More than 800 people processed on the streets of Toongabbie last Thursday night to celebrate the arrival of a first-class relic of St Anthony of Padua which has been gifted to St Anthony’s Parish, Toongabbie.
The crowd included not just parishioners, but also people from right across Sydney who have a devotion to St Anthony of Padua.
George Cullen, who was on the organising committee for the reception of the relic, said it was a “fantastic night”.
“We had a really big crowd here, as well as the bishop and eight priests,” he said.
Parish Administrator, Fr Jose (Joe) Manajaly MS, agreed, saying it was evident how deeply many people feel connected to St Anthony.
“St Anthony of course, relates to the poor and with migrants and refugees because he himself was a migrant, having been born in Lisbon, but ended up in Italy. So, all sorts of people have a deep connection to this saint,” he said.
“In the lead-up to the arrival of the relic we prayed a nine days daily Novena Mass each evening and every day people came for the Novena, after work, amidst all their commitments. I was really touched by that.”
Fr Joe said the relic was received by Bishop of Parramatta, Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv from Fr Paolo Floretta of Padua and then passed to Fr Joe and a representative of the parish community, before a procession began from the school to the church for the praying of the Novena and celebration of Mass. The evening concluded with a shared meal.
“It was a dream come true for the parish really,” he said. “So many people contributed their time and talent in the planning to help make it happen.
“And it was a wonderful night, with all sorts of people coming together under one room to worship God. I think St Anthony would have been very happy.”
St Anthony was a Franciscan friar, born in 1195 and raised by a wealthy family in Lisbon, Portugal. He died in Padua, Italy in 1231. St Anthony was known for his preaching, deep knowledge of scripture, and his special devotion to the poor and the sick. St Anthony was also one of the most quickly canonised saints in the history of the Catholic Church and was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church on January 16 1946.
Perhaps best known as the patron saint of lost things, St Anthony is venerated the world over, and is credited with many miracles involving lost items, lost belongings, lost people and lost spiritual goods.
Fr Joe said it was a great honour for the parish to receive the relic, which is defined as a part of the ‘body mass’ of the saint, to remain permanently at the parish church.
“It started last year when St Anthony’s Parish received a visit from a relic of St Anthony during a national tour of Australia,” Fr Joe said.
“While they were here, I had a chat with the priest who brought the relic out and asked him about the possibility of getting a first-class relic for our parish.
“After sending a few letters, including from the Bishop, they said we could have this relic.
“So, I believe this must just be the opportune time for St Anthony to come here. I think he wanted to come here and have a tangible presence for the people.”
The relic will be available for prayer and veneration at St Anthony’s Toongabbie, each Tuesday night.