The Heart of Saint John Vianney in USA

Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, archbishop of New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, archbishop of New York, venerates the relic before celebrating Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral April 7. CNS photo/ Gregory A. Shemitz

During times of crisis, Christ sends saints. In the early 19th century, in the wake of the French Revolution, he sent Jean Vianney, whose witness of love and humility rekindled the faith of thousands as they flocked to his tiny parish in Ars, France.

Thousands again flocked to the holy Curé of Ars this past year, in the wake of the sexual abuse crisis affecting the Church. This time, they encountered the incorrupt heart of the patron saint of parish priests as it crisscrossed the United States in the care of the Knights of Columbus from Nov. 10 to June 13.

The “Heart of a Priest” tour, as it was called, passed through all 48 contiguous states and traveled over 35,000 miles — nearly 1 ½ times the circumference of the earth. More than 280,000 pilgrims — clergy, religious and lay people — prayed for the Church and her shepherds as the major relic made stops at cathedrals and other churches, seminaries and homes for retired priests, convents and cloistered monasteries, Catholic schools and university campuses.

While the sites visited and the miles traveled can be counted, the spiritual fruits of the relic tour cannot.

“We give thanks to God for the innumerable graces related to the pilgrimage of the heart,” wrote Father Patrice Chocholski, St. Jean Vianney’s successor as pastor of Ars, in a letter to Supreme Knight Carl Anderson. “Without the organization of the Knights in the United States, this experience would not have been possible.”

The following pages feature representative photos and testimonies from the historic tour. For more information, and details on an upcoming pilgrimage of the heart through dioceses in Canada, visit

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