By Lou Baldwin
Special to The CS&T

PHILADELPHIA – Four relics and four icons will travel the four corners of the Archdiocese in the coming year. The icons and relics are of St. John Baptist Mary Vianney, the Curé of Ars, patron saint of priests, and it is all part of the archdiocesan observance of the Year of the Priest.

In a July 20 ceremony in the chapel of the Cardinal’s residence in the Overbrook section of Philadelphia, the four images and crosses containing his relics were blessed in preparation for their pilgrimage.

“This blessing of the images of St. John Mary Vianney and the reliquaries of his holy remains reminds us of the nearness of saints as we strive to imitate them as faithful followers of our Lord Jesus,” Cardinal Justin Rigali said at the beginning of the ceremony. “This blessing also recalls for us the example of the Curé of Ars for all priests during this Year of the Priest to grow in holiness and to be of generous service to the Church.”

On hand for the ceremony were several members of the Knights of Columbus, the group that will be charged with transporting the images and relics to the various parishes, convents and institutions for veneration.

The knights were represented at the blessing by Kevin McCarthy of Msgr. Schuyler Council in West Chester and, in full ceremonial regalia, past State Deputy Ron Cubbage and Fourth Degree Master Gordon Jeffries.

“It’s an honor to participate. I feel so lucky to be here,” Cubbage said.

“Any support for our priests is good,” Jeffries said. “It’s nice to know they have a saint looking after them.”

“The whole idea is that these relics and icons will travel through the entire Archdiocese through the year, and they will be in the parishes about a week apiece,” said Msgr. Arthur E. Rodgers, the committee chairman for the pilgrimage working with Bishop Daniel E. Thomas, who is the episcopal chairman. “During this time the people will be asked to venerate the relic and to pray for priests, for the strengthening of the priestly vocation and for new vocations to the priesthood,” Msgr. Rodgers added. “Each parish will receive a suggested veneration program and will also be given a short biography of St. John Vianney that can be printed in their parish bulletin.”

Father Christopher Rogers, director of the archdiocesan Office for Vocations to the Priesthood and a committee member, said, “It is really bringing to the local parish the witness of St. John Vianney, who really is a witness not only for the priests but for the people. I think bringing his relics to the parish is a way of bringing him home to the people.”

Lou Baldwin is a member of St. Leo Parish and a freelance writer.