WILMINGTON — Relics are a very deep and ancient Catholic tradition, according to one diocesan priest, and Catholics in the area can venerate a first-class relic of a 20th century young man who died at age 15 and was beatified a few years ago.
The St. Pius X Columbiettes of the city of Wilmington have organized a two-day stop at St. Elizabeth Church of five strands of hair from Blessed Carlo Acutis, the Italian boy who is remembered most for creating a website that chronicles Eucharistic miracles. He was diagnosed with leukemia in October 2005, and died a year later.
The relics will be at St Elizabeth on Aug. 26-27. They are being accompanied by Bill Ryckman and his wife, Mary, who own the hair and have permission from the Vatican to travel with it to various locations. Ryckman will deliver four short talks over the course of the weekend, and St. Elizabeth will be open from 8 a.m. Saturday through 9 p.m. Sunday for Eucharistic adoration except when Mass is being celebrated.
Father Roger DiBuo, pastor of St. Elizabeth, said the presence of the relic will be a chance for people to learn about a modern saint. He said relics are an important part of the faith.
“When they started to bury the saints, they started to build these simple altars over the graves of the saints,” Father DiBuo said. “That tradition is carried on now – we don’t have a whole body, but we have a relic. Every altar has a relic of a saint embedded in the altar.”
St. Elizabeth has seven altars, each with a relic embedded.
“Now, we’re connecting the relic of Carlo Acutis to the history of our parish,” he said.
Father DiBuo said St. Elizabeth may be the host, but the program is an effort by all the churches in the city deanery. The event is coming during the three-year National Eucharistic Revival, through which the U.S. bishops hope “to restore understanding and devotion to this great mystery,” according to the National Eucharistic Revival website. The revival began in June 2022.
For Blessed Carlo, the Eucharist was central to his life.
“This is a young man who spent his young life coordinating all Eucharistic miracles of the history of the Catholic Church. He’s the first to compile all of that information on a website. This is a perfect example of helping people to learn more about the Eucharist and Eucharistic adoration and the importance of it in the life of a Catholic,” Father DiBuo said.
The two-day event begins with Mass at 8:15 a.m. on Aug. 26, with a talk by Ryckman afterward. The church will be open for Eucharistic adoration after Mass until 3 p.m., and at the same time, the relic and a Eucharistic miracle display will be set up in Grant Hall below the church. The Saturday vigil Mass is at 4 p.m., followed by a second talk by Ryckman. The display will be set up until 7:30 p.m., at which time an outdoor Eucharistic and relic procession will be held outside St. Elizabeth. During the procession, the rosary will be recited, and as each Hail Mary is said, a candle will be lit.
Mass is scheduled for 7:30 a.m. and 10 a.m. Sunday, and Ryckman will speak after each of those as well. The display in Grant Hall will be available until 2:30 p.m., when there will be a procession back upstairs to the church, followed by benediction.
Father DiBuo said Blessed Carlo is a great example of a modern saint, one who is accessible and relatable to young people. He was interested in things young people today are interested in.
“He is dressed as a saint would dress today. He has a soccer shirt on, his blue jeans and his sneakers. It’s an amazing image,” the priest said.
Father DiBuo advises people to bring water. Some food will be available for purchase. St. Elizabeth Church and Grant Hall are both handicapped-accessible. There is no cost for any of the events over the two days. For more information, contact the St. Pius X Columbiettes at (302) 897-3022 or firstname.lastname@example.org.