On the day that their bishop was coming for a very special Mass, students of St. Dominic School filled the pews of their church in Brick and, in voices clear and strong, sang every hymn and prayed every prayer in striking unison.  Their enthusiastic participation in the Mass was a vivid reflection of what the day was about – celebrating the life of a beatified teenager, Blessed Carlo Acutis, and his passionate love of the Eucharist. 

Photo Gallery: Mass for the Reception of the Relic of Blessed Carlo Acutis

Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., was principal celebrant and homilist of the Mass for the Reception of the Relics of Blessed Carlo Acutis, the occasion which marked the formal reception of the arrival of a relic of the young man who was beatified by Pope Francis in 2020. During the Mass, which was livestreamed on the diocesan Youtube channel, the Bishop also announced that he was placing all Catholic schools and young people under Blessed Carlo Acutis’ patronage.

“Today, we are blessed to receive the relic of Blessed Carlo Acutis, a young boy whom the Catholic Church has recognized as holy,” Bishop O’Connell said at the start of the Mass. He then explained how showing respect for the relics of saints in the Catholic Church is an ancient tradition, and the custom goes back to the second century of the Church.

“Relics usually include some part taken from the physical remains of a saint or ‘blessed’ held in remembrance of his or her holiness of life and virtue,” the Bishop said. “Their relics carry a meaning important to the faithful of every era. In our Holy Mass this morning, we express our love for Jesus in the Eucharist which was so much a part of Carlo Acutis’ life.”

The relic of Blessed Carlo Acutis was brought to the Diocese by Father Marian Kokoryczki, parochial vicar of St. Dominic Parish, who acquired it during a recent pilgrimage he made to Assisi, where Blessed Carlo Acutis’ tomb is located in the Shrine of the Annunciation, which is part of the Church of St. Mary Major. 

“[Blessed Carlo] is exactly who the Church, the world and families need more than ever,” Father Kokoryczki said.

Patron of the DOT’s Catholic Schools and Young People

In announcing that Blessed Carlo Acutis, the first of the millennial generation to be beatified by the Catholic Church in 2020 by Pope Francis, was to become the patron of all the Catholic schools and young people of the Diocese, Bishop O’Connell said, “Through his faith, intercession and example, may Blessed Carlo, whose relics we have received, obtain from the Lord Jesus Christ for our Catholic schools every blessing and assistance to be instruments of evangelization and growth in our Catholic faith and holiness for the young whose care and learning are entrusted to all who share the mission of Catholic education in our Diocese.”

In his homily, the Bishop reflected on how Catholic school students learn about the “great saints of the Church,” most of whom had lived centuries earlier and in faraway places.

“We see their faces in pictures, windows and statues in churches. We read and hear about them and the amazing things they did,” he said. “However, today, we are remembering a young Catholic school boy, not too much older than us, who lived not too long ago, who from his earliest years had only one thing in mind: becoming a saint!”

While Carlo, who was born in 1991 and “wasn’t too different from us” in that he had a lot of friends, enjoyed sports, had pets and loved playing computer games and making videos, “there was something very special about young Carlo,” Bishop O’Connell said.

“He used to say, ‘to always be close to Jesus: that is my life plan.’ And from his earliest days on earth, he lived that way,” the Bishop said, telling of how Carlo received Holy Communion and prayed the Rosary daily, spent time in church and praying before the Blessed Sacrament regularly, and volunteered to help others. Carlo’s joyful faith and love inspired his parents to return to the Church and before he died of leukemia at age 15 in 2006, he developed a website about the Eucharist and the miracles that the Eucharist worked throughout the world.

“My young sisters and brothers, Blessed Carlo Acutis inspires us to see that holiness is possible for young people, normal kids like you of a similar age, in Catholic schools …for all of us!” the Bishop said. “While we might not see ourselves as a saint, we can become saints!”

The ‘relatable’ Blessed Carlo

The life of Blessed Carlo and Bishop O’Connell’s words about how everyone is called to become a saint were not lost on anyone who was present for the Mass -- adults and students alike or those who viewed the livestream such as students from St. Rose of Lima School, Freehold.

After acknowledging the "tremendous honor" it was for his parish and school to receive the relic of Blessed Carlo Acutis, Father Brian Patrick Woodrow, pastor of St. Dominic Parish commented on how appropriate it was for the Bishop to name Blessed Carlo the patron of young people in the Diocese.

"Our children need someone they can look up to, that they admire, and Blessed Carlo is an example of that," he said. Father Woodrow added that what makes having the relic remain in St. Dominic parish extra special was learning that Blessed Carlo had a special devotion to St. Dominic Parish.

Describing Blessed Carlo as “relatable,” Layla De La Paz and Anthony Streeter, both seventh graders in St. Dominic School, were inspired by the future saint’s using technology to teach others about the Catholic faith.

“Technology is a big part of our world” and it has had a big influence in the way the Catholic faith is practiced today, De La Paz said. She added that she found the day’s Mass and the relic of Blessed Carlo, which will remain in her parish church, can be a way “for us to remember him and all the good he has done.”

Streeter agreed with his classmate, then added that along with the technology, he can also relate to Blessed Carlo’s love of sports. While Carlo was a soccer player, Streeter enjoys baseball, basketball, football and hockey.

Louis Sergi, an eighth grader in St. Rose of Lima School, thinks the naming of Blessed Carlo as the patron saint of Catholic schools fits this young man perfectly because he was just a regular kid and was very holy as well.

“He is a role model to a lot of young children and young adults as well,” Sergi said. “We can learn to be better people, more holy and better humans all together.

“Blessed Carlo Acutis deserves his spot in sainthood, and he is going to be a great young saint role model in many years to come,” Sergi said.

Michela Mungiello, an eighth grader in St. Rose of Lima School, was fascinated to hear “that someone so young with so many distractions of the real world around would be so filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.

“Carlo was a boy like any other, except he devoted his entire life to Christ. Instead of him worrying about how others felt about him like we all do today, he worried about his life and how God saw him. I think we should all be truly grateful for all that we have,” she said.

Through her research, Olivia Termotto, also an eighth grader in St. Rose of Lima School, was inspired by Carlo’s mother saying that her son always had a smile on his face and never took anything for granted. She also noted how Pope Francis approved a miracle to Carlo when a seven year-old boy came into contact with an old relic of Acutis’ shirt, he was suddenly healed from a rare pancreatic cancer.

“Blessed Carlo’s being picked as the patron saint of the Trenton Diocese schools is a huge inspiration to young teens,” Termotto said. “It’s important to have someone our own age to look up to who had such a bright spirit and personality no matter what challenges he faced.

“Students can learn that no matter what struggle is thrown your way God will always be by your side to guide you,” Termotto added. “You are never alone, and it is important to remember that everything happens for the best.”