Organisers pause relics pilgrimage due to COVID-19

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The faithful venerate the relics of St Therese of Lisieux on Saturday 1 February 2020 (before the pandemic). Many were present during their first visit in 2002. PHOTO: Giovanni Portelli

Just like so many families around the world – and in Australia – who have had to their day-to-day lives turned upside down because of the COVID-19 pandemic. So too have the Martin family, who in solidarity with the faithful on Earth, have had their relics suspended during their pilgrimage throughout Australia this year.

See the latest Coronavirus updates from the Archdiocese of Sydney.

The first class relics from France of St Thérèse of Lisieux and her parents Saints Louis and Zélie Martin are to be temporarily suspended in the wake of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic in Australia and around the world. The move comes in line with broader measures by the Australian Government and various Catholic Archdioceses in Australia to reduce public gatherings in an effort to slow the spread of the virus.

Our priority is always the safety and well-being of our supporters

“Our priority is always the safety and well-being of our supporters and the faithful who intend to take part in the pilgrimage,” said Fr Brian Lucas, National Director of Catholic Mission. “With that in mind and following the advice today of the federal government and health officials, we have jointly made this difficult decision.”

St Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face as a child. PHOTO: ©Sanctuaire de Lisieux

The relics have been touring the East Coast of Australia since February and were due to continue their itinerary throughout all the states and territories until June. However, with the onslaught of the pandemic this is now on standby.

the situation is extraordinary

‘We understand that this will be extremely disappointing news to many, however the situation is extraordinary, and anything less than a sensible and cautious approach would be a failure in our responsibility to our supporters,” said Fr Brian.

A composite photo of Saints Louis and Zélie Martin, parents of St Therese of Lisieux. PHOTO: Sanctuaire de Lisieux

Jean Westbury along with her husband Tasman, visited the relics in Brisbane at the Church of the Little Flower, Kedron. Mrs Westbury spoke to The Catholic Weekly of her time with the relics as well the sad news of the tour’s suspension. “Tasman and I are newly married and its not often you get to see family members of a major saint come along for a ‘family trip’” she said.

The Westbury family like many Australian Catholics have a special devotion to St Thérése and the Martin family and visited their relics in Brisbane in February. Pictured on their wedding day in 2019 is a statue of St Thérése in the background PHOTO: Kalen Grondin

“The news of the tour being suspended is quite sad but it can also encourage us to unite in other ways to connect like in Italy where I have seen videos on social media of neighbours singing to each other from their balconies.

you can always still pray to St Thérése and she will send a shower of roses

“And of course, you can always still pray to St Thérése and she will send a shower of roses to those who need her intercession in these troubling times.”

Discussions are underway to host the relics in central venues across three dioceses—Wollongong, Canberra & Goulburn and Melbourne—with limited crowd numbers. A revised itinerary will be available on Catholic Mission’s website soon.

Generations devoted to St Therese

The precious relic and image of St Therese belonging to Noeline Moreton. PHOTO: Alphonsus Fok

Noeline Moreton, 95, of Epping, has a picture and relic of St Thérése with a very special story.

She says St Thérése saved her mother from dying as a young woman, and she later went on to give birth to Noeline on Christmas Day.

The mother of six and proud matriarch of five generations said her mother was in hospital with a grave illness when she began to try to urgently talk to nurses about the saint.

Noeline Moreton

“The doctor had told the head nurse that my mother wouldn’t survive and he should lay her body out to be ready to be collected the next morning, but she came back to him and said she was not only still alive but kept talking about St Thérése.

“My mother recovered and went on to have me, and she always loved this picture and so do I.”

See the latest Coronavirus updates from the Archdiocese of Sydney.

See Also:

From the Epicentre – a Reflection on Coronavirus at Bergamo
Pope entrusts world to Mary amid pandemic
Sydney Archdiocese to combat COVID-19