The Catholic Church’s youngest saint arrived Wednesday morning at St. Francis of Assisi Church, 15050 South Wolf Road, in Orland Park.
St. Maria Goretti’s holy relic will be available for public viewing until 11 p.m. A solemn Mass is scheduled for 7 p.m.
On Thursday, the Vatican-sponsored Pilgrimage of Mercy U.S. Tour comes to Plainfield at St. Mary Immaculate Church, 15629 South Route 59. Six federal agents from the Department of Homeland Security and a Chicago Police honor guard watch over the remains of St. Maria Goretti during the tour.
St. Maria Goretti was an 11-year-old Italian girl stabbed to death while resisting a neighbor trying to rape her in 1902. Maria is said to have forgiven her attacker, Alessandro Serenelli, as she lay dying of infection from 14 stab wounds inflicted with a metal file. Serenelli was sentenced to 30 years in prison. According to the official Vatican account, he had been in prison for six years when Maria appeared to him in a vision and handed him white lily flowers she had picked from a garden.
The gesture of forgiveness is said to have filled Serenelli with the light of the Holy Spirit. He immediately became contrite, and finished the rest of his sentence in tranquility. His behavioral change was so dramatic that he was released three years early. He eventually joined the Capuchin Franciscans as a lay brother.
She was officially canonized by Pope Pius XII on June 24, 1950. Known as a model of mercy, her remains are embedded in a silver box inside a wax likeness and displayed in a glass case.
The relics were previously displayed at parishes in Philadelphia prior to Pope Francis’ visit. Within the last few weeks, the relics were in New York, at Sing Sing Prison, and in Massachusetts, Connecticut and Michigan. (Visit MariaGoretti.com for the rest of the tour schedule.)
A special Tridentine Mass scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Monday in Chicago.