St. Martha Parish in Morton Grove has always taken pride in being a welcoming community. It’s become a home for the members of its ethnically diverse parish and for people with differing abilities, as well as for the relics of the more than 1,500 saints. Now, as the archdiocesan Shrine of All Saints, it is ready to welcome even more pilgrims who come to pray and worship and learn about the relics. They include parts of the saints’ physical persons, such as pieces of bone, hair or blood; items that the saints used, including clothing; or items that have come in contact with the saints. Archbishop Cupich formally dedicated the shrine at a Mass on Nov. 1, the Feast of All Saints. The relics of saints that surrounded the congregation are there to welcome everyone, he said. Saints are important, he said, because they remind people that they, too, can be good, that they too, can be holy. “We long for that, we want to be good. We want to do the right thing in life,” Archbishop Cupich said in his homily. “Clouding over that desire are those experiences in human life that tell us that we’ll never measure up, that there’s something really flawed about us.” Those moments come when people are suffering or disrespected, he said, but in the Beatitudes, Jesus tells his listeners that people are holy even in their suffering or persecution. “Each and every moment of your life, especially in those that are filled with suffering, and challenge, and setbacks, and heartbreak, that’s precisely in the limited circumstances, in the limited relationships that you have, where God graces and calls you,” he said. “The saints, the 1,500 or so, the relics you have around this church … there are people of all backgrounds, just like each one of us who are saints because they believed that they could be good, that they were called, that God’s grace was working in every moment, and that they could always improve,” he said. “We need this feast, because there are too many voices out there that tell us we are not good, or we’re not good enough because we’re poor, we’re neglected, we suffer.” Father Dennis O’Neill said that visitors from all over the area, including some from other faith traditions, feel the influence of the saints in the church. “I often hear from folks that the energy in this room is different,” said O’Neill, the pastor of St. Martha. “A person can come here to experience a foretaste of heaven, and maybe a sense of the communion of saints in a more tangible way.” O’Neill has spent decades collecting relics of the saints, saving them both from closed churches in the Archdiocese of Chicago and from closed churches, chapels and monasteries in Europe. Some have been put up for sale on eBay, and while selling a relic is a sin, rescuing one and making it available for continued veneration is not, O’Neill said in a letter to parishioners. At the end of the Mass, the parish gave Archbishop Cupich gifts, including a choice between two relics of St. Blase contained in a reliquaries, both part of the church’s collection (see Page 3 photo). As a shrine, O’Neill hopes the church — under the patronage of Martha, also the patron saint of hospitality — will attract more pilgrims to venerate and learn about the relics that line its walls. At the end of Mass parishioners gave O’Neill a standing ovation for his work in the parish and on the shrine. The Bidny family came wearing traditional Ukrainian dress. After the Mass, while sharing a meal, Peter Bidny said that the creation of the shrine has brought the parish together. “It’s become something really impressive,” he said. “It celebrates the diversity of the parish,” Oksana Bidny said. “And you can always find a saint that faced the challenges you face in your own life.” Alice Eysenbach said O’Neill’s passion for saving the relics of the saints is infectious. “Everyone understands it because it is so sincere,” she said. “These saints live for him in a way that maybe people who don’t know church history like he does don’t understand, but we’ll walk this journey with him.” Lori Herbert, wife of Deacon John Herbert, said the parish has been drawn into O’Neill’s devotion to the saints whose relics line the walls of the church. “The saints surround us every moment we are in the church,” she said.