Br. Don Houde, CSV, was among the first class of novices to study at the Province Center when the Viatorians opened the
building in 1951 on former farmland in Arlington Heights. Consequently, he is an excellent resource on its many paintings, sculpture and other artifacts acquired over the years as part of its religious art collection.
This month, Br. Houde set out to document another treasure trove of little known artifacts: its relics of saints and martyrs stored in altars in the Province Center Chapel.
He uncovered most of the relics — contained inside a reliquary or type of locket — inside envelopes underneath the main altar. More are embedded into the altar stone itself, as well as in the altars in the two side chapels.
At last count, there are more than 60, and they range from those of Fr. Louis Querbes, founder of the Viatorians, to St. Viator and Bishop Just, as well as more well known saints, including St. Teresa of Avila, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton and St. John Vianney, just to name a few.
Br. Houde is working with Associate Joan Sweeney, the Viatorian archivist, to document the individual relics and their corresponding saints, before deciding how to share them with the wider community.
The tradition of altars containing relics goes back to the earliest days of the church. Worshippers reinforce the importance of the saints during the Apostle’s Creed, which concludes with:
“I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy Catholic Church,
the communion of the saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting.”