St. Maria Goretti Parish in Madison hosts tour of saint’s relics Print
Around the Diocese
Thursday, Sep. 24, 2015 -- 12:00 AM
st maria goretti
St. Maria Goretti’s remains are encased inside a glass-sided casket. Inside the casket is a wax statue, which contains her skeletal remains. Her body is not incorrupt, and none of the sacred remains are visible. Nevertheless, the skeleton is complete save for small fragments that have been taken for placement in altars and for use in the Church’s ministry. (File photo)

MADISON -- St. Maria Goretti Parish is one of more than 50 sites in the United States to host the major relics of its patron saint, St. Maria Goretti, as part of the “Pilgrimage of Mercy: The Tour of the Major Relics of St. Maria Goretti.”

The relics will be brought into the church at 5313 Flad Ave. on Friday, Oct. 16, at 8 a.m. and lie in repose there for public veneration beginning at 9 a.m. that day until 5:30 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 17.

Bishop Robert C. Morlino of Madison will celebrate a Solemn Mass at 7 p.m. on Friday evening.

Hundreds of pilgrims are expected to walk past the reliquary during the 22-hour period. October 16 is St. Maria Goretti’s 125th birthday.

Fr. Carlos Martins, CC, a Custos Reliquiarum (ecclesiastically appointed curate of relics) and director of Treasures of the Church, will lead the tour of the United States with the sacred remains of St. Maria Goretti. She is an immensely popular saint, and this is the first time her body travels to the United States and only the second time she has left Italy.

The youngest canonized saint in the Catholic Church, the 11-year-old Maria Goretti died July 6, 1902, after being stabbed 14 times in an attempted rape.

Her last words on her deathbed were of mercy toward her 20-year-old attacker: “I forgive Alessandro Serenelli . . . and I want him with me in heaven forever.”

The unrepentant Serenelli famously reported receiving an apparition of his victim within his prison cell, some six years into his 30-year sentence. That occasion began his dramatic transformation from being a violent and ruthless man to that of a gentle and renewed soul intent on spreading devotion to God and his saintly victim. In his words, “Maria’s forgiveness saved me.”

Extraordinary Holy Year of Mercy

The tour comes on the heels of a papal declaration of an Extraordinary Holy Year of Mercy set to begin December 8.

This visit of the major relics of St. Maria Goretti is an effort on the part of the Congregation of the Causes of Saints, her Pontifical Basilica, and Treasures of the Church to prepare and catechize the United States for this great celebration in the life of the Church.

St. Maria’s remains are inside a glass-sided casket. Inside the casket is a wax statue, which contains her skeletal remains.

St. Maria’s body is not incorrupt, and none of the sacred remains are visible. Nevertheless, the skeleton is complete, save for small amounts of bone that have been placed in reliquaries, and her right arm, which was donated by her mother to the Church of St. Nicholas (now known as the Sanctuary of St. Maria Goretti) in her birth town of Corinaldo. It was with her right arm that Maria defended her purity and prevented Alessandro Serenelli from raping her.

Tour includes 20 states

The tour includes stops in 20 states at parishes, schools, and prisons. Each exposition will include presentations throughout the day on the life and virtues of St. Maria Goretti. These will provide the catechetical and spiritual basis for the veneration of her remains.

Father Martins, who has been ministering with relics for almost 20 years, remarks that “God never disappoints,” but always “shows up” at an exposition. “There are healings at each one. Hundreds, perhaps even thousands, have been reported to me. Spectacular ones.

“Attendees have reported cancer, heart disease, tumors, osteoporosis, physical deformities, etc., disappear immediately and completely.” Though a great number of miracles have been physical (his website www.Treasures lists a sample of these), he admits that the most spectacular is the healing of faith where a new and deeper relationship with God and His saints is formed in the faithful.

“It is a most wonderful thing to see a parish, school, or prison renewed after an exposition,” he says. “That is the basis for this ministry’s existence, and I cannot wait to see where St. Maria will take it.”

‘Amazing blessing’

“What an amazing blessing this Pilgrimage of Mercy will be to countless people throughout our country as the relics of St. Maria Goretti are brought to them,” said Bishop Robert Morlino of the Diocese of Madison.

“I pray the heroic life of St. Maria Goretti will inspire future saints in our own diocese, state, and country, after her own heart -- merciful and pure.

“As we approach the upcoming Holy Year of Mercy, this opportunity to learn of Maria Goretti’s example and to foster a greater devotion to her, serves as an awesome overture of mercy for us all.

“In this beautiful saint, may we better understand God’s mercy, seek it for ourselves, and invite others to it every day,” said Bishop Morlino

“This is such an honor and a privilege to have the human remains of our patron saint right here in our church -- and on her birthday!” said Msgr. Michael Burke, pastor of St. Maria Goretti Parish. “This is something we -- and especially our kids -- will always remember!”

More details on visit

For more information visit for details of the exposition at St. Maria Goretti Parish in Madison.

To learn more about St. Maria Goretti’s life, visit for much more information about St. Maria Goretti’s life and death and her sainthood, as well as an up-to-date listing of exposition times and locations. Admission is free and open to all.

No photos or video will be allowed inside the church during veneration. There will be exhibits set up inside the parish hall, which the public will go through before going into the church to venerate St. Maria Goretti’s remains.

Photos and video are permitted during the short ceremony as she is taken into the church at 8 a.m. on Friday, outside and in the parish hall during public veneration hours (9 a.m. Friday until 5:30 a.m. Saturday), and as she is taken out of the church at 7 a.m. Saturday.

Details will be posted at as they become available.

Note: The Catholic tradition of venerating relics is not worship, but rather a way to honor and draw near to the saints, and to petition for their prayers, since they are believed to be with God (Wisdom 3:1). Father Martins’ explanation of the Catholic practice of the veneration of relics, complete with references for its scriptural foundation, can be found at

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