One of the wonderful blessings in life God gives us is the gift of saints. Every so often, there live among us, a soul of extraordinary holiness that they become a source of grace and a role model of faith. Such is the life of St. Padre Pio.
Born Francesco Forgione on May 25, 1887, in Pietrelcina, Italy, he entered the novitiate for the Capuchin Franciscan Friars at an early age taking the name, Padre Pio.
There are many miracles ascribed to Padre Pio: physical healing, spiritual conversion, ability to read souls and consciences, bilocation, prophecy, and the stigmata—the crucifixion wounds of Christ in his hands, feet and side, which he carried for 50 years.
One of his greatest miracles, which actually paved the way for his canonization, was the healing of a 7-year old boy, Matteo Pio Colella. When the boy was admitted in the House for the Relief of Suffering, the hospital founded by Padre Pio himself, doctors considered him clinically dead. That night, during a prayer vigil attended by Matteo´s mother and some Capuchin friars of Padre Pio´s monastery, the boy´s condition improved suddenly, to the astonishment of the doctors. When he awoke from the coma, Matteo said that he had seen an elderly man with a white beard and a long, brown habit, who said to him: “Don´t worry, you will soon be cured.”
This story, as well as many other documented testimonies, shows that Saint Padre Pio’s life on earth has touched many lives and it continues to this day.
2018 is a significant year for St. Padre Pio. Just last October 2018, the incorrupt heart relic of the saint was brought to the Philippines for the first time. This event coincided with two important milestones in his life—the commemoration of the Centennial (100 years) of Padre Pio’s receiving of the stigmata and his golden death anniversary (50 years).
Meanwhile, the beloved saint also makes history in the province of Cagayan. The Archdiocese of Tuguegarao has chosen to put up a new parish under the patronage of Saint Padre Pio in Western Alcala, with seat in Baranggay Abbeg. When this materializes, it will be the first St. Padre Pio Church to be erected in the whole Northern Luzon.
Last September 23, 2018, the Saint Padre Pio Parish celebrated their first ever patronal town fiesta. This was followed by the church groundbreaking ceremony last November 17.
In his Mass homily at the groundbreaking event, His Eminence, Most Rev. Sergio L. Utleg, Archbishop of Tuguegarao, expressed his joy witnessing the huge attendance of people, and their wholehearted participation in the activities of the new parish. “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone, the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes (Mt. 21:42). Indeed, it is wonderful to see that the church is truly alive here among the people of West Alcala. Your fervent desire to build Saint Padre Pio Church is a clear manifestation of your faith, and by that same faith you can make it happen,” the bishop said.
Fidelity to Mission
Fr. Apolinard Victor Mateo, has his hands full since appointed as parish priest of Saint Padre Pio Parish. Persevering and indefatigable, Fr. Apo as he is called by people, is on the seventh year fulfilling his mission as a priest. Here are excerpts from the interview.
What are your thoughts on this new assignment as parish priest of Saint Padre Pio Parish?
I have accepted this ministry with great enthusiasm. But we are familiar with the saying, with every big opportunity comes great responsibility. Prior to this assignment, I was mission leader in the building of chapels in honor of Our Lady of Piat in the Sierra Madre. My mission continues, but it is even more challenging now as I become parish priest and take charge in raising funds for the construction of Saint Padre Pio Church.
Why did you choose to name your parish after Saint Padre Pio?
We chose St. Padre Pio as the patron saint of our parish because of his deep and abiding devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. His love for the Blessed Mother was one which was present from his earliest years and which lasted throughout his whole life. It was evident as he prayed the Rosary many times during the day. We have a powerful intercessor in Our Lady of the Visitation of Piat and in St. Padre Pio.
Why do you think St. Padre Pio is so popular, with many devotees around the world?
Saint Padre Pio’s faith and confidence in God’s mercy and healing power was beyond compare. His famous quote, “Pray, hope, don’t worry” has inspired countless people. But let us not forget the second part of the quote, which is: “Worry is useless. God is merciful and will hear your prayer.” His miracles should make us realize that the power of relentless prayer can bring forth miraculous results. St. Padre Pio is a channel of God’s grace, love and mercy to the world.
Why was West Alcala chosen as the location for the Saint Padre Pio Parish Church?
Baranggay Abbeg and the neighboring barangays are simple communities. Somehow our place is reminiscent of Pietrelcina, the poor yet deeply religious farming village in Italy where St. Padre Pio was born. The villagers here are simple folks who earn their living through agriculture, raising livestock and fishing. Though not materially wealthy, they exemplify humility, charity and love of God in their day to day living. We have a highly enthusiastic, committed church servants and youth leaders who are hungry for spiritual growth. The church will surely thrive here.
What are your plans and hopes for Saint Padre Pio Parish?
I eagerly invite people to be our co-missionaries in the construction of Saint Padre Pio church. I hope that this church would turn out to be another future pilgrimage site in the province of Cagayan. That is, after pilgrims visit the Basilica of Our Lady of Piat, they will go to Saint Padre Pio Church as well.
The cost to build the church is an ambitious project but with God and Saint Padre Pio’s intercession, nothing is impossible. I am appealing to generous hearts out there. With your assistance, we will realize the dream of building the Saint Padre Pio Parish Church, which will bring more people to God. Whatever you share out of love will go a long way and will yield many blessings for you in return.
(If you like more information about Saint Padre Pio Church of Abbeg, Alcala, Cagayan or any of our fundraising initiatives, please contact the Parish Office at +63 917 565 5002, or email us at [email protected])
Article contributed by Carla Soccorro Latupan