Chance to venerate relics of St. Maria Goretti called ‘gift of lifetime’

October 27, 2015

HOUSTON — The major relics of St. Maria Goretti, known as the "patroness of purity," are on a "pilgrimage of mercy" in the United States this fall, with dates in Houston during the first week of November.

"Jesus calls his followers to ‘be merciful as your heavenly Father is merciful.' The message of mercy is at the heart of the Gospel and is most visibly manifested in the Passion of Jesus Christ," said Daniel Cardinal DiNardo. "This year, on the feast of the Immaculate Conception, the Church will begin her observance of an Extraordinary Holy Year of Mercy. St. Maria Goretti, like many of the saints, heard and lived this calling of Jesus Christ by forgiving her murderer at her deathbed. Through the Pilgrimage of Mercy, we are given the unique opportunity to contemplate her powerful witness. It is my hope and prayer that, through the intercessions of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of Mercy, and in imitation of the example of St. Maria Goretti, we may be open to receive the mercy of God and to become its ambassadors in our daily interactions."

The relics tour in Houston will begin Wednesday, Nov. 4, at St. Theresa Catholic Church, located at 705 St. Theresa Blvd. in Sugar Land. The public veneration begins at 9 a.m., with a Mass celebrated in her honor at 7 p.m. The public veneration ends at 11:45 p.m.

The relics will be at the Catholic Charismatic Center, located at 1949 Cullen Blvd. in Houston on Thursday, Nov. 5. A Mass will be celebrated at noon, followed by a public veneration which ends at 3 a.m. Friday, Nov. 6. Another Mass will be celebrated at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 5.

On Friday, Nov. 6, the relics will be at St. Elizabeth Ann SetonCatholic Church, located at 6646 Addicks Satsuma Rd. in Houston. Public veneration begins at 10 a.m. with a Mass celebrated in her honor at 7 p.m. The public veneration ends at 7 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 7.

It the first time that her body has been in the United States. Before the relics are scheduled to be flown back to Italy Nov. 13, they will have been venerated in close to 20 states. According to the website, plans for a 2016 tour of the western half of the U.S. "are currently being studied."

"It is a most wonderful thing to see a parish, a school, a prison renewed after an exposition," said Father Carlos Martins, CC, who is leading the pilgrimage. "This is the basis for this ministry's existence, and I cannot wait to see where St. Maria will take it."

The relics consist of virtually all of the skeletal remains of St. Maria, encased in a lifelike wax effigy within a glass-sided casket. Her relics are on tour while her major shrine in Netunno, Italy, is under renovation.

In keeping with Pope Francis' declaration of the upcoming Year of Mercy, she was presented as a patroness of mercy, which seemed especially appropriate for the first stop: Sing Sing Correctional Facility, a maximum security prison in New York. The exposition, held Sept. 21, was not open to the public, but gave inmates an opportunity to venerate the relics.

After the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Newark, N.J., came stops during the World Meeting of Families in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, at St. Maria Goretti Church in Hatfield, Pa., Sept. 22; the National Shrine of St. Rita of Cascia in Philadelphia Sept. 23, and at St. John the Evangelist Church in the center city Sept. 24 to 25.

For Mia Rocha, the opportunity to greet the relics of St. Maria Goretti at Chicago's St. John Cantius Church on Oct. 12 was the gift of a lifetime.

Rocha, 20, is a parishioner at St. John Cantius and chose St. Maria Goretti as her patron for confirmation. "This is very personal for me," said Rocha. "I'm hoping to spend all day here."

St. Maria Goretti was an 11-year-old Italian child in 1902 when she was repeatedly stabbed while defending her virginity from a 20-year-old attacker, Alessandro Serenelli. As she lay dying the next day, she received the Eucharist and forgave him, saying, "I want to see him in heaven forever."

Serenelli, who repented his crime while serving 27 years in prison, later entered a monastery. He was present for Maria's canonization by Pope Pius XII in 1950, at which time she was presented to youth as a model of chastity. 

For more information about the Pilgrimage of Mercy Tour of the Major Relics of St. Maria Goretti, visit


Want to go?

St. Theresa Catholic Church
705 St. Theresa Blvd.
Sugar Land, Texas 77498
281-494-1156 / Website
9 a.m. - Public veneration
7 p.m. - Solemn Mass 
11:45 p.m. - Veneration ends

Catholic Charismatic Center

1949 Cullen Blvd.
Houston, Texas 77023
713-236-9977 / Website
Noon - Solemn Mass
Public veneration begins after Mass
7:30 p.m. - Solemn Mass
3 a.m. - Veneration ends (Fri. morning)

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church
6646 Addicks Satsuma Road
Houston, Texas 77084
281-463-7878 / Website
10 a.m. - Public veneration
7 p.m. - Solemn Mass
7 a.m. - Veneration ends (Sat. morning)