THOUSANDS of people are expected to view the relics of Saint John Bosco in Limerick over the coming days, before it departs for Austria on the next leg of a worldwide tour to coincide with the 200th birthday of the Italian saint.
A casket containing partial remains of the saint - within a wax replica of his body - has been on a tour for the past four years to celebrate the bi-centenary of his birth in 1815. This Wednesday, hundreds of people were visiting Milford Church in Castletroy to see the remains of the 19th century founder of the Salesian Order, which is now present in 132 countries.
“It’s hugely significant, because Don Bosco has come on pilgrimage to us rather than us going to him. It’s also getting our name and the name of Don Bosco better known in Ireland. It’s very heartening to see the number of young people here today, and people of all ages coming to venerate him,” said Br Padraig McDonald, who is based in Southill, and is part of the organising team for the tour in Ireland.
Br McDonald said “to see the amount of people flowing through the church” in Limerick and nationwide has been “phenomenal”.
“It does give us a lot of heart. We can be arguing with ourselves saying ‘The church is dead and faith is dead’, but after the last four to five days I’m questioning that one. I think people are searching and maybe by spending a little bit of time in quietness maybe they’ll find an answer to that.”
Patsy McNally, from Monaleen, who was volunteering in the church, said it’s “wonderful they’ve brought them here. It helps us Catholics to think about our faith again, and it kinds of renews you.”
Asked what it meant to him to have the relics in Limerick, John Dillon of Castletroy said: “It means everything. When we were children a Don Bosco film went to every school right throughout Ireland, and it was something special, because most country children wouldn’t have seen a film. So Don Bosco is in the memory forever more after that.”
The only other comparable event John can recall is when the relics of Saint Theresa made an impromptu stop at his garage on the Dublin Road when they were touring Ireland in 2001 and caused traffic chaos as people flocked to see them.