Local Youth & young adult

Rescued relics find a home thanks to young craftsman

Trevor Carlson, a member of Immaculate Conception Parish in St. Marys, displays the relic holder that he built in wood shop at St. Marys High School. Carlson built several relic holders for the parish. LEAVEN PHOTO BY MARC ANDERSON

by Marc and Julie Anderson

ST. MARYS — God’s timing is perfect.

That’s just one lesson Trevor Carlson, a junior at St. Marys High School and a member of Immaculate Conception Parish, learned as a result of his recently completed shop project.

In late spring 2023, Carlson, then a sophomore, was looking for his next project. Having just finished a nightstand, he needed something to work on during the last weeks of the school year. Keith Aubert, his wood shop teacher and also an Immaculate Conception parishioner, just happened to have an idea, one to which Carlson eagerly agreed.

Aubert explained to his young protégé that the parish church was looking for someone to build relic holders.

Carlson got to work, sketching the thoughts Aubert shared with him, impressing his teacher.

“He’s a good artist. On the drawing, I remember he drew it all out. He had it all sketched out. I just told him, ‘This is what Father [Justin Hamilton] and I talked about, kind of draw it out and we’ll get the dimensions,” Aubert said. “The next thing you knew, he had it all 3D-sketched out and all of the dimensions.”

Wood shop teacher Keith Aubert and protégéTrevor Carlson work on a wood shop project. COURTESY PHOTO

April 14 marked the first time that parishioners had a chance to view the recently installed relic holders and venerate the relics of nine saints, including St. Thérèse of Lisieux, St. Henry de Osso y Cervello, St. Agnes of Montepulciano and St. John Bosco, among others. All but one are considered first-class relics, meaning the relic is a fragment of the saint’s body, such as bone or flesh.

In addition to veneration, parishioners also had the opportunity to learn about the saints through biographical sketches and holy cards displayed near each relic holder.

And although the design and construction phase of the project began in 2023, Father Hamilton, the parish’s pastor, said the story actually began three to three-and-a-half years ago when parishioners brought him the relics that had been rescued from being sold at an estate sale and a thrift store. (The church forbids the sale of relics or any religious articles after they’ve been blessed, as it can appear as if the church is selling blessings.)

“They were being given away, and no one realized their spiritual value. And they brought them to me, and I thanked them,” said Father Hamilton.

Trevor Carlson’s drawing and relic holder that he built in wood shop class are pictured above. COURTESY PHOTO

But they sat at the rectory for at least 18 months because he didn’t know what to do with them — and he didn’t know if they were authentic. For public veneration, the church requires relics to be accompanied by a certificate of authenticity, something he didn’t have, at least not at the time.

On July 31, 2021, Father Carlos Martins, CC, brought “Treasures of Church,” a traveling exposition of more than 150 relics of the saints, to St. Stanislaus Parish in Rossville, the second parish for which Father Hamilton serves as pastor.

Father Hamilton said Father Carlos delivered “a beautiful presentation.”

“As he mentioned, he’s not a traveling museum,” he said. “He is trying to bring people to Christ through relationship with the saints, to find a deeper relationship with the Lord and the healing they need.”

“These [relics] are meant to be touched, held, prayed with,” insisted Father Carlos. “We’re supposed to feel that closeness to the saints. They’re not meant to be locked away in a safe that no one will ever see.”

That made something click in Father Hamilton’s mind. Sometime later, Father Carlos examined the relics and was able to authenticate them. That’s when Father Hamilton started displaying the relics on the particular saints’ feast day and blessing the faithful with them. Then, he started wondering about permanent displays.

“I had no idea how to put them on the wall or mount them in a way that was dignified,” Father Hamilton said, but conversations with Michael Podrebarac, the archdiocese’s liturgical consultant, underscored the importance of ensuring the relics were displayed not only in a dignified manner, but securely, to prevent sacrilege.

Having the involvement of Aubert and Carlson means the world to Father Hamilton because now the relics are no longer hidden.

 “[The saints] were glad to get out of the drawer,” said Aubert with a laugh. “They’ll be forever helping us.”

About the author

Marc & Julie Anderson

Freelancers Marc and Julie Anderson are long-time contributors to the Leaven. Married in 1996, for several years the high school sweethearts edited The Crown, the former newspaper of Christ the King Parish in Topeka which Julie has attended since its founding in 1977. In 2000, the Leaven offered the couple their first assignment. Since then, the Andersons’ work has also been featured in a variety of other Catholic and prolife media outlets. The couple has received numerous journalism awards from the Knights of Columbus, National Right to Life and the Catholic Press Association including three for their work on “Think It’s Not Happening Near You? Think Again,” a piece about human trafficking. A lifelong Catholic, Julie graduated from Most Pure Heart of Mary Grade School and Hayden Catholic High School in Topeka. Marc was received into the Catholic Church in 1993 at St. Paul Parish – Newman Center at Wichita State University. The two hold degrees from Washburn University in Topeka. Their only son, William James, was stillborn in 1997.

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