THE RELIC OF ST. FAUSTINA and Father Torres with the Chludzinska family, who brought the relic from Poland.
THE RELIC OF ST. FAUSTINA and Father Torres with the Chludzinska family, who brought the relic from Poland.
First-class relics -- actual pieces of the body of a saint -- usually go to significant shrines or churches named for that saint, says Rev. Rendell Torres.

But now, the small Adirondack parish of Our Lady of Hope in Whitehall is home to a first-class relic of St. Mary Faustina Kowalska, famous for spreading devotions to Christ's Divine Mercy.

Father Torres, pastor of Our Lady of Hope (OLH) and of St. Ann's parish in Fort Ann, still sounded a bit shocked by this honor when he spoke with The Evangelist.

"There's something special about having part of the bones of a saint," he said. "This makes her so real."

When Father Torres told parishioners the news that the Basilica of Divine Mercy in Krakow, Poland, had agreed to provide a first-class relic of St. Faustina to OLH, he said that some people clapped. Others did not understand the significance of the gift.

One parishioner remarked, "This must mean we're first-class."

Father Torres replied, "We're first-class in our trust" in God.

History of saint
In the 1930s, St. Faustina was a young nun in Poland when she began to have visions of Jesus as "the king of Divine Mercy." She wrote a diary outlining His messages about the mercy of God and had an artist create a painting of Christ as He had appeared to her.

Though St. Faustina died in 1938, the messages that she transcribed continued to spread, and devotions to Divine Mercy have become popular around the world. The National Shrine of the Divine Mercy in Stockbridge, Mass., explains the Divine Mercy message as "ABC:" asking for God's mercy, being merciful to others and completely trusting in Jesus.

Divine Mercy Sunday is the second Sunday of the Easter season. Last year, the Albany Diocese promoted personal consecrations to Divine Mercy and a special Mass at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Albany in November at which Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger consecrated the entire Diocese to Divine Mercy, which will be an annual practice.

Our Lady of Hope and St. Ann's parishes have a particular devotion to Divine Mercy, with recitations of the chaplet of Divine Mercy, quotations from St. Faustina's diary in every parish bulletin and an adoration chapel at OLH where the Divine Mercy image is displayed behind a monstrance containing the Blessed Sacrament for veneration and eucharistic adoration. Parishioners are given free pictures and books and attend parish missions on the subject led by Marian Missionaries of Divine Mercy from Stockbridge.

Can't afford it
Still, when Father Torres asked an old acquaintance from his seminary days, Sister Donata Farbaniec, ZMBM, to lead a parish mission in August on Divine Mercy, he was surprised when she suggested that OLH apply to receive a first- or second-class relic of St. Faustina.

"It's difficult to get one," the pastor argued, assuming it was expensive and knowing that such relics have to be picked up in person, which would mean a trip to Poland.

Sister Donata, who comes from Poland and whose religious order has a motherhouse in Krakow, said it was less expensive than Father Torres thought - and she knew a couple who would be traveling from Poland to Boston soon and could bring the relic.

By Labor Day weekend, Father Torres had sent a letter of petition to the basilica in Poland, telling officials overseeing the distribution of relics that "the devotion and message of Divine Mercy is interwoven into the fabric of our parish life" and calling St. Faustina "a true comfort and friend to me.

"I believe unreservedly in her intercession for our parish," he added.

Sister Donata added her endorsement, as did Bishop Scharfenberger. Just a few days later, Father Torres got a call from Sister Donata, saying, "I have good news."

When he emailed to clarify what kind of relic the parish would be receiving, she replied, "We are talking only about a first-class [relic], the bones. You will have a new parishioner."

Here she is
On Sept. 18, Father Torres met the Chludzinska family -- Daniel and Katarzyna and their son, Damian -- at the Stockbridge shrine's St. Faustina Chapel to receive the relic.

Mrs. Chludzinska told him formally, "We received this relic near the tomb of St. Faustina. I want to transfer this to you, Father, because St. Faustina wished that this message be brought throughout the whole world."

Her husband added: "And especially for you and for your parish."

A reliquary to hold the relic, in the shape of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, is on its way from Poland. Father Torres thinks St. Faustina would like that: He noted that she wrote in her diary about "snuggling up around the heart of Jesus" and feeling com­pletely at peace.

The relic will be kept in OLH's adoration chapel. On Oct. 5, 6 p.m., St. Faustina's feast day, Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger will celebrate a Mass there to welcome the relic.

Father Torres thinks more believers in the Divine Mercy message may come to the parish to join in weekly eucharistic adoration and learn about St. Faustina. He called the messages in the saint's diary "simple but on-target.

"At the end of time, Christ will raise our bodies from the dead and rejoin them with their souls," Father Torres reflected.

When Christ raises St. Faustina, a piece of her will be coming from Whitehall.