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BOSTON -- St. Leonard of Port Maurice Parish honored St. Pio of Pietrelcina by holding a procession with his relic and a solemn Mass on his Sept. 23 feast day.
Devotion to Padre Pio has grown at St. Leonard's thanks to the efforts of two sisters, Ann D'Amore Sirignano and Natalina D'Amore Tizzano. Their families raised funds to bring a bronze statue of Padre Pio to the parish's peace garden in the early 2000s. Each June, a small statue of the saint is carried in a procession through the North End. In 2016 the heart of Padre Pio was taken throughout the United States for people to venerate, and many came to St. Leonard's when it was there.
2018 marks the 100th anniversary of St. Pio's stigmata and the 50th anniversary of his death. To honor these special occasions, Sirignano and Tizzano arranged for a relic of Padre Pio to be brought from Pietrelcina, Italy. The relics were accompanied by Father Riccardo Fabiano, O.F.M. Cap., who knew Padre Pio when he was alive. The relic will stay at St. Leonard's until Oct. 14.
On Sept. 23, St. Leonard's parishioners carried the relic in its reliquary through the streets of the North End, stopping along the way while people showered confetti from windows and attached dollar bills to a banner.
The procession ended at St. Leonard's, where vicar general Bishop Peter Uglietto celebrated a solemn Mass in honor of Padre Pio. The Padre Pio Society of St. Leonard's parish sponsored the procession and Mass.
St. Pio was born Francesco Forgione in 1887 in Pietrelcina. At the age of 15 he entered the novitiate of the Capuchin Friars in Morcone, Italy, taking the name Pio in honor of Pope Pius I. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1910. Some of his fellow priests reported seeing him levitate, and other supernatural occurrences such as healings were attributed to him. On Sept. 20, 1918, he received the marks of the stigmata, which the Church examined and declared to be authentic. He died on Sept. 23, 1968.
In his homily, Bishop Uglietto said he first learned about Padre Pio in the seventh grade. Growing up in Watertown, he sometimes stopped by a church on his way to school, and on one visit he found a leaflet with a novena to Padre Pio. Bishop Uglietto said he was inspired by the thought that a saint had lived during his own lifetime.
"I had read stories about the saints of old, great figures, larger than life. To think there was a great saint living in the world during my lifetime was very moving. It is possible to be a saint in our day. In fact, are not we all called to be saints?" Bishop Uglietto said.
Bishop Uglietto talked about how St. Pio was a witness to God's love and mercy in his time, and said the same is true of Christians today.
"Long before any of us were born, God knew that we were going to be. And he destined that we be born in this generation to assist him in a particular way, each one of us called to a special role in his mission to save the world. By virtue of his wisdom, his salvific plan, God has destined that we assist him at this moment in time and place," Bishop Uglietto said.