There were many people who approached Deacon Tom Rich, TSA, with kind words, wearing cheerful expressions on their faces.
To them, the Celebration of Padre Pio evoked fond memories of old Feast Day traditions.
“They were so happy, because it brought back so many of the customs, like being able to pin money on the statues (of saints), things that they always do,” Deacon Tom said. “There were a lot of people who felt very comfortable, that this was the way they remember doing these celebrations.”
The Franciscan Friars of the Atonement held their first-ever Celebration of Padre Pio on Saturday, September 24 at Graymoor, welcoming around 100 pilgrims to the Holy Mountain. Festivities included a Mass celebrated in Italian by Minister General Father Brian Terry, SA, and a blessing of the Friars’ new statue of St. Padre Pio of Pietrelcina.
Food trucks were available, selling sausage and peppers, meatball heroes, pizza, hamburger sliders and frankfurters. The Graymoor Book & Gift Center also had a tent set up outside, selling religious items.
Deacon Tom, Executive Director of the Holy Mountain Franciscan Retreat Center, said he hopes the celebration will grow into a larger-scale event with new added wrinkles in the coming years.
“Little by little, we’ll build it up,” Deacon Tom said. “But for the first one, it worked.”
Mass was said in Italian at Our Lady of the Atonement Chapel at 11 a.m. While Father Brian celebrated, Vicar General Father Jim Loughran, SA, spoke the readings in Italian.
“There was a good response from the people,” Deacon Tom said. “(The congregation) knew all the responses.”
After, the Friars’ new statue of Padre Pio was blessed. Padre Pio was a Franciscan Friar born on May 25, 1887. He became most known for bearing the Holy Stigmata, the wounds of Jesus Christ. He also had the ability to bilocate and read the thoughts of others. He died on September 23, 1968 and was canonized by Pope John Paul II on June 16, 2002.
Following the blessing of the statue, guests were then invited to walk the grounds at Graymoor and enjoy food from the vending trucks.
Deacon Tom is hoping to add to the event next year, aiming to perhaps add an Italian choir to provide music for the Mass. He also mentioned possibly adding a period of adoration before Mass and praying a Novena to Padre Pio.
“We’ll come up with something,” he said. “It’ll go on, in the coming years.”
Deacon Tom wished to thank Graymoor Director of Facilities Hope Bogart and Putnam County R.E.A.C.T. for assisting with management of the crowd.