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Holy Relics, Deep in Ohio's Heartland

In the middle of a flat stretch of Ohio farmland resides one of the largest collections of holy relics in the United States, at the convent of the Sisters of the Precious Blood.

And despite the out-of-the-way location -- north of Dayton, not too far from the Indiana state line, but far removed from any major highway -- thousands of people visit the shrine every year in Maria Stein.

"The Shrine of the Holy Relics is a surprising place, even for a Catholic," says independent producer Aileen LeBlanc. Three walls of the chapel are lined with 1,100 relics, each in its own decorative case, known as a reliquary. Most are tiny, able to fit in the palm of the hand, and most contain fragments of bones from the saints.

Some of the exhibits at the Shrine of the Holy Relics include:
• The skull, complete set of bones and the body of Saint Victoria, a 4th-century martyr especially venerated in her home country of Spain and in France.
• A tiny splinter of wood from the "true cross."
• A very small piece of bone from Saint Peregrine -- the patron saint of those with cancer.

The convent was founded in the mid-1800s by Father Francis de Sales Brunner, who came from Europe to minister to the many German Catholic immigrants who settled the area to farm the land.

The relic collection was begun about the same time. "In Rome, churches were being ransacked and the relics within them were in danger of being desecrated," LeBlanc says. "Church officials decided to send many of the relics to America for safekeeping."

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