PORT ST. LUCIE | Every second Saturday of the month, Padre Pio Prayer Group members from area parishes gather at Holy Family in Port St. Lucie to honor and celebrate their patron, St. Pio of Pietrelcina, with Mass and veneration of a second-class relic (a piece of the saint’s glove) with unwavering devotion.
“St. Padre Pio was a priest who dedicated his life for the church and suffered painfully for 50 years with the stigmata, always praying for the church and for the sick,” said Father Tri Pham, Holy Family’s pastor. “He had the gift of confession, praying for those who turned away from God to return to him.”
Catholics worldwide give tribute and honor to the beloved Italian Capuchin Franciscan priest, who was known for his piety, suffering, stigmata (the bodily wounds of Christ) and for many miracles attributed to his intercession.
Father Pham said his parish has “a group of Italians who are so devoted to St. Padre Pio, and so they were the ones instrumental in obtaining a relic of the saint and even the statue of Padre Pio to honor the Italian saint that we have here at Holy Family on the church grounds.”
Deacon Martin Sándigo, who serves at Holy Family, said, “St. Padre Pio is one of the greatest saints in our modern times. He was a priest who could read your soul in confession. The world today needs repentance and a turning back to God.”
Julie McAninley, a parishioner and member of the Padre Pio Prayer Group since its inception, explained how the group became officially recognized.
“The Padre Pio Prayer Group first started in 2002 with Irma (Mimi) Cantone, under the direction of Father Tom Cauley, former Holy Family pastor,” she said. “Our meetings were held once a month with a special Mass, prayers and officially registered with the Office of the National Coordinator for Padre Pio Prayer Groups.”
In 2008, through donations and selling “micro-fiber cloths, we raised the money needed to erect a Padre Pio bronze statue,” McAninley said. “Brian Hanlon, sculptor, was selected, and on Sept. 23, 2008, the statue was dedicated. The second-class relic, a piece of the saint’s glove, was obtained by Gino D’Allesandro, who traveled frequently to San Giovanni Rotondo, Italy,” where the saint lived until his death in 1968.
Now, Holy Family has a realistic portrait of the saint painted by artist and parishioner Maria Nowak, who was born in Poland and moved with her family from New Jersey. She paints with oils and sometimes uses wheat and other grains to create unique portraits.
“I paint from my heart, and when our family moved to Port St. Lucie in 2021, when we first came to Holy Family Church, I saw an empty place where only St. Padre Pio’s relic was hanging on a wall,” Nowak said. “So, I asked Padre Tri Pham if I could paint a portrait of the saint for the church.”
The oil painting, displayed with the relic inside the church, depicts St. Pio with a golden halo. The artist included a portion of the Efficacious Novena to the Sacred Heart of Jesus that was composed by St. Margaret Mary Alacoque in the 17th century.
“St. Padre Pio prayed that prayer every day,” Nowak said. “O my Jesus, you have said, Truly I say to you, ask and it will be given you, seek and you will find, knock and it will be opened to you.” The website for the National Center for Padre Pio states that “This novena prayer was recited every day by Padre Pio for all those who asked for prayers.”
St. Pio, who was instrumental in the establishment of a major hospital in Italy, was canonized on June 16, 2002, by Pope John Paul II.
For information on the Padre Pio Prayer Group, call Holy Family Parish at 772-335-2385. To learn about forming a similar prayer group, email PPPGUSA@gmail.com or call 302-798-1454.