Catholics in Boston flocked to venerate the heart of St Padre Pio last week, the only major relic of the saint to leave Italy.
It was brought to the Boston metro area by the Capuchin friars who
run the Shrine of St Padre Pio in the saint’s hometown of San Giovanni
Rotondo in southern Italy.
Padre Pio, who was born in 1887 and died in 1968, was canonised in
2002. The Capuchin friar was popular as a miracle worker and known
particularly for the long hours he would spend hearing confessions.
Virginia Fierro met St Padre Pio back when she was 14 and still
living in Italy, and on September 21, she had the chance to venerate his
heart in the Boston Archdiocese.
Sitting in a pew in St Leonard’s Church in Boston’s North End, Fierro
said she lived in Italy until moving to the United States in 1956, and
it was there that she met the saint.
“We talked to him. We saw him just like he is now, with the hands
like this,” she said, motioning toward a nearby statue of St Padre Pio
with his arms outstretched.
She said a large number of people showed up to see him, but “he talked to everybody.”
“It was beautiful,” Fierro told The Pilot, the Boston archdiocesan newspaper.
From September 21 to September 23, the saint’s relic moved around the
Archdiocese of Boston, stopping at several different parishes. The
first day it was at Immaculate Conception in Lowell, and later that day
it was at St Leonard’s Church. The next day it was at the archdiocesan
pastoral centre in Braintree and later at the Cathedral of the Holy
Cross in Boston, where it remained all day on September 23.
Dalila Patrizzi was the first person to venerate the relic at
Immaculate Conception, and also was the first person to publicly
venerate it during its time in the Boston area.
St Padre Pio is “such a special saint, I mean all the saints are
special, but this one endured so much, and he stayed, his loyalty, his
endurance, his temperance everything, it’s very encouraging,” she said.
To beat the crowd, she parked her car in the parking lot in the early
hours of the morning and stayed there with her young son, Gabriel,
until public veneration began at 9am.
Patrizzi and her son stayed up all night in the parking lot, watching movies and praying to stay awake.
“I think it’s been a very special night,” said Gabriel.
Amii Stewart, an American disco singer best known for her 1979 cover
of Knock on Wood, attended the night Mass at St Leonard later that day.
She travelled from Italy, where she currently resides, to sing at the
Cathedral of the Holy Cross in honor of St. Padre Pio
Stewart sang the song Con Te Partiro (Time to Say Goodbye) at the
2009 reburial of St Padre Pio’s remains. In March 2008 the saint’s body
was exhumed to allow procedures to guarantee prolonged preservation of
The singer told The Pilot that she didn’t learn about him until she moved to Italy.
“I also learned about the controversy around Padre Pio where a lot of
his fellow priests and monks didn’t believe him, so it took him a very,
very long time to be looked upon as being touched by God. So, even he
himself, he not only had the stigmata, but he also had to deal with
people who didn’t believe that he was real, that he had been touched by
God,” she said.
From 1918 to the very end of his life, Padre Pio bore the stigmata,
wounds similar to those inflicted on Christ when he was crucified.
“I think all of us can relate to that in our lives, being looked upon
either as having lied for something we didn’t do or being blamed for
something we didn’t do or not being looked upon as being who we really
are, and I can only image what he must have suffered and how he must
have suffered,” Stewart added.
She said it’s “it’s very special to me” to be able to be able to
called upon to help honour St. Padre Pio, noting that she has been
called to sing in honor of the saint “many, many times.”
Stewart said someone told her that she’s been called so many times because St Padre Pio wants her to be there.
“And so then I start to question why would he want me to be there?
What have I done that’s so great, you know, that he would want me?” she
“So, he must see something in me that I can’t see in myself, or I
haven’t discovered my whole reason for being here, on this earth,
obviously, there must be something else I need to do, and I’m sure he’ll
reveal that to me,” Stewart said.
At the pastoral centre, Mary Onorato was waiting in line to venerate the relic and pray for her daughter.
“Padre Pio had the stigmata, and my daughter has rheumatoid arthritis
and she can’t use her hands, so I’m here to pray for a miracle for
her,” she said, adding that her daughter shares a May 25 birthday with
St Padre Pio.
“In the community of saints, Padre Pio can now intercede for us,” Onorato said.