of the saint’s hair will be installed at St Patrick’s Church, East Gosford.
Both communities say that raising their status to a shrine and having the saint’s prayers with them in a tangible way will boost them as centres of pilgrimage and faith renewal.
“This is a wonderful thing for the people of Broken Bay,” Bishop Randazzo told The Catholic Weekly.
“I know our people are very excited about not only the first-class relics but the plans for the diocesan shrines.
“It is very special to be able to install the relic of St Faustina on Divine Mercy Sunday which will be followed by the installation of St John Paul II’s relic in October.
“However this is not just a glorious attribute for the people of our Diocese. It is something all the faithful of Sydney and indeed pilgrims from right around Australia can share in the years ahead.”
Bishop Randazzo thanked St Patrick’s parish priest Fr Grzegorz Skulski SDS and retreat centre director Fr Roni George VC along with their communities for their positive cooperation in the establishment of these new shrines “for the spiritual benefit of all the faithful”.
“I warmly invite you, my brothers and sisters in Christ, to participate in pilgrimages to these shrines in the months and years ahead,” the bishop wrote.
Fr Roni told The Catholic Weekly that the 24 April feast day is always a special day at the retreat centre, which also offers a space for prayer and adoration every day around the clock.
He had asked for the ex Ossibus relic from the Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy who care for the Divine Mercy Shrine in Kraków, Poland, where the saint is buried.
St Faustina is known as the ‘apostle of Divine Mercy’.
“Divine Mercy is the patron of our centre and it is good to keep the saints’ relics here for veneration,” Fr Roni said.
“Through venerating them, praying to St Faustina and reading her writings, we come to know more about the mercy of God.”
Fr Roni said that each year up to 1000 people attended the annual feast but that people constantly flow to the centre for retreats and to pray and encounter God’s mercy.
Pope John Paul II established the first Sunday after Easter as Divine Mercy Sunday in 2000, at St. Faustina’s canonisation, to promote the devotional practices associated with her visions, already popular in many communities.
St Patrick’s parish priest Fr Grzegorz Skulski SDS said it was a huge blessing to have relics of two great saints in such close proximity.
He said the Shrine to Saint Pope John Paul II at his parish would be accompanied with a pastoral centre to allow people from all generations to come together for faith, formation and community.
“Many people know and love Saint Pope John Paul II even non-Catholics and I think that the Church in Australia and our diocese of Broken Bay would benefit from a new and fresh way of evangelisation,” he said.
“In our parish we have many young people and families and we would like to use this opportunity to help them to grow in their relationship with God and inspire them by the life and witness of this great saint.
“In addition to the shrine we will also establish a pastoral centre where we will hold talks about the Theology of the Body and John Paul II himself.
“The centre will be open to youths, young adults, families and all other adults with displays of photos and different items of John Paul II which will allow people on pilgrimages to learn about JPII as well as to enjoy our local hospitality.
“It is my hope that people will be inspired by this great saint to renew their faith and their relationship with God.
“John Paul II is well known, accessible and relatable to people regardless of where they are on their faith journey, and it is through this that we hope that they will be drawn and become more connected with the community of the Church.”