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.