The people of St Anthony of Padua, Toongabbie, feel “excited and very blessed” as they prepare to receive a precious gift from Padua in Italy this month, says parish administrator Fr Jose Manjaly.
Friars from the Basilica of St Anthony in Padua, Italy, will bring them a first-class relic of their saint to stay with them forever. It is a small part of the saint’s body tissue, known as Ex Massa Corporis (body mass).
“I’m sure it was a great desire and is an answer to the prayers of many people here,” Fr Manjaly told The Catholic Weekly.
“We have a large Asian population in our parish and they have a great devotion to the saint.
Many people in our area would like to go and make a pilgrimage to the shrine where his body is and pray there but cannot afford to do so.”
He said every Tuesday more than 300 people from the parish and across Sydney come to the church for its St Anthony novena – many leaving letters with prayers of petition and thanksgiving to the saint.
“We have a lot refugees here who feel a strong sense of his intercession in their difficulties.
“They see him as a role model who shows them how to have courage in the ups and downs of life, and are inspired by his preaching on love and forgiveness.”
Last year 2000 people flocked to the church to venerate another relic – a floating rib of St Anthony – which visited as part of an Australian tour to commemorate the 100 year anniversary of the Fatima apparitions.
After witnessing the incredible outflow of devotion and graces at the time, Fr Manjaly, with the support of his bishop, Parramatta Bishop Vincent Long OFM CONV, wrote to the Conventual Franciscan Friars who are the custodians of the precious remains, requesting a relic for the parish to keep.
St Anthony’s community will receive the relic on 21 June with a solemn reception at 6.30pm at the primary school in Targo Road, Girraween.
Pupils will form a guard of honour for a public procession of the relic to the nearby church where Mass will be concelebrated by Bishop Long and other priests.
It will be accompanied by a second St Anthony relic which will be on tour at the time.
All are invited to public veneration of both relics on Friday 22nd June.
Linda Ducksbury, principal at St Anthony’s Primary School, said that the children already had some understanding of the significance of relics from last year’s experience.
“We thought that was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and to have one come here to stay with us permanently really is a significant thing for our parish and our school,” she said.
“Our aim when the children leave Year 6 is that they have a really good understanding of who St Anthony of Padua is as a person.”
School captain Darragh McKenna, 12, said it was “really cool they picked our school to receive the relic” and that he is inspired by St Anthony’s life story.
Vice captain Rihana Boulos, 11, said they were preparing to take on the responsibility to model reverence for the many people who will visit the church and pray to the saint.
“It’s a huge responsibility that something so precious and special will come to us, so we have to show the real meaning behind it and thank St Anthony for all his service.”
Fr Manjaly said the relics help people to have a connection with God.
“I tell people that that it is through St Anthony’s intercession to God that their prayers are answered but that St Anthony himself is not powerful.
“It is God who is powerful.”