St Joseph's Roman Catholic Church
Parish Priest: Father Tony Duffy.
Deacon: Peter Lavery.
Birtley Lane, Birtley, Tyne & Wear DH3 1LJ.
Telephone: (0191) 410 2923. Facsimile: (0191) 410 5843.

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News-in Brief

The Daily Telegraph by Anita Singh and Aislinn Laing
Published: 7:19PM BST 16 Sep 2009

Relics of Carmelite nun St Therese on tour

The remains of a Carmelite nun hailed as "the greatest saint of modern times" has begun a tour of England and Wales in one of the most important events for British Roman Catholics since the visit of Pope John Paul II 27 years ago.


St Therese was described by Pope Pius X as "the greatest saint of modern times"

Thousands queued outside Portsmouth Cathedral to gaze upon the ornate casket containing the relics of St Thérèse of Lisieux. Many carried roses to be blessed, as the nun said she would “let fall a shower of roses on earth” after her death.

St Thérèse, a French Carmelite nun from Lisieux, Normandy, died from tuberculosis in 1897, aged 24. Her memoir, Story of a Soul, was published a year after her death and the simple guide to spirituality became an international best-seller. She taught that Roman Catholics should carry out small, everyday acts with great love, and without complaining or criticising.

As a child, Thérèse drew a map of England on which she named two cities: Portsmouth and London. Accordingly, they were chosen as the beginning and end points for the month-long tour, with Westminster Cathedral the final venue.

Amidst the Catholic churches are some more unexpected venues, including the Anglican cathedral of York Minster and Wormwood Scrubs prison in west London.

The relics have travelled to 42 countries around the world, including Iraq, but this was the first time they had travelled across the Channel via Eurotunnel, ferried in a specially adapted hearse.

St Thérèse's body was divided into three after her death, and the relics on display here comprise portions of her thigh and foot bones. The remainder are in France.

According to the Catholic Church, the relics have great powers. "Wherever they have gone, many people have experienced conversion, healing, a renewed sense of vocation and answers to their prayers," a spokesman said.

There was a hushed but palpable sense of excitement among the pilgrims in Portsmouth. Many had been up since the small hours to make the journey.

Once inside, they pressed their hands briefly against the glass case protecting the casket, which is made from Jacaranda wood and decorated with gold filigree.

There was a hushed but palpable sense of excitement among the pilgrims who queued to see the relics. Many had been up since the small hours to make the journey, and the plethora of different languages highlighted how far some had come.

Estelle Adelo, 60, from Guadeloupe, was visiting her student son in Southampton when she heard that the relics were nearby. "I was very nervous but it was worth it, the best part of my trip. St Thérèse is very important to us in my country too - we have a church in our town named after her. I feel so lucky I could be here - my heart is full."

Chris Browne, 69, travelled from Ascot, Berks with his wife Maureen, 69 and her sister Teresa Coaker, 58, who journeyed from Torquay in Devon.

"St Thérèse is very special to so many people and today has been a wonderful day," Mr Browne said. "Her message is all about trust in God and not to achieve salvation through great works but through small ones. It's something we can all identify with."

Mrs Coaker was named after St Thérèse by her mother and said she wouldn't have missed her relics "for the world".

"It's a very rare event and very special for me," she said. "It was incredibly uplifting and a once in a lifetme opportunity."

Pearl Doran, 39, travelled from Nuneaton in the Midlands to attend a mass for the sick with her wheelchair-bound husband Felix, 42, and their daughter Kate, 13.

"It was such a healing service," Mrs Doran said. "I cried all the way through but they were tears of joy. Her presence was there with us and it meant so much."

Sister Rita Elizabeth, from the Sisters of Bethany in Portsmouth, said St Thérèse was not only special to Catholics. "We are Anglicans and part of an ecumenic pilgrimage," she said. "The spirituality of St Thérèse's 'little way' appeals to all faiths, and even those without faith, she is accessible to all and her message appeals to all. It's a wonderful witness that all these people have come here today."

Annie Smith, 17, an art student from Bournemouth, took St Thérèse as her patron saint when she entered into Catholicism a year and a half ago. "I just love her teachings, she said. "The way she says to do the small things to be good, it makes it less daunting."

Jonathan, 42, and Rowena, 39, Juco, originally from the Philippines but working as nurses in Portsmouth, brought their sons Jeremiah, eight months, Jerome, four, and Renz, seven and a pupil at St John's Cathedral School, to see the relics.

Mrs Juco wept with emotion as she spoke of the importance of the visit to her. "St Thérèse came to our country in 2005 but we didn't have the means to see her then so today is wonderful for us. It's a once in a lifetime opportunity."

One of the volunteer stewards directing the crowds was Jo Neagle, 50, a housekeeper from Portsmouth. She said: "I have been suprised because very often Very often on such special occasions there is hysteria but today the main sense is of an incredible calm, of wonderment. People are just in awe.

"It sounds silly but I feel that she has been such a good friend to me since I was 10 and I have never had the opportunity to go and see her. I can't believe she's here but it's typical of her that she should come to me. I will stay with her - I was here when she arrived this morning and I will stay here until she leaves tomorrow morning."

The relics will be taken to Wormwood Scrubs on October 12, shortly before they go to Westminster Cathedral.

Helen Baly, chaplain at the prison, explained: "After afternoon mass, prisoners will be allowed to kiss and touch the casket as they file out of the chapel back to their cells. The response from prisoners has been very positive and they are very keen to take part."

St Therese of Lisieux relics: itinerary
The relics of St Therese will be on view at the following places in England and Wales:

Sept 16 - Portsmouth Cathedral

Sept 17 - Plymouth Cathedral

Sept 18 - St Teresa of Lisieux, Taunton, Somerset

Sept 19 - Birmingham Cathedral

Sept 21 - Sacred Heart and St Teresa, Birmingham

Sept 22 - Cardiff Cathedral

Sept 23 - St Teresa's, Bristol

Sept 24 - Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King, Liverpool

Sept 25 - Salford Cathedral, Manchester

Sept 27 - Manchester University Chaplaincy

Sept 28 - Lancaster Cathedral

Sept 30 - St Andrew's, Newcastle-upon-Tyne

Oct 1- York Minster

Oct 2- Middlesbrough Cathedral

Oct 3 - Leeds Cathedral

Oct 5 - Nottingham Cathedral

Oct 6 - National Shrine of Our Lady, Walsingham, Norfolk

Oct 7 - Oxford Oratory

Oct 8 - St Joseph's, Gerrards Cross, Bucks

Oct 9 - Aylesford Priory, Kent

Oct 11 - Carmelite Church, Kensington, west London

Oct 12 - Westminster Cathedral

Further information at

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