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Holy Family Church Receives Holy Relics

By Chloe Riley | December 27, 2012 5:52pm

UNIVERSITY VILLAGE—Something old is something new at Holy Family Catholic Church.

A neighboring church, The Shrine of Our Lady of Pompeii, recently donated what's believed to be a fragment of Jesus’ manger and several other relics to Holy Family in honor of its 155th anniversary.

Rev. Jeremiah Boland, an administrator at Holy Family, 1080 W. Roosevelt Rd., said the relics are “a great healing” for the parish, which over the last 155 years has seen its congregation change from Irish to Italian to Hispanic.

“And that always creates the tension,” he said. “You know, you went from an Irish church to an Italian church. And then, you can’t go to mass because you don’t understand Italian. And that [change] could be very hard on people.”

The relics, authenticated by the Vatican, include a piece of the manger where Jesus was born, a fragment of the Virgin Mary’s veil and a thread from St. Joseph’s cloak.

Boland said "one could argue how real the relics of Mary or Joseph are" and that some "are based on faith rather than scientific explanation."

But he said the manger fragment "has more authenticity" because it can be traced to pilgrims who reportedly brought pieces of the crib from Jerusalem to Rome in the 5th Century where Pope Sixtus had them preserved.

One of five public buildings to survive the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, Holy Family was almost torn down in the early 1980s, but parishioners at that time raised the funds needed to save it.   

Erin Barry Kelly, a teacher at Marist High School, was a part of that effort to save the church.

She would later discover that her great, great grandparents, John and Margaret Griffin Collins, belonged to Holy Family in 1857.

“I poked my head in and was awestruck by its beauty, even though it was falling apart. Little did I know that there was a connection with our family,” she said.

Barry Kelly, 44, lives in Beverly but said it’s worth the drive to attend mass at Holy Family.

“Every time we get together, there’s something new to look at in this church,” she said. “Every time we come it’s just so awesome and inspiring.”

A collection of nativities from around the world is also on display at the church through the Christmas season, as is a set of “hidden treasures” discovered at Holy Family in 2002.

The relics will be on public display Sunday for Holy Family's feast day mass at 9:45 a.m.