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Crosslake church home to St. Faustina relic

Fr. Ryan Moravitz, pastor at Immaculate Heart Church in Crosslake, displays a bone fragment of St. Faustina that now resides in the church. Theresa Bourke/Echo Journal 1 / 4
Immaculate Heart parishioner Anne Rohr places the St. Faustina relic in its new place at the church. Submitted Photo2 / 4
A bone fragment from 20th century nun St. Faustina is displayed below the Divine Mercy image at Immaculate Heart Church in Crosslake. Theresa Bourke/Echo Journal 3 / 4
Immaculate Heart parishioner Anne Rohr, followed by Fr. Ryan Moravitz and Deacon Tim Richardson, carries St. Faustina's relic to its new residence at the back of the church Submitted Photo 4 / 4

A piece of a saint resides at Immaculate Heart Catholic Church in Crosslake.

St. Faustina Kowalska - a 20th century nun who became a saint in 2000 - is perhaps best known for her mystical experiences that led to the Divine Mercy devotion. During one of her experiences in the 1930s, she produced a painting under the instruction of Jesus, who told her His mercy would be given to the world through the image, which has become iconic in the Catholic faith.

Despite its rarity, a bone fragment from St. Faustina's body has made its way into the hands of Father Ryan Moravitz at Immaculate Heart.

The bone is considered a first-class relic, meaning it's a physical piece of a saint's body. Not just anyone can possess one, though, which is why the relic's journey to Immaculate Heart is so unusual.

"The unique thing about St. Faustina's relics," Moravitz said, "is that they're a little tougher to get."

The saint's body lies in her homeland of Poland with a convent of nuns who distribute the relics throughout the world.

"You have to write to them, and they'll grant you one if you're a church with the name of Divine Mercy or St. Faustina or you have a uniquely special devotion to Divine Mercy," Moravitz said. "You have to put documentation together and explain why you should have a first-class relic ... If they grant the request, you have to go to Poland to get it."

But a trip to Europe wasn't necessary for Moravitz, who still doesn't know exactly how he ended up with the relic. He said a couple called the church one day and told him they had a piece of St. Faustina they'd like to donate to Immaculate Heart. After careful observation and a letter to the Polish convent, Moravitz found the relic to be authentic.

"It was one that was sent to Rome to this convent to be able to give to parish communities," he said. "It was given to an individual for some reason, and the nuns in Poland said the nuns in Rome should not have done that."

Nevertheless, Moravitz was granted permission to keep the bone fragment. And the timing couldn't have been better.

"(Moravitz) had been speaking about Faustina and about Divine Mercy ... a few weeks prior to this happening," Liturgy Coordinator Jeanne Keiffer said. "It was not coincidental; it was God's hand saying, 'This is more for you to be able to pray with and learn with and grow with as a church community.'"

Keiffer and Moravitz both believe having the physical presence of St. Faustina in the church will impact the parish in a big way.

"Our goal and aspiration is to become saints," Keiffer said. "So to be able to go to St. Faustina, who's here in our church, and ask for her intercession on my behalf, for my weaknesses and things that I need to do to become more like her, just fosters that in a bigger way because it's here. ... It's a wonderful opportunity for anyone, no matter what level you're at, to be able to be in front of her as a gift from Him."

Moravitz equated the relic's presence and significance to visiting the grave of a loved one.

"There's a sacredness to the body. And so there's always an honoring of the body, even in death," he said. "People go to the grave because there's still a connection. That body still means something because it did something."

Not only does the bone fragment connect parishioners to St. Faustina, but Moravitz said it humanizes her, as many people tend to think of saints as "mythical figures of the past."

"They're people," he said. "We get it in our heads that they're something other than that, and they're not."

Above all, Moravitz is grateful for the opportunity to house such a special religious token in Crosslake.

"I'm just excited for this community to have been chosen in a special way," he said "To be a place of pilgrimage in many ways for people in the area to be able to come and to pray here in a unique way with this very unique relic."

Pastor change

After serving Immaculate Heart for the past six years, Moravitz is set to move to Duluth on July 12, where he will be pastor at three parishes.

"There's a sadness," he said of leaving Crosslake. "This place has become a home ... this is the place I've lived the longest other than my hometown."

But he's also looking ahead to the next phase of his life and of Immaculate Heart's leadership.

"There's an anticipation for the future, moving forward and on to new challenges," Moravitz said. "I am excited for this community, for the new pastor that's coming in."

Father Blake Rozier, who previously served at parishes in Brainerd and Baxter, will take Moravitz's place.