TRUMBULL— “It is a great grace to be in the presence of a saint, an apostle who many, many times with this arm embraced the body of Jesus Christ.” These words, spoken by Father Carlos Martins, expressed the awe that thousands of faithful experienced as they venerated the major relic of the arm of St. Jude Thaddeus at St. Theresa Parish in Trumbull on November 8.
During his nationwide tour, Father Martins, director of Treasures of the Church, has accompanied the relic and given people the rare opportunity to pray before one of the church’s most popular saints, also known as the “Apostle of the Impossible” for helping those most in need of healing and miracles.
From 1 pm to 10 pm, lines wound through the church and oftentimes within the vestibule and up the sidewalk as locals as well as those from the greater community and tri-state area waited up to 90 minutes in chilly weather to see the arm of this beloved saint, which was enclosed in a wooden reliquary before the altar. As the only stop in Connecticut, the event drew close to 4,000 devout Catholics of all ages, many of whom said they have long prayed to St. Jude.
Matthew Avigliano and his wife Lisa drove from Madison, N.J. to attend the event with friends from Woodbury.
“I’ve always had a great devotion to St. Jude,” said Avigliano, whose middle name is Jude. “As I kid, we had some difficult situations in my family, and we invoked him during those times. It’s my first time seeing the relic, so truthfully, I’m a bit overwhelmed.”
Julie Sees, who made the drive from the Diocese of Paterson in New Jersey, had the same reaction.
“When I saw the relic, I was speechless. It’s such a blessing to have a piece of Rome in our midst,” she said. Her mother Lucielle agreed and said that, like Avigliano, she has prayed to St. Jude many times throughout her life.
Locally, teenagers Ellie and Lauren Holmes who belong to St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Trumbull stopped on their way home from school and waited over an hour in line, though that didn’t seem to bother them.
“It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity, a chance to view a saint from Jesus’ time,” said Ellie.
“I’m very religious and don’t mind missing sports or anything to come to this,” Lauren added. “It makes me feel so happy and grateful for my faith.”
As visitors waited to venerate the saint, many purchased gift items such as prayer cards, small medals of St. Jude, Rosary beads, and devotionals which could be held against the glass reliquary during prayer to become third class relics. That is what Carmella Turpin from Albany, N.Y. hoped to do as she waited with her daughter Carla. St. Jude was a favorite of her late husband’s, she said.
“He used to say, ‘I’m such a hopeless case,’ though he wasn’t!” she remembered, holding Rosary beads and a special bracelet. “And he was always devoted to St. Jude.”
Large, poster-size banners with details of St. Jude hung along the walls of the church giving those in line a chance to learn more about him as well as the protocol for venerating. Despite the long lines, visitors were quiet and patient and had the assistance of more than 100 volunteers. They, like usher Anne Wright and parking attendant George Hess, were grateful to be part of this experience.
“This man had his arm around Jesus,” said Hess, a longtime parishioner at St. Theresa. “They were first cousins. Can you imagine that they probably wrestled together and played together?”
Despite being a first cousin of Our Lord, St. Jude occupies a very humble place, uttering only one sentence in all four Gospels. However, Fr. Carlos said in his homily, he has healed many.
“Don’t think of this relic as merely bone,” he told those gathered for Mass. “All of St. Jude is here because the soul is here.”
St. Jude “is somebody that people go to when they feel really desperate,” said Father Brian Gannon, pastor of St. Theresa. “He has so many miracles attributed to him throughout the centuries,” and those continue to occur today.
Father Martins recounted the story of a miracle early in the relic’s tour. While in Chicago this September, he planned to see an acquaintance of his whose wife had undergone brain surgery years earlier and was left severely disabled. Many activities were impossible for her; even walking and talking were difficult. Because she unable to venerate the relic in person, Father Martins prayed to St. Jude, asking him to visit the woman himself. The next day, the acquaintance called Father Martins with wonderful news. His wife was well again, and doctors confirmed that she had been cured of her illness.
“There is always a miracle with a saint,” Father Martins said. “He is a gift for each person here.”
Following its Connecticut stop, the relic of St. Jude moved on to Rhode Island and Massachusetts and will continue touring the country through May.