Heart of a Priest comes to Omaha this month

During this difficult time for faithful priests due to the recent revelations of sex abuse in the church, a consolation is coming to Omaha in the form of a relic from their patron saint.

The incorrupt heart of St. John Vianney, also known as the Curé of Ars (or priest of Ars), is coming to St. Cecilia Cathedral for veneration by priests and the faithful on March 21, said Mike Conrad, supreme knight and advocate with the St. John the Baptist Knights of Columbus Council #10305 in Fort Calhoun.

“This is an opportunity for everyone to step forward and stand with our priests, that they will continue to remain strong in their vocation,” he said. “It’s really important at this time that we, as the faithful, come together to pray for them.”

Part of the six-month Heart of a Priest tour of the United States that began in New Haven, Conn., the event will begin with private veneration of the relic by priests from 9 to 10 a.m. followed by a 10 a.m. Mass celebrated by Archbishop George J. Lucas. The relic will remain in the cathedral until 2 p.m. for veneration by the faithful.

The Knights of Columbus are sponsoring the tour, which also includes stops at the cathedrals in Lincoln and Grand Island on March 20. When the tour concludes in June, the relic will return to its home at the Shrine of Ars in Ars, France.

St. John Vianney was born in 1786 in Dardilly, France, and was ordained a priest in 1815 in Grenoble, France. He served as a parish priest in Ars and died in 1859. He was canonized in 1925.

He worked to heal the damage the French Revolution inflicted upon the church and the Catholic faith in France.

Following his example, the Knights of Columbus are hoping to play a part in helping rebuild the church today, Supreme Knight Carl Anderson said.

In a letter to members and chaplains, he said, “We must commit the Knights of Columbus to work for repentance, reform and rebuilding the Church.”

Although planning for the tour began before the recent scandal, Anderson said, “We now welcome as providential this opportunity to invoke the intercession of the patron of parish priests, whose holiness and integrity are a singular model for clergy.”

St. John Vianney became famous for his compassionate dispensing of God’s mercy in the confessional, eventually drawing up to 20,000 pilgrims per year. He often spent up to 18 hours a day hearing confessions.

His incorrupt body is entombed above the main altar in the basilica at Ars.

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