Catholic Standard El Pregonero
Classifieds Buy Photos

Faithful venerate relics of Padre Pio at Holy Family Parish

Catholics from throughout the Washington area gathered Nov. 7 at Holy Family Parish in Hillcrest Heights, Maryland to honor the relics of Padre Pio – St. Pio of Pietrelcina.

During the veneration, Washington Auxiliary Bishop Juan Espósito celebrated Mass, the faithful prayed the rosary, and Father Philip Ilg, pastor of Holy Family parish, spoke on the generosity of the saint.

“I am truly happy to be here celebrating this Eucharist in the presence of the relics of Padre Pio whom I personally deeply admire and have great devotion to,” Bishop Espósito said in English, Spanish and Italian. “I thank Father Ilg and all the ministries of this parish for inviting me.”

Parishioners of Holy Family were joined by the faithful who came from throughout the metropolitan area to pray during the day in front of the five relics of Padre Pio that were displayed in front of the church.

“We are located on land that belonged to Padre Pio and that was donated for the construction of this Church through former Archbishop Patrick O’Boyle,” Father Ilg said. 

The Saint Pio Foundation presented the parish with a statue and first class relic of the saint. Bishop Esposito blessed the statue after it was unveiled by Fr. Ilg.

“We thank the Saint Pio Foundation for its generosity in donating to us this statue of the saint that will remain here forever, and also for letting us display the relics here,” the pastor added.

The relics exhibited were the crusts of the saint’s wounds; a piece of Padre Pio’s mantle; cotton gauze bearing his blood stains; a lock of his hair, and his handkerchief, all worshiped with the mysteries of the Holy Rosary, the Angelus, and the Divine Mercy.

These five relics of Padre Pio were venerated this week at Holy Family Parish in Hillcrest Heights, Maryland. (Photo by Miguel Guilarte)

“Padre Pio had the stigmata for most of his life, he suffered a lot during his life, but he was used to giving to others – and he did so with us to have this church,” said Father Ilg. He concluded his homily by thanking the Saint Pio Foundation for agreeing to bring the relics which is “something that they normally do not do.”

Among those attending since the morning was Holy Family parishioner Jaki Rivera, a native of El Salvador, who told the Catholic Standard that the exhibition of the relics is something “that motivates us Hispanics to deepen our Catholic faith.” She added that the parish’s Hispanic community is growing and that by joining with others to venerate the relics, “we are all united praying the rosary without distinction of race.”

Padre Pio was born on May 25, 1887, in Pietrelcina, Italy; at the age of 15, he entered the novitiate of the Capuchin Friars, he was ordained as a priest in 1910. Padre Pio bore the stigmata – the wounds that Jesus received on his hands, feet, and side during His crucifixion. The future saint lived with those for 50 years, from 1918, until his death in 1968.

He was beatified in 1999 and canonized in 2002 by Pope John Paul II.

“It is a great honor for our Church and wonderful what we are experiencing here today,” said Tracy Medley, a catechist, lector and parishioner of the Holy Family church since 1997.

“In my catechism classes I talk to my students about the life of Padre Pio, and they feel attracted and several of them are here today,” added Medley who said that activities like these “motivate young people and their families to love to God, remain in Catholicism and to spread the Gospel.”

Another Holy Family parishioner, Cynthia Holmes, described the exhibition of the relics of Saint Pio as “something that encourages us in our faith and encourages us to pray and ask him for more, to see if he intercedes to end conflicts and people’s suffering worldwide.” 

Father Philip Ilg, pastor of Holy Family Parish in Hillcrest Heights, Maryland, delivers the homily at the Nov 7 Mass celebrated at the church by Washington Auxiliary Bishop Juan Espósito as part of the veneration of the relics of Padre Pio. (Photo by Miguel Guilarte)

Throughout the afternoon, many faithful approached the Church to venerate the relics, among them María Sola and Rodolfo Menjívar, parishioners of the Holy Family and St. Bernardine of Siena, respectively.

“Having a relic of a saint at home is something that does not happen every day, it is a privilege for this parish and for all of us,” Sola said. “Latinos are very vulnerable, and we have to hold on to faith, united in prayer as we are doing here and help each other,” she said.

Menjívar expressed that “it is a privilege and a day that we Catholics who are here today will not forget.” 

“Saints for the Catholic Church are people who were good, very good, and being able to observe something about them up close is something exceptional,” he said. He added that when he learned that the relics of Padre Pio would be exhibited, he was very happy and grateful to God because “I also had the day off from work.” “We must seek God because He offers us joy and helps us overcome bad times,” he concluded.

The veneration of the relics at Holy Family Parish followed a similar veneration of the relics at Our Lady Help of Christians Parish in Waldorf, Maryland. It is a joint effort between The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington, and Luciano Lamonarca, founder of the St. Pio Foundation.

Padre Pio’s life was characterized by long hours of prayer, a deep union with God, and his eternal love for the Most Holy Eucharist and Our Blessed Lady. He is buried in the Crypt of the Church of Our Lady of Grace in Italy and receives visitors from all over the world, who come to bear witness to the spiritual graces received.