"I made an exchange with the saint. I said, 'If I reach the age of 60 and am healthy, I’ll build a shrine.’"
As of May 22 of this year, St. Rita of Cascia has a new shrine in Brazil, and it’s bigger than any other structure dedicated to the Italian “saint of impossible causes” anywhere in the world.
Who’s behind it? Neither the diocese, nor a religious community; it’s Paulo Flavio de Melo Carvalho, who is 74 years old and a successful entrepreneur. Born in Cássia, a city of 18 thousand inhabitants in the south of the state of Minas Gerais, Brazil, he owns companies in the real estate, pharmaceutical, and packaging sectors, with operations in several states in Brazil and abroad.
In an interview with the local press, the businessman revealed that he is very devoted to St. Rita of Cascia—a devotion he inherited from his mother. He said, “My mother was very devoted to St. Rita. She prayed the Rosary and became a great friend of St. Rita. I admired her for this devotion. So, I got used to it and St. Rita became my favorite saint, together with Our Lady of Aparecida and Jesus.”
The shrine’s Facebook page shows the church filled to the brim as the local bishop, José Lanza Neto of the diocese of Guaxupé, blessed the faithful during the shrine’s consecration.
The idea of honoring the saint of impossible causes came up in the context of a promise (which the businessman calls an “exchange”). “I wanted to leave a legacy to the planet when I turned 60 years old, but I didn’t know what kind; that idea kept nudging me in my head. That’s when I thought, ‘I’m very devoted to St. Rita, so I’ll make a shrine for her.’ But I made an exchange with the saint. I said, ‘If I reach the age of 60 and am healthy, I’ll build a shrine.’ And this ended up happening,” reveals Paulo Flávio.
From this “exchange” came the world’s largest shrine dedicated to St. Rita of Cascia, located in the businessman’s hometown (named after the place where the saint lived and died as an Augustinian nun). At the beginning, though, he had no idea of the size of the undertaking he was dealing with. The finished shrine includes about 1,070,000 square feet of construction with the capacity to receive 7,000 people (5,000 seated).