By Currents News Staff and Paula Katinas
FRESH MEADOWS — St. Francis Prep student Arianna Valte is spending this Easter season working on herself to become more connected to her faith.
“School and all of our finals are really distracting from that right now, so I’m really taking today to focus and re-strengthen my connection with God,” she said.
Blessed Carlo Acutis is helping her do just that. Arianna was in Holy Family Church in Fresh Meadows on Wednesday, April 6, along with scores of other students, to take part in a prayer rally where they were given the opportunity to venerate a relic of Acutis.
The relic, a fragment of the pericardium, the membrane that surrounded and protected Acutis’s heart, was brought to the Diocese of Brooklyn by Archbishop Domenico Sorrentino of Assisi, Italy, where Acutis is buried. The archbishop went on a five-day tour with the relic that also included stops in Huntington, Long Island and the Bronx.
This is a different Acutis relic from the one that has become a fixture in the Diocese of Brooklyn. That relic, consisting of strands of Acutis’s hair, was brought here in July and is permanently housed at Sacred Heart of Jesus Church in Bayside.
At the prayer rally on Wednesday, Bishop Robert Brennan held the pericardium relic as students walked up the center aisle to approach the altar and venerate it. Some bowed their heads and made a Sign of the Cross as they gently touched the relic.
The story of Acutis (1991-2006) has captured the imagination of young people all over the world. The soccer-playing video game enthusiast is on track to become the first Millennial saint.
Nicknamed the “Patron Saint of the Internet,” Acutis learned how to write code at a young age and was known during his brief lifetime for a website he created in which he painstakingly cataloged all of the Eucharistic miracles around the world.
Acutis died of leukemia in 2006 at the age of 15.
He was beatified in 2020 after a miracle attributed to his intercession was officially verified by the Vatican. He can become a saint if a second verified miracle is attributed to him.
Father James Kuroly, rector-president of Cathedral Prep, said Acutis can bring more young people into the church.
“A lot of times our young people look at the saints and they think of them as being somewhere in the distant past. And this is somebody that’s a millennial, somebody that has gone through the same struggles, same difficulties, same trials, but had the same desire for God,” he said.
Students at the prayer rally said they related to him because he was a teenager, just like them.
“He was always with his peers like a regular teenager, playing video games, dressed in casual attire as well. But he was always showing his faith through his dedication,” said Cathedral Prep student Edwin Tubat, Jr., 16.
Jeremy Alleyne, 16, who attends St. Francis Prep, said Acutis’s life was short, but instructive.
“I feel like everyone can learn so much from what he did. We could also become more religious and be more a part of the church,” he said.
Bishop Brennan isn’t surprised by the enthusiasm for Acutis. “If you go through the history of his life, you see all the things he loved are the things that young people here love — videos, soccer,” he said. “But he also knew how to make connections with people.”
Father Christopher Bethge, director of vocations for the diocese, said it was moving to see the students’ reaction to the relic. “It’s definitely catching the imagination of the young into believing that holiness is possible for them too,” he said.
While the prayer rally was aimed at teenagers, Archbishop Sorrentino pointed out that Actutis has much to teach — not just young people, but people of all ages.
“He can help us all to meet Jesus and also to meet each other in the brotherhood that comes when we meet Jesus,” he said.