‘That’s Why the Church Makes Saints. We Need Heroes’
WINDSOR TERRACE — Msgr. Thomas Machalski was so intrigued by the story of Blessed Carlo Acutis — the first millennial to be considered for sainthood — he wanted to find a tangible way to use the Italian teen’s life to inspire young people here in the Diocese of Brooklyn.
Msgr. Machalski got his wish July 14 when he went to the diocese chancery and watched as Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio officially accepted the first-degree relic of Acutis — tiny strands of his hair — that had been brought to the U.S. from Italy.
“I thought it would be a good idea to have a relic brought here, so I asked Bishop DiMarzio if he would issue a request to the bishop over in Italy. And he did!” said Msgr. Machalski, pastor of Sacred Heart of Jesus Church in Bayside. “Carlo Acutis was a young man and the young people in our diocese can relate to him.”
Bishop DiMarzio had issued a request to Bishop Domenico Sorrentino of the Diocese of Assisi Nocera Umbra-Gualdo Tadino — where Acutis’ remains are located — to send the relic here for local Catholics to venerate. Bishop Sorrentino agreed to the request.
Relics of Acutis have been displayed all over the world as the story of the courageous teen has spread in the 15 years since he passed away from leukemia.
The plan is to bring the relic around to schools in the diocese to give students a close-up view of it and foster discussions between students and teachers about Acutis’ life, Bishop DiMarzio said.
“That’s why the church makes saints. We need heroes,” he said.
Msgr. Machalski, who has experience handling relics, is having a reliquary delivered to the diocese in which the Acutis relic will be kept.
Nicknamed the “Patron Saint of the Internet,” Acutis (1991-2006) learned how to write code at a young age and was known for the website he created, in which he painstakingly catalogued all of the Eucharistic miracles reported in various countries around the world.
He passed away from leukemia in 2006 and was buried in jeans, a tracksuit jacket, and a pair of Nikes.
Acutis was beatified in 2020 after a miracle attributed to his intercession was officially verified by the Vatican. The miracle involved a 15-year-old Brazilian boy who suffered from a rare pancreatic disorder and was cured in 2013 after he came into contact with one of Acutis’ shirts.
Acutis can become a saint if a second miracle is attributed to him and is verified.
Father John Cush, a priest from the Diocese of Brooklyn who is the academics dean at the Pontifical North American College in the Vatican, brought the relic from Italy to the U.S., flying on Alitalia. He arrived at the chancery and presented the relic to Bishop DiMarzio.
“I had it in my bag with my Bible,” Father Cush said.
Because the relic consists of hair, it is considered a first-degree relic because it is part of the deceased person’s body. A second-degree relic is an item belonging to the person. A third-degree relic is an item touched by a first-degree relic.
Msgr. David Cassato, vicar for Catholic Schools for the diocese, said he has been praying for the intercession of Blessed Carlo Acutis every day since October, in the hope that the second miracle required to make him a saint happens here in the diocese.
Msgr. Cassato says Acutis’s story is relatable to kids in so many ways — even down to the way he was dressed in the casket.
“He’s wearing Nikes. What kid Brooklyn doesn’t wear Nikes?” he said. “We need saints that speak to the young people and he speaks to young people.”