THE RELICS of an Italian saint will return to Limerick this week, before they leave Ireland for the next stage of the European tour.
Thousands of people viewed the relics of the St Don Bosco, the founder of the Salesian Order, in Milford, Southill and Pallaskenry, where the Salesians first established a base in Ireland, last weekend.
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 bicentenary of his birth in 2015. The relics have now moved to Knock, Navan, Belfast, Dublin, before coming back to Limerick again - to the Holy Rosary Church on the Ennis Road this Thursday, March 7. They will then be flown from Shannon Airport to Austria.
Father Pat Hogan, parish priest in Southill, said the tour is about “resurrecting the story of the life of Don Bosco and giving a message of hope to young people.” Don Bosco’s mission was to help young people, and Fr Hogan said there are many “living legends” in the Southill community who are quietly spreading the same message to young people from disadvantaged backgrounds, specifically to “believe in yourself and follow your dream.”
Br Padraig McDonald, Southill parish and a member of the organising team for the tour, said it’s “hugely significant” to have the relics in Limerick, “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 coming here, and people of all ages coming to venerate him,” said Br McDonald.
Br McDonald said: “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.”
Sr Don Bosco, who entered the Mercy convent in 1961, chose to adopt the name of the saint as her own. “I loved that name. The time came when we could change our names again, but I have stuck with that name.
“John Bosco worked very simply in Italy, and helped children. The simple things about him touched me so much.” Sr Don Bosco, who was a teacher for 20 years in Nenagh, visited the relics in Limerick last week.
“It’s a marvellous thing that I’m here today to see John Bosco. I could cry again thinking of all the blessings he has brought me.
“Today there’s so much anxiety and worry and strain, and on a day like today everything is quiet and peaceful by the statue of John Bosco.”
Fr Michael Casey, the provincial of the Salesians in Ireland, Malta and Tunis, said people are drawing “solace, courage, inspiration and hope” from seeing the relics, and taking time to reflect. “I think people can identify with this man. His life was very ordinary, and it wasn’t an easy life.”
Fr Casey said he “mixed feelings” when he heard about the tour coming to Ireland as he didn’t know what people’s reaction would be. “My parents and older people would understand the tradition of relics, but we wanted to bring him into the life of young people.”
Born in Turin, Don Bosco was ordained in June 1841 and died in 1888, aged 73. He was canonised by Pole Plus XI in 1934 and Pope John Paul II called him ‘Teacher of Youth’.