NEWARK, N.J. — Jennifer Scutellaro’s father seldom cries, but he comes close to tears whenever he is asked to describe his meeting with Padre Pio in the early 1960s.
Scutellaro, of Cream Ridge, New Jersey, traveled nearly 60 miles north to Newark on Sept. 12 to experience for herself what her father recalls from a business trip to Italy.
Newark’s Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart was the venue for a two-day public display of five relics from Padre Pio, the first priest in the Catholic Church’s history to bear the stigmata wounds of Christ’s crucifixion.
Accompanying the relics was a life-size replica of a Padre Pio-themed statue crafted by Canadian sculptor Timothy Schmalz, whose “Angels Unawares” sculpture graced Brooklyn’s Grand Army Plaza during the 2020 Christmas season.
The five relics were brought to Newark as part of the Saint Pio Foundation’s tour commemorating the 20th anniversary of the saint’s canonization by St. Pope John Paul II, as well as the 135th anniversary of his birth. The tour, like the replica statue, is titled “I Embrace You.”
“We came from kind of far away to come here,” said Scutellaro, who with her friend, Cecilia Bosco, snapped photos of the statue. “It’s amazing.”
Now she understands why her father’s eyes turn red and watery at the mention of Padre Pio, the Franciscan Capuchin friar (1887-1968) from Pietrelcina, Italy.
Scutellaro explained that her father went there 60 years ago on business, but he was diverted when a priest tapped him on the shoulder and said Padre Pio wanted to see him.
“So he followed him all the way to the rectory,” she said. “And the door opened, and there he was. He saw his hands. They weren’t wrapped yet. And Padre Pio looked at him and said, ‘Ah, you made it.’ ”
According to Scutellaro, her father asked the future saint to pray for his children, so it is special to her knowing that was included in that request.
“It touches your heart, of course,” she said. “And you hope that he intercedes because the relics are here, too.”
People of all ages started streaming into the cathedral at noon to venerate the relics — crusts of St. Pio’s wounds, gauze stained with his blood, locks of his hair, a piece of his mantle, and a handkerchief drenched in his sweat.
Luciano Lamonarca, founder & CEO of the Saint Pio Foundation, said about one million people have venerated the relics since the Westchester County-based foundation began displaying them in 2017. Stops on the tour included Washington, D.C., Louisville, Kentucky, and Manhattan.
He said the foundation gets numerous requests from parishes to host the relics, and he urged parishioners to work with their pastors and bishops to arrange the visits.
Among the faithful who traveled to the ornate Newark basilica to honor the relics were friends Daria Waltz and Kathleen Latz of New Jersey, who were clearly moved by the experience.
“I feel like he’s my guardian angel,” Waltz said. “I have total faith that he’s there and he’s watching over me.”
“He is an amazing intercessor, and when you can feel heaven touch earth and know how powerful they are working for you, it’s the mystery of faith,” Latz added.
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