Crowd of 1,000 honors St. Padre Pio's memory - Catholic Courier

Crowd of 1,000 honors St. Padre Pio’s memory

GATES — Pilgrims from near and far sang "Happy Birthday" in Italian and shared cake, but they also honored St. Padre Pio’s 121st birthday by opening the doors May 25 on a new chapel dedicated to his memory and meditative lifestyle.

Built through private donations, the St. Padre Pio Chapel is open to the public for personal prayer and meditation from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. each day. According to the St. Padre Pio Institute of Rochester, the nonprofit organization that built the chapel, it is the only chapel dedicated to the Italian saint in the state.

The chapel is located at 141 Frank DiMino Way, on the grounds of the Italian American Community Center, which donated land for the chapel. About $500,000 has been raised toward the chapel’s $2.5 million total cost.

The structure honors St. Padre Pio, an Italian Capuchin friar who lived from 1887 to 1968 and was canonized in 2002. He was reported to have suffered ill health for much of his life and had the stigmata — wounds corresponding to those of the crucified Christ — for 50 years. His presence in the agricultural community of San Giovanni Rotondo began to draw large crowds to the town and he eventually oversaw the construction of a hospital there.

Similarly, a large crowd of about 1,000 people were drawn to the dedication and a Mass to mark the opening of the Gates chapel. The crowd, which included a busload of St. Padre Pio devotees from Toronto, overflowed the 180-seat chapel and a large tent.

The crowd was a dream realized, said Olindo DiFrancesco of Olindo Food Service, who with his wife Filomena had the initial idea for the chapel. The DiFrancescos also donated $100,000 toward its construction.

"Having this response and call for this chapel, where people can come and pray, has been a dream for me and my wife," he said.

Father Daniel Condon, chancellor of the Diocese of Rochester who celebrated the Mass, recalled St. Padre Pio as being blessed and burdened by the stigmata he wore and as being devoted to the sacrament of reconciliation.

"What he was most well-known for was being a spiritual director and counselor," Father Condon said during his homily. "He had a very clear sense of how a person would respond to this call to holiness."

During Mass, Father Condon noted that the chapel was a way to honor not only St. Padre Pio’s meditative spirit and his legacy as one of the most well-known saints of the 20th century, but also to honor the contributions of Italian-Americans in the Diocese of Rochester.

"The Italian community, not only in Monroe County, but throughout the diocese, has contributed immensely to the quality of life in our church and the civic community," he said.

Calling the event an outpouring of faith, attorney Christopher Schiano said the whole idea of the chapel was to bring the Italian-American community together. The Schiano Law Firm did the legal work for the chapel.

"You can tell by the crowd how important their faith is," Schiano said.

Many attendees said they have had long-standing devotions to St. Padre Pio. Ann Colaruotolo, a parishioner of St. John of Rochester Church in Fairport, said prior to her husband’s death four years ago, he prayed to St. Padre Pio every day.

Stephanie Jones, a member of Good Shepherd Church in Henrietta, said she has been devoted to St. Padre Pio because of his lifetime of suffering.

"In our society, I think we need to know how to suffer a little more gracefully," Jones said.

Amy Preziosi of Holy Ghost Church in Gates said St. Padre Pio has long attracted international interest. In 1958, when she emigrated to the U.S. from Italy, she brought with her an interest in the future saint and the miracles he performed.

Four years ago, she and her husband traveled to Italy to see St. Padre Pio’s church south of Naples.

"I couldn’t believe how many people were there from all over," Preziosi remarked.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Donations for the chapel are still being accepted and may be made to St. Padre Pio Chapel and sent to 141 Frank DiMino Way, Rochester, NY 14624.

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