The parishioners of Our Lady of the Angels Parish, Rouse Hill, have welcomed first-class relics of Pope St John Paul II and St Faustina Kowalska, which are drawing the faithful back to prayer and symbolising hope after an uncertain few years.
On 22 October 2022, parishioners and devotees of the saints from across Western Sydney and the Blue Mountains gathered to officially welcome the relics to Australia and to the parish during Mass, held on the Feast Day of St John Paul II.
The St Faustina relic – a piece of bone – and the Pope St John Paul II relic – a piece of clothing with his blood from an assassination attempt in May 1981 – are located inside the parish’s Chapel of Divine Mercy for public veneration.
Speaking to Catholic Outlook, parish priest Fr Carlos Walker IVE explained that the parish had been looking forward to the celebration for a while.
“It was a very beautiful celebration. People were very happy, and are still talking about how beautiful it was,” Fr Carlos said.
“I think it was God’s providence and God’s gift that we got these relics.
“Our deepest gratitude goes to all who made this possible, both spiritually and materially.”
Having successfully obtained a relic of John Paul II for another parish, Fr Carlos brought the same idea to Rouse Hill when he was installed as parish priest in November 2020. This time, he wanted to try and obtain a relic of St Faustina as well.
“I mentioned this idea to some of the parishioners, and a Polish lady came forward and said, ‘Father, we might be able to find a way to get the relic, because this is a big parish and it will affect a lot of young people and families’,” Fr Carlos said.
Over a 12-month period, with the help of parishioners of Polish heritage and members of the Apostles of Divine Mercy, the process of obtaining the relics was undertaken.
“I contacted Cardinal [Stanisław] Dziwisz in the Archdiocese of Kraków to get the John Paul II relic and the Superior General of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy, also in Kraków, to get the St Faustina relic. Thank God, both said, ‘yes’,” he said.
“When we wanted to set up the chapel, we discussed it with the parish council and the finance committee, and they all said ‘yes’. And as soon as I announced it to the congregation, they were ready to begin fundraising and so happy to support the initiative.”
Parishioner Peter Murphy, a member of the Apostles of Divine Mercy, told Catholic Outlook that following Divine Mercy Sunday in 2020, the group prayed to God that they would be able to have a Chapel of Divine Mercy to help spread the devotion.
“There were many obstacles and it seemed impossible, but here we are, approximately 30 months later, not only with a chapel but also with first-class relics of the two saints responsible for instituting the Feast of Divine Mercy,” he said.
“Such a great blessing for us and for the world. May it bear abundant fruit for the Kingdom of God.”
Fr Carlos emphasised that having the intercession of both saints is a “special gift of God for our time” for both the parish and for the whole Diocese.
“Today, so many people feel disengaged, especially after COVID, and now [with the relics], people are finding a sense of hope and joy and the love of God.
“Since we put the relics on display, I have found that every half an hour, people have come into the chapel and pray. On Sunday, I opened up the church before Mass and as soon as I opened the doors, a young woman came and spent nearly an hour in the chapel. Then, every 15 minutes, a new family would come and spend a few minutes in prayer.
“I think this is something that can draw people back to God or help people in their spiritual lives and feel the love of God. If that happens, I’m more than satisfied and more than happy to have made all this effort.
“Having the relics mean we have two great saints of our time interceding for us, praying for us, and [the relics] are a symbol and a way of conveying to all of us God’s unconditional love for each one of us and the need to trust that when we fall short, to trust in God’s mercy and love.”
Parishioner Jill Johnston added, “having the relics living here with us, I believe, will enrich our parish and empower us to be people of mercy.
“Through the Divine Mercy devotion, our families and youth will be strengthened in their faith and goodness and shine throughout all of humanity.
“I know the parish community, with the intercession of these blessed Mercy saints, will grow ever closer to the Divine Mercy, and be transformed into great saints themselves.”
View images from the official deposit of the first-class relics here or below: