The following comes from the Miami Herald:
Sister Teresa Gutiérrez has lived her life in the footsteps St. John Bosco, a poor, 19th century Italian priest whom fellow clergy mocked for his ministry to downtrodden kids and his belief that God's work begins outside, not inside, the church.
Like Bosco, Gutiérrez is a teacher -- of students at Immaculata-La Salle High School in Coconut Grove and underprivileged children at a Little Havana after-school program -- and she finds joy in helping young people navigate everyday problems and spiritual doubt.
Now, the 59-year-old nun and her brothers and sisters of the Salesian order will finally get to show those kids their inspiration.
For the first time, the relics of St. John Bosco -- pieces of bone and tissue from his right hand and arm -- have left their church home in Turin, Italy. Their 130-country tour includes a 2 ½-day stop in Miami that begins Saturday with a mariachi-band welcome, a blessing by Archbishop Thomas Wenski and an all-night veneration at Immaculata-La Salle.
``It's amazing what this little guy -- he was five-foot-six -- could do by just following God,'' said Gutiérrez, whose religious order was founded by Bosco. There are 14,000 Salesian nuns, the largest order in the world, and 16,000 priests, the second largest after the Jesuits.
``He is the patron of youth, of magic,'' said Gutiérrez, who lives with two fellow nuns in The Roads neighborhood of Miami. ``He attracted kids to the church with magic tricks because he knew they saw church as boring, while other priests never left the church building. He said his motto was religion, reason and kindness.''
The relic tour, the first to visit Miami in a decade, will move Sunday to St. John Bosco church in Little Havana, where Gutiérrez works in an after-school program. It's expected to attract thousands of Catholics.
They will see a wax replica of Bosco's body at the time of his death in 1888 set in a glass box that's mounted on a wood and metal cart. The bone and tissue that were exhumed from his grave when he was beatified in 1929 are inside the wax figure.
``I believe that through the veneration of his relics, and faith we have in the Lord, we are going to receive many blessings in this place,'' says the Rev. Juan Carlos Paguaga of St. John Bosco Church.
``We are praying for all those who have no work. All those who are not legally in this country. The poor, the youth, the church. Our parish owes a lot of money to the bank.''
Relics -- typically a body part or piece of clothing -- are venerated as a physical connection between a saint and God. The practice dates to the beginning of the church, when Roman authorities persecuted and put to death early Christians.
``Among people in the early church there was a devotion to those people as witnesses to their faith,'' said James O'Toole, a professor at Boston College who studies Catholic devotion.
``For the surviving community these martyrs become important figures, but not to be prayed to in the same way one would pray to God. The same applies today.''
Relics rarely leave the churches and shrines in which they are housed, and it's not uncommon for Catholics to make long pilgrimages to venerate them.
Bosco's relics left Turin January 2009 to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Salesians and the 200th birthday of Bosco in 2015. They've been viewed throughout Latin America and in San Francisco, New Orleans, St. Petersburg and Belle Glade, and will go on to Washington, D.C.
The last major tour to stop in South Florida brought out more than 10,000 people in 1999 to see the relics of St. Therese of Lisieux.
Bosco, who was 72 when he died, was both humble and controversial. He frequently clashed with the Archbishop of Turin, who saw Bosco's efforts to set up Salesian schools as a threat to the archdiocese's seminaries.
Bosco's teaching method was unusual and controversial for his time, relying on positive reinforcement rather than punishment.
``He wanted the kids to be in an atmosphere where they knew they were loved,'' said Gutiérrez, who applies the same methods as a teacher.
His own childhood was likely an inspiration. Bosco was born in 1815 to a family of farmhands in the northern Italian village of Becchi, and his father died when he was 2. A playful boy, he juggled and did magic tricks, often requiring audience members to say prayers to be admitted to his street shows.
The family couldn't afford formal schooling, but when Bosco was 14, a generous priest saw his potential and paid for his education.
When he was only 9, Bosco is said to have had the first of a series of dreams that shaped his life's work.
``In the dream, he saw kids that were fighting and cursing. He wanted to stop them, he got in there and started punching, and got punched back,'' said Gutiérrez, who learned the story as a child in Salesian schools in Camagüey, Cuba, and New Jersey.
``A man stopped him. He said, `Who are you? Why are you doing this? You will have to win these friends of yours not with blows, but with gentleness and kindness. So begin right now to show them that sin is ugly and virtue beautiful.' ''