GATES — Construction is soon slated to begin on a chapel to honor St. Padre Pio, the legendary Italian Capuchin confessor who reportedly bore the stigmata, the wounds of the crucified Christ.
The effort to build the chapel is being spearheaded by Olindo and Filomena DiFrancesco, parishioners of St. Jude the Apostle Church. The DiFrancescos spoke about their dream during an interview at Olindo Food Service on Lyell Avenue. Olindo’s office there might be mistaken for the office of a rectory, given the number of religious pictures on the wall. Alongside pictures of Jesus are several of St. Padre Pio, whom Olindo said had positively influenced his life.
“I think about him, and I pray to him all the time,” Olindo said. “I’m always praying to him to give me a good mind.”
St. Padre Pio lived from 1887 to 1968 and was canonized in 2002. According to biographers, the priest oversaw the building of a hospital in the southern Italian community of San Giovanni Rotondo, and he led a life of constant prayer, which included mystical visions.
Olindo said the 5,000-square-foot chapel will be located on one acre of land at Frank DiMino Way and cost $2 million. The land is being donated by the Italian American Community Center, the Sicilian immigrant added. Organizers expect to break ground on the project in the next few weeks, Olindo said, and the chapel should be completed within a year. He added that the 168-seat chapel will feature stained-glass windows, a finished basement, and statues of Jesus, Mary and St. Padre Pio.
Olindo noted that the private chapel will not be for celebration of Catholic sacraments, but it will be a place where people can go to pray.
“I’m going to try and leave it open 24 hours,” he said.
Filomena, who grew up in Basilicata, Italy, near San Giovanni, added that the chapel will be open to all people, and that she and her husband are building it out of gratitude for their family, which includes a son and twin grandchildren.
“We want to thank God, through Padre Pio, for my family, for this grace he has given to us,” she said.
The DiFrancescos are donating $100,000 of their own money to build the chapel, Olindo said, and are planning to host a series of fundraising dinners to help cover the construction costs. The first dinner is slated for Oct. 7 at 6:30 p.m. at the Italian American Sport Club, 1250 Buffalo Road. Tickets are $50, Filomena said.
Olindo said that ever since he announced he was trying to build a chapel, people have been calling him to ask when the building will open.
“I’m pretty sure people all over the United States are going to come and visit this chapel,” he said.
EDITOR’S NOTE: For information on the Oct. 7 fundraising dinner, call 585/464-9160. For information on the chapel, visit www.stpadrepiochapel.com.