Catholic relic making a rare visit to a Shreveport cathedral

SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) - A Catholic relic is making a rare visit to a Shreveport church.

A Mass to mark the occasion was celebrated this morning. Another is underway.

The visit is a huge honor for the congregation.

"It's been many, many years since it even left where it was at," congregant Sandy Chapman said. "To think that we have it here? Yeah, we're special."

She was among hundreds to today to get a glimpse of the enshrined Heart of St. John Berchmans.

The relic has traveled from its home in Belgium for the first time in nearly 400 years.

It's in Louisiana for 10 days and currently is at St. John Berchmans Cathedral, the only cathedral in the world that bears his name.

"This is the only cathedral in the world that has him as a patron, so we have a special devotion to him," said Father Peter Mangum, rector of St. John Berchmans Cathedral.

A Mass to mark the occasion was celebrated this morning. Another was held in the evening.

The relic is expected to remain on display in Shreveport until Dec. 18 then will be taken to Grand Coteau, La., in honor of Wilson's miracle.

The miracle attributed to Berchmans is said to have happened Dec. 14, 1866, in Grand Coteau, according to the church:

Blessed Berchmans appeared to young Mary Wilson on December 14, 1866, while she was near death in the infirmary at the Academy of the Sacred Heart. On the ninth day of a Novena prayed through his intercession, Blessed John Berchmans appeared to Wilson and immediately, completely cured her of her lengthy, debilitating illness. This was the miracle which led to his canonization by Pope Leo XIII on January 15, 1888.

Wanting to be a priest, Berchmans enrolled in a Jesuit college in 1615. But he died of Roman fever at age 22 in 1621. His heart was taken back to his home in Belgium and embalmed.

Berchmans was canonized to a saint in 1888, more than 20 years after the miracle in Grand Coteau.

"It's not often that we get to see relics of this nature," Mangum said. "Most saints are buried in Europe, or South America, Central America. But not many saints are buried here.

"So for us to have the opportunity to venerate his heart, it's a very very historic, monumental occasion."

Cathedral historian Sheryl White expects the relic's presence to have a far-reaching impact. "To have one actually - a relic - come to our parish from Europe, I think is going to reach so many more people than would ever have had the opportunity to do that."

For some parishioners, it's already a miracle.

"Yesterday, I went and had my heart checked out. And to know that this is the heart today," Chapman said.

"And the doctor called around 7 o'clock last night and said that everything was fine. I've had some other issues. But all of a sudden, everything was great. It's just like it came with Thanksgiving more than anything else."

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