More than four decades of hard work in an inner city parish were celebrated yesterday by a Catholic priest who secured the showing of 750-year-old relics.
Father Michael Conaty said bringing the remains of St Anthony of Padua to the church which bears the saint’s name was a highlight of his service to the city.
“We are named after St Anthony of Padua so it’s very special to have his relics come here,” said Father Conaty, who leads the congregation of St Anthony’s in Walker.
“Never in 40 years have I had anything like this - it’s the very first time.
“I asked for them to come here on their tour as St Anthony of Padua means a lot to people in the area.
“He died age 36 and performed many miracles in his lifetime.”
Queues of Catholics weaved their way around the church as coaches arrived with visitors from across the North of England.
Big screens were also set up in the John Boste Community Centre so last night’s mass could be viewed by the expected surge in numbers.
Father Conaty, said: “We had coaches from Whitby, Leeds, Scotland and Carlisle bringing people across. We expected about 2,000 people.
“St Anthony was an extremely spiritual man and there’s a great love for him throughout the world.”
Crowds filed past the two relics on display and were given time to say a prayer as well as write a message on a piece of paper to be placed inside his tomb in Italy.
One relic presented inside a glass case was a section of cheek and another was a piece of skin tissue taken from St Anthony’s tomb in 1263.
It is said that when St Bonaventure opened his tomb thirty years after his death his tongue was found still ‘soft and wet’, and it is on display behind the alter at St Anthony’s Basillica in Padua.
Chemistry teacher Lucy Jarvis, 28, from Walker, said: “He is the patron saint of lost things so when I was little and I’d lost something my mum would say you’d better pray to Saint Anthony and thats something that’s stuck with me. To touch a piece of him is really special to everyone in our parish.”
Lisa Lennie who came with her 15-year-old son Sonny was one of the first in line.
She said: “The church has a lovely feeling about it and it was a nice feeling being there.
“We’ve seen the relics of St Therese and taken Sonny to Lourdes in France where he had his first communion.”
Around four million people visit the relics at Padua in Italy every year however this is their first tour of the UK.
They will go on to be shown at Westminster Cathedral in London.