Heart Of A Priest


by Columbia staff


Supreme Knight Carl Anderson and Father Patrice Chocholski

Supreme Knight Carl Anderson and Father Patrice Chocholski, rector of the Shrine of Ars, hold a reliquary containing the incorrupt heart of St. Jean Vianney and a chalice that belonged to the saint, during Father Chocholski’s visit to the Supreme Council headquarters April 14, 2018. Behind them hangs a painting of another model for parish priests, Father Michael J. McGivney.

Some 17,000 young people gathered for Mass Jan. 12 at the annual conference of the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS). They stood in reverence as a reliquary holding the incorrupt heart of St. Jean-Marie Vianney was solemnly processed into the convention center in Indianapolis. Throughout the conference, participants waited in long lines to approach the relic for personal veneration.

There have been similar scenes in churches and chapels across the United States since the “Heart of a Priest” pilgrimage, organized by the Knights of Columbus, began last November. The relic has been entrusted to the Order by the Shrine of Ars, France, where St. Jean Vianney (1786-1859) served for more than 40 years.

The possibility of the pilgrimage was first presented last spring, before the clergy sexual abuse crisis erupted. In September, Supreme Knight Carl Anderson suggested that the pilgrimage would serve as a “spiritual response” to the crisis, remarking, “We 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.”

Father Patrice Chocholski, St. Jean Vianney’s successor as curé, or pastor, of Ars and rector of the shrine there, brought the relic to the 136th Supreme Convention in Baltimore last August. The pilgrimage officially began Nov. 10 at St. Mary’s Spiritual Center in Baltimore, in the chapel where Venerable Father Michael J. McGivney, founder of the Knights of Columbus, prayed during his seminary studies. While in Baltimore, the relic was present at the U.S. bishops’ Fall General Assembly during a full day of spiritual discernment and prayer, as well as at two area seminaries.

Following stops in New Haven, Conn., where Father Chocholski offered a series of reflections at St. Mary’s Church and the Knights of Columbus Museum, the relic has visited dozens of cities from New Orleans to Atlanta to Washington, D.C.

The pilgrimage continues until early June. Visit kofc.org/vianney for the schedule and more information.

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