Teesside prepares to welcome Saint's relics

l-r: Sister Maria Varley, Betty Devine, parish priest Canon Eddie  Gubbins, at St Anne's Church, Eston

l-r: Sister Maria Varley, Betty Devine, parish priest Canon Eddie Gubbins, at St Anne's Church, Eston

Christians from all over Teesside are gearing up for a "once-in-a-lifetime opportunity" to visit the relics of Therese of Lisieux, for the weekend Friday-Saturday October 2-3. Canon Eddie Gubbins, of St Andrew's, Teesville, said: "Excitement and anticipation  is growing. Each of our three churches we have prepared a shrine and pray a daily prayer to this Carmelite nun-saint.

"Parishioners have compiled and are distributing a DVD of the life of The Little Flower, as the saint is known, among parishioners and other Christian churches."

St Andrew's parishioner Mrs Betty Devine, 80, a former head of St Mary's primary school, Grangetown, said: "There will definately be a lot of people going to the cathedral to include St Therese in their prayers. I hope to be there, depending on my health."

At St Anne's, Whale Hill, which is part of the Teesville parish,  Sister Maria Varley, who does a lot of work in the church and area, said: "We have a 2ft statue standing near the church door and the current display makes a feature of the visit. I don't know who gave the statue."

At Saltburn's Our Lady of Lourdes Church, a 3ft high statue stands on top of a  wooden shrine at the church's entrance. It was donated by the family of builder Con Lannon in 1933. Grandson Peter Lannon said: "I'm attracted strongly to the statue when I walk past it and pray for deceased members of the family."

He said that he and others from the parish intended to venerate the relics - remains of foot and thigh bones in a large casket - at the cathedral.

Parishoner Mrs Josie Jones recalled hearing from her grandmother Florence Ainsworth in South Bank in the 1930s about an incident involving the saint when a small boy was dying in a local hospital.

"My nanna looked at the picture of St Therese hanging on the livingroom wall and asked her to help the child, a relative of hers. She prayed most of a night.

"The next day the boy told his mother that one of the Sisters (a nun, like the saint) had stood at the foot of his bed all night. Enquiries confirmed that there had been no visitors and no nuns had been in the hospital.

"The little boy fully recovered. My nanna always insisted it was St Therese who had watched over him on the night she prayed to her. And it was her that the child saw."

Mrs Jones said there was no proof any miracle had happened. But whenever she sees a statue of the saint she thinks of this incident.

Tour organiser Fr Gerard Robinson, of Middlesbrough's Sacred Heart Church, said the visit  was a "once-in-a-lifetime opportunity" to see the relics, which have started a UK-wide tour, and for people to pray for their intentions in front of them.

"All are welcome from all denominations and indeed all who may not have a faith or struggling with their faith. Come and visit St Therese and learn how to love God in
our lives today."

Bishop Terry Drainey, Bishop of Middlesbrough, said: "I hope the visit will be a significant event in the life of our diocese and indeed our region.

"Wherever they have been taken the relics always have a great impact on the lives of the people in that area."

He said the saint had a wonderful relationship with her own parents, especially her father.

The relics will arrive at St Mary's cathedral, Coulby Newham, at 2pm on Friday October 2 from York Minister and leave at 12 noon the following day, Saturday October 3, to be put on display at Leeds cathedral.

Middlesbrough Cathedral will be open throughout the visit. Services will be held most of the time. The period 1am to 6am is being set aside for private prayer and devotion.

Footnote: The author stresses that  Catholics say they use statues as a visual aid to praying to saints to ask God - called interceding to God - to grant a favour. They don't worship statues.

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