The Diocese of Buffalo will host the relics of St. Padre Pio as they make a North American tour. The first- and second-class relics will be at St. Gabriel Parish in Elma on April 21. Bishop Richard J. Malone will celebrate a Mass in honor of the stigmatist and mystic at 8 a.m.
"This will be a day of prayer for everybody. We are blessed and we are happy that the bishop has asked us to be the host for this event. Many people have a great devotion to Padre Pio," said Father Walter Grabowski, pastor of St. Gabriel's. "When they learned the news, they were really excited, so they're looking forward for that for that day."
In 2016, during the Holy Year of Mercy, the remains of St. Pio of Pietrelcina were exhibited in St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. This was the first time the relics have been publically displayed. The following year, marking the 130th anniversary of his birth and 15th anniversary of his canonization, the relics went on tour through the United States stopping in Chicago, Los Angeles, New Orleans, New York City and Rockville Center, drawing 250,000 faithful who came to pray to the saint and ask for his intercession.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the passing of St. Pio, and brief tours will take place from February to May and September to November stopping in 35 dioceses in the United States, Mexico and Canada. The New York City-based Saint Pio Foundation will sponsor the exhibit.
Michael and Maureen Pratt, who support the Saint Pio Foundation, have been asked to coordinate the event when the remains come to Buffalo. Relics include a glove, a handkerchief used to mop his sweat as Padre Pio died, a lock of hair, a cloak, blood-stained gauze, and crusts of his stigmatic wounds.
"In the cities that they've done, they've generally experienced something like 6,000 to 10,000 people at each parish. Given our proximity to Southern Ontario and Rochester, they fully anticipate to attract that many venerators," said Michael Pratt.
The Pratt's credit St. Pio with the health of their son, Simon Peter. Maureen became pregnant in her 40s, which can be risky for both mother and child. At a sonogram, their doctor found multiple cysts in the baby's brain area.
"It looked potentially serious, to the point where you might want to consider 'options,' which we had no intention of doing anything about anyway. Down's was a possibility. It sounded a bit more serious than that. That was kind of tough to take," Michael Pratt recalled.
He doesn't remember how he first heard the name, but he turned to Padre Pio. "I started reading everything I could, read numerous biographies, and found out about some organizations, foundations, both here and abroad," Pratt said, adding he sought out prayers from those organizations devoted to Pio.
A few months into the pregnancy, he woke up to a smell associated with Pio.
"I had awaken in my bed from sound asleep to a very strong and distinct fragrance of flowers, perfume like. I knew his stigmata gave off that kind of fragrance, and he was very well known for manifesting his presence through the gifts of the fragrances. It really floored me," he said.
At a later sonogram Michael and Maureen were told the cysts were gone. Their son was born perfectly healthy. Now 19, he's an pre-med honors student at Canisius College.
St. Pio, an Italian-born Capuchin friar was known for having heavenly visions. He was drawn to religious life at the age of 10 after hearing a Capuchin speak. He first experienced stigmata in 1918, while hearing a confession. News of this gave hope to the local Catholics after World War I. He is said to have the gifts of healing, bilocation, levitation, prophecy, miracles, and abstinence from sleep and nutrition. For several years the Vatican denied the gifts, and refused to allow Pio to celebrate Mass.
In 1933, Pope Pius XI reversed the Vatican's stand. Pio was later credited with curing the cancer from a friend of then Pope John Paul II. He died in 1968, after years of poor health. Pope John Paul II canonized Pio in 2002.
St. Gabriel Parish is located at 5271 Clinton St., in Elma. Fore more information on the daylong event, visit: http://stgabeschurch.com Coffee and sandwiches will be available from the parish center. Visitors will also have the opportunity to receive the sacrament of reconciliation.