Two Sydney parishes will welcome a 410-kilogram relic statue of St John Bosco in August as part of a national tour marking 100 years of the Salesian order in Australia.
The wax replica of the 19th century priest’s body is contained in a glass casket and contains a major relic of the patron saint of young people.
It began its journey from the Salesian Province Centre in Victoria on 3 July and will finish at a Mass celebrated by Melbourne Archbishop Peter Comensoli to close the centenary in North Brunswick on 30 September.
Sydney Catholics will have opportunities to learn about the saint and his order and pray with the relic at St John Bosco parish, Engadine, from 15-22 August and Our Lady of the Rosary parish, St Mary’s, from 23-28 August.
Despite a report that the relic encased in the statue is a small part of the saint’s brain, assistant priest at St John Bosco parish in Engadine Fr Frank Bertagnolli SDB told The Catholic Weekly it is actually a small bone or bone fragment from one of his arms.
Fr Bertagnolli said all are invited to spend time with the relic, which will also go to St John Bosco primary and college, and Dunlea Centre (which used to be known as Boys’ Town, Engadine).
It will also visit Our Lady Help of Christians church at Heathcote, so residents of the John Paul Village for residential aged care can pray with the relic.
Don Bosco was inspired by St Francis de Sales to establish the Salesians in 1859 to educate impoverished boys.
The first Salesians in Australia were based in Fremantle, Western Australia, and arrived on 30 March 1923 to minister in the Kimberley region.
Fr Bertagnolli said St John Bosco was “a wonderful man” with a similar story to Australia’s St Mary MacKillop.
He said the relic tour would be an opportunity to showcase the Church’s good works, particularly the Salesians’ work in Australia and the Pacific as well as across Asia and India for young people and the disadvantaged.
“Don Bosco, as he was known, is the great youth worker who has inspired thousands, including Pope Francis who grew up in a Salesian parish in Argentina,” Fr Bertagnolli said.
“The visit of the relic is intended to offer an opportunity for some spiritual renewal to the members of the Salesian Family, involving especially the young people in schools, parishes, and youth centres.
“Don Bosco was a man of the church and of the people and the visit of his relic will demonstrate the positive contribution that the Salesian family has made over 100 years, and continues to make for the benefit of the whole society.
“In Australia the newer migrants are mostly from Asia, and many of them would recognise Don Bosco from their homelands where the presence of the Salesians in educational centres in India, the Philippines, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, and others is making a major difference to the lives of the young people in those countries.
“I hope that people will come to appreciate more and more the saintly life of Don Bosco but also so many good people who are committed to their church and their faith.”