SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – Annette and Michael Vasaturo, members of Our Lady of the Assumption Parish in Woodbridge, reach out toward relics of St. Anthony of Padua on Sept. 12.
Archbishop Leonard P. Blair led 170 pilgrims from the Archdiocese of Hartford to St. Anthony Maronite Parish Sept. 12 for a Mass and veneration of relics of St. Anthony of Padua on loan from the saint’s pontifical basilica in Italy.
Father George Zina, pastor of St. Anthony Parish, who was instrumental in obtaining permission for the relics to be transported from Italy, welcomed Archbishop Blair to the Maronite rite church and thanked him for his support of the nine-day novena. Organizers said the novena, which extended from Sept. 6-14, drew over 10,000 pilgrims from throughout New England.
“Your visit is a blessing not only to me, but to all of us as your first visit to a Maronite church,” said an enthusiastic Father Zina.
The faithful were clearly moved to be in the presence of relics of the Portuguese saint, who died in Padua in 1231 at the age of 36.
“It’s a chance of a lifetime,” said Cathy Davis, a member of St. Gregory Parish in Bristol. “Now I don’t have to go all the way to Italy to see his relics.”
Added Barbara Palmieri, a parishioner of Our Lady of Pompeii in East Haven, “It’s wonderful, very inspirational … very holy and religious.”
A devotee of St. Anthony, Marcella Evans, who belongs to St. Justin Parish in Hartford, offered, “He’s my favorite saint. Whenever I’m in need, I call on him and he works miracles for me.”
The pilgrimage was also personal for Kathy Iaquinto of St. Monica Parish in Northford. “St. Anthony is a faithful friend,” she said.
Echoed Rita Nardecchia of Holy Infant Parish in Orange, “We’re so lucky to have St. Anthony’s relics here. He never lets me down.”
Archbishop Blair concelebrated Mass with the newly installed Bishop Mitchell T. Rozanski of Springfield, along with Father Zina and Conventual Franciscan Friars Enzo Poiana and Allesandro Ratti from St. Anthony’s Basilica in Italy.
During his homily, Archbishop Blair spoke about the life of the saint, noting that after Saint Anthony died, his tongue was found to be incorrupt – a sign of the saint’s great gift for evangelizing the people of his time.
Archbishop Blair told the pilgrims from the archdiocese, “Our job is to bring Jesus Christ to the world” and one day “be forever in his company in heaven.”
Sally Ann Tanasi of Blessed Sacrament Parish in East Hartford appreciated Archbishop Blair’s presence. “It’s wonderful,” she said. “The archbishop had such a beautiful homily that was touching and inspirational.”
The two Franciscan friars who traveled with the relics encouraged the faithful to touch cards with their prayer intentions, as well as such personal items as rosaries and medals, to the relic. They said that all the prayer intention cards would be taken back to Padua and placed under the tomb of the saint.
Father Zina announced that the shrine of St. Anthony in Padua granted a first-class relic to permanently remain with the parish. It will be venerated during a Mass and novena to St. Anthony held to be on Tuesdays at noon.
Pilgrims from the archdiocese traveled in three buses from St. George Parish in Guilford, St. Bridget Parish in Cheshire and St. Thomas Seminary in Bloomfield for a Holy Hour, followed by veneration of the relics, Mass and a pasta dinner.