ANTIOCH, Calif. (CNS) — “You’re in the presence of a saint,” Tim Hooke told his students who were seated quietly in the sanctuary at Most Holy Rosary Church as they waited their turn to take a close look at a relic of St. Mary Magdalene.

“And not just a saint,” he added, “but a friend of Jesus.”

The Holy Rosary seventh-graders then rose from their seats and filed toward the altar of the Antioch church to pick up a prayer card and, one by one, pause before the relic, a portion of St. Mary Magdalene’s tibia (shinbone).

It was Mary Magdalene who announced to the apostles that Jesus had risen from the dead.

Hooke, in his 13th year of teaching at the school from which he graduated, knew his pupils were seeing something extraordinary. He said he had not seen a relic until he visited Europe as an adult.

The pupils’ visit was among the early highlights of the relic’s Feb. 15 stop in the parish of more than 3,000 families in the Oakland Diocese. During their visit, the Gospel
was read and Father Francois LeHegaret, the French Dominican priest who is accompanying the relic on its Northern California tour, gave a homily.

The Dominicans of the province of the Toulouse, France, staff the shrine of St. Mary Magdalene.

She is considered a patroness of the Dominicans because she proclaimed Christ’s resurrection to the apostles and was given the title “Apostle of the Apostles.”

After stops in Oakland and Antioch, the relic was in Berkeley Feb. 26. It was to visit the federal penitentiary in Atwater and travel to Southern California for two weeks.

At Most Holy Rosary Church, among the more than two dozen early arrivals who paused to pray at the relic was Lucy Vera, who said she has been a parishioner there “all my life.”

Joyce Gould, a parishioner at St. Ignatius of Antioch, said she usually makes a visit to Holy Rosary during the week, timing her stop this time to view the relic.

Said Elizabeth Zaldivar, a parishioner at Holy Rosary, who said she was facing some medical issues, “I came to pray and see if I could get some healing.”

Editor’s note: Stay tuned for an upcoming Register feature on the relic tour.