On May 25 1802 excavators in the ancient catacomb of St Priscilla in Rome came upon a well-preserved shelf tomb sealed with terracotta slabs in the manner usually reserved for nobility or great martyrs. The coffin inside revealed the remains of a girl of about twelve or thirteen years of age.
In 1805 a Neapolitan priest, Don Francesco di Lucia, travelling to Rome with his newly-appointed bishop, requested, and after a brief delay, received the relics of this martyr “Philomena” to enshrine in his village church at Mugnano near Naples.
Sculpture of St Philomena with her attributes of the martyr’s palm, the virgin’s lily and the instruments of her martyrdom,
by the artist Johan Dominik Mahlknecht
Immediately upon the official donation of St Philomena’s sacred remains signal favours began to be granted through her intercession and unusual events began to occur. The favours, graces and even miracles started to increase, even before her enshrinement in Mugnano and they steadily grew in number thereafter such that this virgin martyr soon earned the title, “Philomena, Powerful with God”. In 1837, only thirty-five years after her exhumation, Pope Gregory XVI elevated this “wonder-worker of the nineteenth century” to sainthood.
Our school was named after St Philomena thanks to her intercession in establishing it in 1999, and St Philomena School continues to experience that no matter is too trivial or too unimportant to concern our saint. We are honoured to enjoy her patronage.