Detroit-area Catholics react with astonishment, joy to Carlo Acutis canonization news

David Schunior of St. Clair Shores plays video games with his three children. Schunior, a self-described "nerd," said that his faith deepened in high school when he stumbled across a website documenting Eucharistic Miracles. What he didn't know was the website was created by Blessed Carlo Acutis, the millennial saint who died at 15 in 2006. On May 23, Pope Francis announced that Acutis will be canonized soon, an announcement that has left Schunior and others excited and in disbelief. (Photos by Valaurian Waller | Detroit Catholic)

Local millennials see themselves in Blessed Carlo Acutis, a techy who loved video games and wore Nikes

DETROIT — In 2006, Houston native David Schunior was a high school student, newly on fire for his Catholic faith. Schunior’s parish had recently started a youth group, and as he became involved, he developed an insatiable appetite for the faith.

“I started consuming Catholic movies, Catholic books, anything that was about the faith,” Schunior told Detroit Catholic. “I was trying to find it all, and that is about when I stumbled across incorruptible and Eucharistic miracles. You just look at these Eucharistic miracles in awe, and you sit back and go, ‘No, that can’t be real.' But if I believe that is really Jesus (in the Eucharist), then it has to be real.’”

Schunior, a self-described "nerd" now working in the video game industry, was already savvy with the Internet in the early 2000s. One day, as he searched for faith-based content online, Schunior stumbled across a website with PDF pages documenting Eucharistic miracles worldwide and throughout Catholic history.

“I started reading through all of them, and one day, I thought, ‘I don't know if this website is going to be around forever’ — this would have been ‘06 or ‘07 — and I decided to download all of these PDFs and save them," Schunior explained.

Schunior stored the PDFs on his hard drive and carried on with his life, starting college at the Franciscan University of Steubenville in 2008. There, he met his now-wife of 10 years, Annie. After getting married, they settled in her home state of Michigan, where they now live with their three children and attend Our Lady Star of the Sea Parish in Grosse Pointe Woods.

What Schunior didn’t know in 2006 was that, nearly 6,000 miles away, the website’s creator, a 15-year-old Italian teenager named Carlo Acutis, had passed away after a battle with leukemia.

In 2020, Pope Francis beatified Acutis following the recognition of a miracle attributed to his intercession. Acutis' parents and younger twin sisters were in attendance. On May 23, 2024, the pope approved Acutis’ cause for canonization following another miracle, putting the teen on track to become the first millennial saint.

Schunior is currently reading about Acutis' life. In addition to the saint's love of computers and video games, Acutis is recognizable for his signature backpack and Nike tennis shoes. He is remembered for his love for the Eucharist.
Schunior is currently reading about Acutis' life. In addition to the saint's love of computers and video games, Acutis is recognizable for his signature backpack and Nike tennis shoes. He is remembered for his love for the Eucharist.
Schunior had never heard of Acutis until 2020, when his wife, Annie, learned about the beautification and thought her husband might identify with the millennial saint.
Schunior had never heard of Acutis until 2020, when his wife, Annie, learned about the beautification and thought her husband might identify with the millennial saint.

The “influencer” saint’s popularity has extended across the world and has been widely embraced by young people who see themselves in the teenager; in addition to his love of computers and video games, Acutis is recognized for his signature backpack and Nike tennis shoes and remembered for his love for the Eucharist.

Pilgrims can visit his body, which was laid to rest in his favorite city, Assisi. Artistic renderings of Acutis have sprung up across the world, from a rare stained glass window of him in a Minnesota chapel to statues in Derry, Ireland and the Solanus Casey Center in Detroit, where Lousiana-based artist Deborah Luke depicted the teen on a large relief sculpture alongside several other saints representing the diversity of the church.

Acutis’s website is still available today, but in 2006, it served as an unexpected connection across the “World Wide Web” between two teenage boys who loved computers and gaming and were both falling deeper in love with their faith through the Eucharistic miracles.

Schunior had never heard of Acutis until 2020, when his wife, Annie, learned about the beautification and thought her husband might identify with the millennial saint.

“Fast forward to the present day, and Annie is telling me about Blessed Carlo," Schunior said. "One night, I got curious and looked him up and saw that he had created a website as part of his devotional journey to learn more about the Eucharist, and I thought, ‘Oh, that’s cool. I kind of did the same thing in high school.'"

Suddenly, Schunior made the connection. Blessed Carlo had created the “Real Presence” website on which he had spent hours as a teen.

A relief sculpture installed at the Solanus Casey Center in Detroit, featuring Blessed Carlo Acutis alongside other saints who represent the diversity of the church.
A relief sculpture installed at the Solanus Casey Center in Detroit, featuring Blessed Carlo Acutis alongside other saints who represent the diversity of the church.

“It just blew my mind because when I was in high school, and I was hungry for more, and I wanted to sink my teeth into more substance and learn about the faith, and this site was there as my resource,” Schunior said. “It was crazy — I had no idea that he was the creator of this website, and in learning more about him, his reasons for creating the site were twofold: one, to do something cool and techy and fun, and two, to go on this journey of himself learning about more of the Eucharistic miracles and creating a resource for other people to learn more about them, too.”

Schunior still has the original files he downloaded from the website nearly two decades ago. He has recently spent time reviewing the PDFs again and showing them to others.

“It was huge for me in high school,” Schunior said. “With the Eucharist as the summit of our faith and the most important thing, that website and the resources that (Blessed Carlo) created was my first introduction to that reality. To really see what happens at the moment of transubstantiation — for a small, insignificant wafer to become the flesh of the King of the Universe.”

The life of Blessed Carlo Acutis provides not only millennials but succeeding generations — namely, Gen Z and Gen Alpha — a clear example of the possibility of sainthood, said Jason Smith, a local content creator and father of three boys.

Smith, who has amassed a following on TikTok and Instagram, where he primarily shares content about his faith, fatherhood and manhood, said Blessed Carlo provides an “easy segue” to teach children and teens about their faith.

“Children in modern times are more adapted to evolving through technology, and they relate so much to it because there are screens all over the place; it can be a gift and curse, depending on how you put it,” Smith told Detroit Catholic. “(Technology) is a tool to understand and know more, but at the same time, we are using it every day. It is so relatable to see someone so young who did what (Blessed Carlo) did — he wasn’t a monk or a priest; he was just a kid who really loved the Lord.”

Schunior said that he and his wife would love to attend the canonization, which will be scheduled later this month and will likely take place in 2025.
Schunior said that he and his wife would love to attend the canonization, which will be scheduled later this month and will likely take place in 2025.
Schunior still has the original files he downloaded from the website nearly two decades ago. He has recently spent time reviewing the PDFs again and showing them to others.
Schunior still has the original files he downloaded from the website nearly two decades ago. He has recently spent time reviewing the PDFs again and showing them to others.

Alyssa Choraszewski, a technology and computer teacher at St. Fabian School in Farmington Hills, is embracing Blessed Carlo’s aptitude for technology and weaving his life into her curriculum for the upcoming school year.

Choraszewski plans to share Acutis’ story with her students, grades K-8 and have them practice their computer skills to create digital monstrances.

A convert to Catholicism, Choraszewski said it was exciting to find a saint whose interests were so similar to her own and who used his gifts and talents for evangelization.

“What Carlo did is he showed that you can use technology to share the Gospel message in a positive and profound way, and you don’t have to be some well-known programmer or be great at creating websites or anything — he was just a teenager creating a little blog type website, and he still was able to share the message of the Eucharistic miracles,” Choraszewski said.

Schunior said that he and his wife would love to attend the canonization, which will be scheduled later this month and will likely take place in 2025.

“It was so profound for me in high school to know that I was experiencing this same journey that he was of wanting to learn as much as he possibly could and throwing it on the internet because he knew this could reach someone,” Schunior said. “It was unbelievable because his mission was accomplished, at least for me. It was my first exposure to Eucharistic miracles, and knowing that his devotion in life has spread and that he will become a saint is kind of unbelievable.”



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