First Place Award for General Excellence, Catholic Press Association, 2013-2016

Visit of Padre Pio Relics Was Time of Faith, Prayer in the Archdiocese
By CHRISTIE L. CHICOINE and JOHN WOODS
Christie L. Chicoine
Outside St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the line spans the sidewalk on 51st Street.

The long, orderly line outside St. Patrick’s Cathedral Sept. 17 made a statement. Droves of reverent faithful waited seemingly without complaint Sunday morning and afternoon to show their devotion to St. Pio of Pietrelcina whose relics inside the cathedral’s Lady Chapel were on display there through Sept. 18 and had been at other locales in the archdiocese Sept. 16.

Cardinal Dolan celebrated Mass officially welcoming the relics at 10:15 a.m. Sunday at the cathedral, where 20,000 faithful came to venerate the relics over the two-day period. The Sistine Chapel Choir provided resplendent music throughout the liturgy.

After the Mass, the line for the relics extended to the front steps of the cathedral’s Parish House, at 51st Street and Madison Avenue. The cathedral is located at Fifth Avenue and 50th Street.

“‘Trust, pray, do not worry, do not be afraid,’” Cardinal Dolan said in his homily. “That was the constant mantra of Padre Pio, now a saint, as we are honored to have a reminder of his life and ministry and sufferings here with us in his relics here at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, beginning the national tour.

“Those words of Padre Pio, are they not, almost a summary of the constant, calm assurances of Jesus that we hear in the Gospel.”

Around 1 p.m., just outside the cathedral’s front side doors on 51st Street, CNY caught up with the Jawin family of Epiphany parish in Manhattan just before they crossed the threshold.

Parents Brian and Virginia brought their three children: Sofia, 5; Alexa, 3; and Cristian, 1.

Mrs. Jawin said she and her husband brought their daughters and son to view the relics because they want them “to start growing in faith early on because, especially in today’s world, it seems like everything we’re presented is going against the faith.

“Being patient here, waiting, shows the significance of the importance of what we’re going to see and witness.”

They had simply explained to their children what they were about to see, their mother said, as they shared some background on the saint, namely that “Padre Pio’s a very important person, that he did a lot of miracles and that we’re going to get to see the things that he wore.”

The relics made available for public veneration included a lock of the saint’s hair, his glove, his mantle (cloak), a handkerchief used shortly before his death, as well as two others.

Padre Pio was known as a mystic with gifts of healing and knowledge. He bore the stigmata, which correspond to the crucifixion wounds of Christ.

Among the Jawin family’s prayer intentions was to be a special petition for Mrs. Jawin’s nephew, 10-year-old Jonathan Lopez, who has cancer, she said.

“Thanks to the archdiocese for putting it together and giving us the opportunity to be part of this,” Mrs. Jawin said of the relic tour hosted by the archdiocese and sponsored by the St. Pio Foundation, a nonprofit headed by Luciano Lamonarca, a 39-year-old Westchester resident and native of Italy who serves as president and CEO.

Dennis Kearns brought granddaughters Cailiosa Thomas, 16, and Laoise Thomas, 12, all of St. Rose of Lima parish in East Hanover, N.J.

“It was so beautiful and one of the greatest experiences of my life” said Cailiosa, just after the family had exited the Lady Chapel. Wearing a white lace veil, white blouse and red skirt, Cailiosa looked serene and demure as she spoke.

“Just feeling Padre Pio’s presence there” was a highlight for her, she said. She brought before the relics a prayer intention for “my family and loved ones, that we all turn our hearts to Christ.”

Kearns, while venerating the relics, contemplated the saint whom he described as “a man of holiness.” His prayer intention was for his wife Margaret, who is recovering from cancer, he said, “that she have the strength to deal with whatever comes.”

Venerating the relics “made me want to cry ’cause it was just so beautiful,” said Laoise, who welled up as she described the experience. “I was so happy to be there.”

The next day at school she planned to tell her peers “that I went to go see Padre Pio.” While there, she added, “I asked him to help my friends with all their problems.”

At 9:15 a.m. on Sunday, the end of the line for the relics was inside the cathedral, on the 51st Street side, near the Sixth Station of the Cross. From there, it took 45 minutes to reach the Lady Chapel where veneration took place.

A concert by the Sistine Chapel Choir the evening of Sept. 16 preceded a welcome reception for the relics at the cathedral’s Parish House. Veneration of the relics at the cathedral was offered from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on both Sunday and Monday.

St. Joseph’s Seminary in Dunwoodie and St. Ann’s Church in Yonkers kicked off the second phase of a national tour to visit 11 archdioceses and dioceses in 10 states before the relics return to Italy.

The tour marked the 130th anniversary of Padre Pio’s birth on May 25, 1887, in Pietrelcina, Italy, and the 15th anniversary of his canonization by Pope John Paul II in 2002. The saint, whose feast day is Sept. 23, died in 1968.

At St. Joseph’s Seminary, the relics arrived at 9 a.m. Sept. 16 for a six-hour period of public veneration that included a prayer service welcoming them led by Father Matthew Ernest, director of liturgical formation and professor of liturgy.

A short time later, the Rosary was prayed in English and in Spanish to set a prayerful tone.

Saturday is normally the seminarians’ day off, but they volunteered to handle functions ranging from selling sets of rosary beads and distributing literature about the relics to serving as guides at the entrances to the seminary and monitoring the relics at the front of the seminary chapel.

Nolan Beahan, a second-year theology seminarian at St. Joseph’s from St. Martin de Porres parish in Poughkeepsie, said, “Normally, it’s hard for us to see the people of the archdiocese. This allows people to visit the seminary.”

Father William Cleary, dean of seminarians and chairman of the department of Sacred Scripture, coordinated their work, and Danielle Pizzola, coordinator of special events, was present to keep things running smoothly.

There was a steady crowd of visitors, with larger numbers in the morning.

“It’s so moving to see the power of popular Catholic piety,” said Msgr. Peter Vaccari, the rector of St. Joseph’s.

Midway through the afternoon, the line to view the relics extended more than half the length of the chapel. Maria Panuccio, of St. Ann parish, came with her uncle, Rosario Trentapilla, and her young children, Francesco Pio, 2, who was named for St. Pio, and his baby brother, Andrea, 4 months.

“I’m very devoted to Padre Pio,” said Ms. Panuccio, who explained that she has sought the saint’s intercession in prayer many times in her life, and that she has never been disappointed.

A native of the Calabria region of Italy, she immigrated to the United States 20 years ago. She added that she became pregnant with Francesco Pio on Padre Pio’s feast day, Sept. 23.

Her friend, Teresa Moliterno, a parishioner of Immaculate Conception and Assumption, Tuckahoe, told CNY about the blessing Padre Pio gave to her and her late husband, Frank, weeks after their wedding in 1957.

The Moliternos, natives of Calabria, were selected by Padre Pio to step forward from the congregation at his church in San Giovanni Rotondo to receive the blessing. She remembers her husband, who died three years ago, saying at the time, “Can you imagine that he called us and blessed us?”

“It was a blessing for all of our lives,” said Mrs. Moliterno, who was a 17-year-old bride when she met the Capuchin Franciscan friar.

At St. Ann Church, which is less than a mile from the seminary, the pastor, Father Andrew Carrozza, offered a special Mass honoring Padre Pio, after parishioners and other visitors had an opportunity to venerate the relics.

Westchester County executive Rob Astorino, who made brief remarks near the end of Mass, was among those in attendance.

Father Carrozza, in his homily, said that his parish, which has many Italian-American parishioners, was “very privileged” to host the relics of Padre Pio. He said he hoped that parishioners would see “the fullness of the life of Padre Pio,” who kept his focus on the Lord and an eternity in heaven even as he faithfully lived his priestly ministry.

Angela Magnone, a longtime parishioner of St. Ann who is also a native of Calabria, attended the Mass honoring Padre Pio after venerating his relics at St. Joseph’s. She said she has long wanted to return to Italy to visit San Giovanni Rotondo, where the saint served, and Padre Pio’s hometown of Pietrelcina.

On Saturday, she had an invitation to travel to a Long Island beach, but told her daughter that she had more important plans of her own.

“He really was a saint,” she said. “I have so much love for him.”

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