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Monday, September 27, 2010

Dynamic Rally Surrounds Display of St. John Bosco Relic

Fr. Tim Zak, SDB, pastor of St. John Bosco Parish in Chicago, called me a few months ago with a curious request.  “Tom, I need your help and counsel.  You see, the relic of St. John Bosco is coming to our parish in October.  This is going to be a huge event and we need to get started right now!”

The first thoughts that came to my modern, Western mind were, “Why make such a big deal about viewing a relic? Wouldn’t time be better spent working on a more worthwhile project?”

However, after meeting with Fr. Zak and an enthusiastic group of Salesian Cooperators from St. John Bosco Parish, I quickly identified several tangible benefits for the Archdiocese of Chicago stemming from the world tour of the relic of St. John Bosco.

First, Salesians are loved by many ethnic communities in Chicago.  Thousands of Asian, Polish, Italian and Hispanic immigrants have fond memories of being ministered to by Salesians in their homeland.  Having these groups gather together with their families would be tremendous.  Second, St. John Bosco is the official Patron of Young People.  Hosting thousands of young people and their families at St. John Bosco Parish will certainly build enthusiasm for other Archdiocesan youth events such as the Bread of Life Retreat and World Youth Day.

And finally, young people in the Archdiocese do not normally turn out in droves for popular devotions such as Corpus Christi processions, rosary, Eucharistic adoration and relic visitation. Our modern, secular culture has pretty much replaced our youth’s enthusiasm for these practices with other more ‘entertaining’ events such as concerts, movies and video games. However, during their initial presentation, I was quite impressed with the dynamic and captivating ideas that the Salesian cooperators had for the October 2nd-4th event— a youth & family rally, catechetical talks, concerts, music, clowns and games.  If any group could pull off making a relic visitation youth friendly, the Salesians could!

Every day since I received that curious call from Fr. Tim I have been amazed by how the Holy Spirit has worked to bring people together to make a difference in the lives of at-risk youth in our community.   The committees have organized two days of activities and events for people of all ages. The Catholic Cemeteries of Chicago is the principal sponsor for this event.  Simply put, it has been a privilege to be a part of the planning committee for this extraordinary event.

Yes, St. John Bosco is just one parish in Chicago, and popular devotion to St. John Bosco is not for everyone.  Nevertheless, this event is an ecclesial celebration for the entire Archdiocese of Chicago.  Bishops John Manz and Gustavo Garcia-Siller, M. Sp.S, along with many other religious and diocesan clergy, will be a part of this celebration.  Please consider coming out for one or all of the events.

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Monday, October 04, 2010 1:37 PM

On Saturday 10/2/10 I found a Golden Jubilee book from my great grand uncle, a priest born in 1862, who was healed by Don Bosco in Rome. As I was telling my sister about this event her husband said his relic was traveling through Chicago this very weekend!! The synchronicity is amazing how a saint's goodness can pierce time and place to remind us of real power.

Julia T.

Friday, October 01, 2010 6:41 PM

It’s been about eight years since I met the Salesian family. It was behind this neighborhood and this small church and school were I grew spiritually learning about don Bosco and his love for youth everyday. Now being sixteen I have come to realize that Saint john Bosco not only has inspired youth in Chicago but all over the world from Chicago to Mexico and even the Philippines. And this year Saint John Bosco parish was chosen to welcome this saint's relic this weekend. I couldn’t be anymore grateful and excited to see his relic come to my parish. And as a young leader in my church I have been chosen with other eight leaders to be in charge of the Youth rally and I couldn’t be more grateful. I want to thank Tom Howard for helping us in planning this big event, especially in advertisement I don’t know what we would have done with out him. Hopefully this weekend turns out great and everyone will remember when Saint John Bosco's relics came to Chicago.

Marlen M.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010 3:49 PM


Thanks for sharing your journey of your Catholic life with the blog. You are an excellent example of someone engaged in 'on-going' conversion. Conversion, as many incorrectly assume, is not a once-and-for all experience. It happens over a lifetime. Our God is most especially and really present in the Eucharist but also in the lives of those who love Him.

Fr. Tim:

Let us pray for a good turn out this weekend. I was happy to see that the Catholic New World has been so helpful in getting the word out. They ran two articles on the relic visitation. Thanks for all the great work that the Salesians do for our young people.

Ana Marie:

Your comments are very enlightening. I am new to the spirituality of St. John Bosco. Thanks for making relevant connections on how this great Saint continues to impact youth for our readers.


It is hard for many young people to understand how someone can have a relationship with a dead person. For us Saints are not dead because their souls live in heaven, with Jesus. For many youth who see their lives through the lens of science today, having a loving relationship with someone who passed seems inconceivable. Thanks for your relationship with St. John Bosco. May it grow as you grow closer to Christ.

Thomas Howard

Tuesday, September 28, 2010 11:26 AM

I must say that my curiosity has peaked! I've never experienced (nor wanted to) the veneration of a relic. Then again, there are several Catholic traditions and rituals that I have not experienced thus far in my life. I look at this event as an opportunity for the regional church to come together and participate in a celebration of the life of a modern day saint. So often the saints are simply frescoes and statues of these great people that suffered all in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Don Bosco seems to appeal to our modern times. Even though he lived and died in the 19th century it is still recent enough that he looked more like us today. His warm smile and welcoming demeanor that is depicted in many images of him warm my heart. I'd like to be a part of the spirit of his life. Being a youth coordinator I hope that many young people seize this opportunity to further explore their Catholic heritage and participate in an extraordinary event that does not happen frequently in one's lifetime. I encourage both young and old to come out this weekend and celebrate your faith through the triumphs and dedication that is St. John Bosco.

Tiffany S.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010 9:22 AM

Great reflection, Tom. Thanks for all your help and the support of the Archdiocese. We feel Don Bosco is a gift to the whole Church, and the visit of the relic is a great occasion to put the young people of our Church at the heart of our apostolate.

Fr. Tim Z.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010 12:29 AM

Tom Howard's comments are valuable to all, Christians and non-Christians, as well as the Catholic Community in Chicago... the World! Why? Because Don Bosco followed Christ...the bittersweet road he travelled during the early years, and many that followed, carved out what we come to know as the Salesian Preventive System - an approach to relating specifically to youth and the poor that is one of reason - the limited human element; spiritual - faith - a gift of trust that is nurtured by frequent receipt of his Body and Blood; and kindness - human affection raised to the level of Christ's love for us and grows as we learn to follow, accept and love His will. The youth that followed Don Bosco knew they were loved. He didn't stamp approval from the top down...he got involved, out in the field, in the midst of trouble, invited participation and consideration....with a game, a meal, and religious education. What culture, church, community can't help but witness the need for this great gift today? Let's celebrate the spirit of a true apostle, when we venerate his relic and concentrate our focus on the possibilities of experience that will bring us together to think about these gifts in spite of our varied cultural traditions, devotional interests, habits, or needs. Here’s to a new light on the game of life…Ask your self during these next few days: Do I really know that I am Loved? How? Do I show it? How? In what ways may I help another person know that he or she is Loved? Don Bosco knew the complexities of life in his age…What he came up with is relevant today…Be confident and dialogue….Let’s go see and maybe we too will be inspired to fly.

Anna Marie M.

Monday, September 27, 2010 9:11 PM

Tom, I personally am grateful to know the Salesians. The fact that the relics of St. John Bosco are coming to Chicago is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for all of us to share the love we have for this saint. Let's hope that many people will therefore accept the invitation and discover why he was called by "Friend, Father and Teacher of Youth" by Pope John Paul II.

Marcial G.

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