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BRICK, N.J. — A beatified teenager’s passionate love of the Eucharist was put on display for a group of New Jersey Catholic school students as U.S. Catholics begin a three-year eucharistic revival.
Students of St. Dominic School in Brick, sang and prayed April 28, the day Trenton Bishop David M. O’Connell came for a special Mass, celebrating the life of Blessed Carlo Acutis and his devotion to the real presence of Christ.
O’Connell marked the formal reception of the arrival of a relic of the young man who was beatified by Pope Francis in 2020.
“Today, we are blessed to receive the relic of Blessed Carlo Acutis, a young boy whom the Catholic Church has recognized as holy,” he told the students at the start of the Mass, which was livestreamed on the diocesan YouTube channel.
O’Connell then explained how showing respect for the relics of saints in the Catholic Church is a custom that dates to the second century of the church.
“Relics usually include some part taken from the physical remains of a saint or ‘blessed’ held in remembrance of his or her holiness of life and virtue,” the bishop said. “Their relics carry a meaning important to the faithful of every era. In our Holy Mass this morning, we express our love for Jesus in the Eucharist, which was so much a part of Carlo Acutis’ life.”
The relic of Blessed Carlo Acutis was brought to the Diocese of Trenton by Father Marian Kokoryczki, parochial vicar of St. Dominic Catholic Church, who acquired it during a recent pilgrimage he made to Assisi, Italy, where Blessed Carlo Acutis’ tomb is located in the Shrine of the Annunciation, which is part of the Church of St. Mary Major.
“This saint is exactly who the church, the world and families need more than ever,” Father Kokoryczki said.
In announcing that Blessed Carlo Acutis — the first of the millennial generation to be beatified by the Catholic Church — was to become the patron of all the Catholic schools and young people of the Diocese of Trenton, O’Connell prayed that his example would be a blessing for youths in the diocese.
He reflected in his homily on how Catholic school students learn about the “great saints of the church,” most of whom had lived centuries earlier and in faraway places.
“We see their faces in pictures, windows and statues in churches,” O’Connell said. “We read and hear about them and the amazing things they did. However, today, we are remembering a young Catholic school boy, not too much older than us, who lived not too long ago, who from his earliest years had only one thing in mind: becoming a saint!”
While Carlo, who was born in 1991 and “wasn’t too different from us” in that he had a lot of friends, enjoyed sports, had pets and loved playing computer games and making videos, “there was something very special about young Carlo,” the bishop said.
“He used to say, ‘to always be close to Jesus: that is my life plan.’ And from his earliest days on earth, he lived that way,” the bishop said, telling of how Carlo received holy Communion and prayed the rosary daily, spent time in church and praying before the Eucharist regularly, and volunteered to help others.
Carlo’s joyful faith and love inspired his parents to return to the church and before he died of leukemia at age 15 in 2006, he developed a website about the Eucharist.
“Blessed Carlo Acutis inspires us to see that holiness is possible for young people”, O’Connell said. “While we might not see ourselves as a saint, we can become saints!”
“Our children need someone they can look up to, that they admire, and Blessed Carlo is an example of that,” said Father Brian Patrick Woodrow, pastor of St. Dominic Catholic Church.
Describing Blessed Carlo as “relatable,” Layla De La Paz and Anthony Streeter, both seventh graders in St. Dominic School, were inspired by the sainthood candidate’s use of technology to teach others about the Catholic faith.
“Technology is a big part of our world” and it has had a big influence in the way the Catholic faith is practiced today, De La Paz said, adding that she found the presence of the relic of Blessed Carlo — which will remain in her parish — can be a way “for us to remember him and all the good he has done.”
“Blessed Carlo’s being picked as the patron saint of the Trenton Diocese schools is a huge inspiration to young teens,” said Olivia Termotto, an eighth-grader student at St. Rose of Lima School in Freehold, New Jersey.
“It’s important to have someone our own age to look up to who had such a bright spirit and personality no matter what challenges he faced.”
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Stadnyk is associate editor of The Monitor, newspaper of the Diocese of Trenton.