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New St. Philomena group teaches teens about chastity.
BY Eddie O'Neill
Father Chad Partain is a priest on a mission: The 35-year-old priest from the Diocese of Alexandria, La., is out to tell the world about the powerful intercession of St. Philomena.
His devotion to the saint has been a long one — complete with a miracle.
“I was introduced to St. Philomena as a young man when I was in junior high. I had signed up for my own daily decade of the Rosary through the Universal Living Rosary Association,” said Father Partain.
But he really got to know St. Philomena while in high school.
“I was diagnosed with a tumor in my inner ear and prayed to St. Philomena to preserve my hearing so that I could go on into seminary and be a priest. And then, miraculously, even though the tumor had eaten away all the bones of hearing in my inner ear, today I am still able to hear out of that ear, even though there was nothing there to hear with,” he explained.
“So, in thanksgiving for the miracle that I had received, I had promised her that I would do my best to spread her story and her devotion whenever possible.”
His mission took a huge step forward this past fall: He was the driving force behind the founding of the St. Philomena Youth for Purity Program and the re-establishment of the Children of Mary movement. Essentially, the Universal Living Rosary Association of St. Philomena, based in Texas, and the Universal Archconfraternity of St. Philomena have joined forces to promote the cause of purity and innocence among the young.
“In the first part of the 20th century, Pope Pius X dedicated St. Philomena as the patron saint of Catholic youth and specifically set her aside as the saint of youth in modern times,” explained Father Partain, who also serves as the chancellor of the Diocese of Alexandria.
“These two organizations wanted to reintroduce St. Philomena as the patron saint of youth or, better, as the go-to saint for the youth of modern times,” he added. “In every fight, an ally is needed, and the Church has proclaimed that St. Philomena, the young virgin martyr, is the ally needed to help the young in their struggle for integrity of heart.”
Crusade for Purity
At the Universal Living Rosary of St. Philomena, director Patti Melvin couldn’t be more excited about the efforts of Father Partain to counterattack the onslaught of immorality that young people face today.
“Youth today oftentimes have no guidelines and no sense of deep love or care, and, thus, there is an emptiness in their lives,” noted Melvin. “This crusade for purity is going to give them spiritual and lasting goals and help them to reach them.”
According to Father Partain, the Youth for Purity campaign is a two-phase program. First, packages of mini shrines are made available to any youth group, school or parish that requests them. Each package will contain a statue of St. Philomena as well as literature on her life, sacramentals, holy cards and other items.
Also included is a curriculum that covers the intercession of the saints, the role of the Blessed Mother and a presentation on the true presence of Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament.
“Our hope is that the program will act as a short retreat for the young, focusing their attention on the power of the faith,” said Father Partain.
The second phase of the program is aimed at forming Children of Mary circles in schools and parishes. According to Father Partain, these groups were quite popular in the 19th century and the first part of the 20th century. In fact, Pope Pius IX declared St. Philomena to be the patroness of the Children of Mary.
“However, as these things go,” said Father Partain, “its popularity faded within the Church. So, in working with the Universal Living Rosary and the Archconfraternity of St. Philomena, it was decided to revive this movement.”
With each mini shrine come details on how to form a Children of Mary circle.
Ready to Go
With the ground work in place, Father Partain and all those involved with the creation of this new purity movement received an official blessing of sorts to begin their work in November. It was then that Msgr. Giovanni Braschi, rector of the Sanctuary of St. Philomena in Mugnano del Cardinale, Italy, was on hand for a special Mass at St. Philomena’s Roman Catholic Church in Landsdowne, Pa. The day included several talks on St. Philomena after the Mass and concluded with Benediction.
Father Jason Kulczynski, parochial administrator of the parish, says the day was particularly special because his parish became a center of the Universal Archconfraternity of St. Philomena.
“What that means is that we are now connected to the ‘mother shrine’ in Mugnano Cardinale, Italy, as a center of devotion,” he said. All of our information and our devotional materials will be properly authorized from there.”
This proclamation has led to a new gift shop at the parish and the renovation of the parish’s former convent into a retreat and conference center for future pilgrims.
All of this is being done in the name of St. Philomena.
“We were expecting about 250 people for the event, and we had over 500,” said Father Kulczynski. “Our church was filled. We were all impressed.”
He added that equally impressive was the number of young people who attended the ceremony.
“I think that among the many problems that our young people face is that our society does not value purity or innocence. And St. Philomena in her day faced the same temptations; and yet she had committed herself to Christ, and nothing in the world would dissuade her from that. The example of St. Philomena offers us an amazing witness.”
Eddie O’Neill writes from Green Bay, Wisconsin.