Padre Pio’s relics bring “overwhelming sense of peace”

Beloved Capuchin's relics will be in Denver April 11-12

When people come in contact with Padre Pio’s relics, miracles can happen.

“Some people cry continuously,” said Luciano Lamonarca. “Some of them are just in awe because of the great spirit of reverence you find in the church while you venerate the relics.”

Lamonarca, founder, president and CEO of the Saint Pio Foundation, witnessed miracles of all kinds when the saint’s relics toured the United States for the first time in 2017.

“The response we had last year was tremendous,” he said.

It was so tremendous that the Saint Pio Foundation is sponsoring another U.S. tour this year, and the relics will be coming to St. Mary Catholic Parish in Littleton April 11 and 12.

Lamonarca has high hopes for this year’s outcome, as last year’s tour changed many hearts. One instance that stands out for him is the story of a woman who wrote to the foundation, saying her daughter had left the Church decades ago.

“And then [the daughter] passed by the church where we were hosting the relics in Chicago,” said Lamonarca, “and she was surprised to see this crowd outside.”

The woman asked what was going on when someone told her Padre Pio’s relics were inside, said Lamonarca. She entered the church and was overcome by the feeling it gave her.

“She felt called back [to the Church] through Padre Pio,” he said. “I consider that to be a small, but very touching miracle.”

Padre Pio’s body lies in state at the Shrine of Saint Pio of Pietrelcina in San Giovanni Rotondo. (Photos by Aaron Lambert)

Those type of experiences are no surprise to Father Joseph Mary Elder, O.F.M.Cap., who serves youth and young adults at Annunciation Catholic Church in Littleton and as vocation director for the Capuchin Franciscan Province of St. Conrad.

“If you look at what was going on during [Padre Pio’s] life, there’s a sense of him almost being otherworldly because he’s a miracle man,” said Father Elder.

“It constantly seems like he was in this dialogue with the supernatural — with the divine,” he said. “It was just on such a regular basis that I don’t think it’s any surprise that it would continue after his death.”

During his third year as a Capuchin, Father Elder was able to visit San Giovanni Rotondo, a small city in the countryside of Italy where Padrio Pio spent most of his life conducting ministry. His body lies in state at the Sanctuary of Saint Pio of Pietrelcina, near the church at which he served.

Because Father Elder is a fellow member of Padre Pio’s order, he was able to touch the saint’s tomb.

“That’s one of the few times in my life I remember this overwhelming sense of peace,” he said.

Padre Pio continues to bring comfort to many, particularly through the Casa Sollievo della Sofferenza (Home for Relief of the Suffering), a religious hospital he helped found in San Giovanni Rotondo that is designed to alleviate the suffering of the sick.

The saint’s affection for the suffering came largely out of his own experience with the stigmata — the wounds of Christ — which he bore for 50 years.

His deep wisdom, spirituality and affection for the sick serve as an inspiration for Father Elder and millions of Catholics worldwide.

“I think what resonates so strongly for people with Padre Pio is that he went through so many periods of darkness and suffering in his life — despite all the gifts that he had,” said Father Elder.

If you look at what was going on during [Padre Pio’s] life, there’s a sense of him almost being otherworldly because he’s a miracle man.”

“He had to deal with all of these [trials], and he used it all somehow to grow in holiness and to become a saint,” he added.

Whether it was carrying the stigmata, dealing with persecution from nonbelievers, or experiencing his own doubts, Padre Pio fought through the adversity, and Lamonarca hopes his example will inspire every day Catholics to seek a greater holiness.

“Not all of us can reach the level of sainthood or a call like Padre Pio,” said Lamonarca, “but we can get inspiration from them to do our own holy job.”

Padre Pio relics tour
St. Mary Catholic Parish in Littleton
April 11 from 4 p.m. — 6:30 p.m.
April 12 from 8 a.m. — 6 p.m.
A Mass in honor of Padre Pio will be celebrated April 11 at 7 p.m.

Relics available for veneration
St. Pio’s glove
St. Pio’s crusts of the wounds
Cotton-gauze with St. Pio’s blood stains
Lock of St. Pio’s hair
St. Pio’s mantle
St. Pio’s handkerchief

Featured image by Andrew Wright

Editor’s note: The print version of this article that appears in the March 24 edition has the wrong date for the Mass honoring Padre Pio. The Mass will be held on Wednesday, April 11 at 7 p.m.

COMING UP: Father and son, deacon and priest: Deacon dads and priest sons share special bond as both serve God’s people

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The bond between a father and son is one of God’s greatest designs; however, when father and son are both called to serve the Church as deacon and priest, that bond takes on a whole new meaning. Just ask these two dads and their sons, all of whom answered the call to serve the people of God at the altar.

Deacon Michael Magee serves at Our Lady of Loreto Parish in Foxfield, while his son Father Matthew Magee has worked as the priest secretary to Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila for the past several years and will soon be moved to a new assignment as parochial vicar at St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in Boulder. Deacon Darrell Nepil serves at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Denver, and his son, Father John Nepil, served at several parishes within the archdiocese before his current assignment as a professor at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary.

However different their journeys may have been, all four have something in common; mainly, that far from seeing their vocations as a reward from God, they have received them as an uncommon gift of grace that has blessed their families and individual relationships with each other abundantly, knowing that God acts in different ways to help us all get to Heaven.

Interwoven journeys

Deacon Michael Magee was ordained in May 2009, at the end of Father Matt’s first year of seminary. Little did they know that God would use both of their callings to encourage each other along the journey.

Deacon Michael’s journey began when a man from his parish was ordained a deacon.

“I simply felt like God was calling me to do something more than I was doing at the present time,” he said. “I had been volunteering for a number of different things and was involved in some ministry activities and in the Knights of Columbus. And I thought the idea of being a deacon would be simply another activity for which I could volunteer.”

He didn’t know what it entailed at the time. In fact, he believed it was something a man could simply sign up for. To his surprise, the diaconate was more serious – and it required five years of formation and discernment. Yet he was so drawn to it, that he decided to do it anyway. But as he learned more about the nature of the diaconate during his formation, he became more nervous and unsure about whether God was really calling him to that vocation. 

While his doubts remained all the way up to his ordination, Deacon Michael was faithful to his studies, trusting that God would lead him in the right path. 

And God did — through the calling of his own son to the priesthood.

Deacon Michael didn’t realize that his son Matthew had paid close attention to his father’s faith journey and had found in it a light that gave him courage to discern the priesthood.

Father Matthew Magee (left) and his dad, Deacon Michael Magee (right), were both encouraging to one another as they each pursued their respective vocations. (Photo by Daniel Petty/Denver Catholic)

“Seeing my dad, as a father, growing in his relationship with the Lord was really influential for me on my own desire to follow Christ,” said Father Matt. “Looking at his courage to discern his own vocation and follow God’s plan in his life gave me the strength and courage to be open to the same thing in my life… He played a very important role, whether he knew it or not at the time, and whether I knew it or not at the time.”

On the other hand, Father Matt didn’t know that his dad was in turn encouraged by his own response to God’s calling. 

“As I went through all those doubts, I watched Matthew’s journey in seminary and listened to how he was dealing with that in his life. And, as he just articulated very well, I also saw those same qualities in him,” Deacon Michael said. “Seeing a young man in his 20s willing to consider following God for the rest of his life also gave me the courage to continue on in my own journey, to see it through.”

God’s way of uplifting them in their vocations through each other’s journey is something they are very grateful for. 

This unusual grace impacted Father Matt during his first Mass, when his dad, as deacon, approached him before the Gospel reading and asked for the traditional blessing by calling him “father.”

“It was a really special moment for me. He’s certainly my biological father and raised me. But then there’s something different when we’re at the altar in a clerical capacity — there’s a strange reversal of roles when we’re giving spiritual nourishment to the people — a father asks the new father for the blessing,” he said.

In both of their vocations, Deacon Michael and Father Matt see God’s Providence and the unique plan he has for all of us.

“We all have a vocation, even if it’s something we may not expect,” Deacon Michael concluded. “You may feel anxiety or worry about what it’s going to look like, but trust in God. He will take care of things as he always does.”

A bribe for Heaven

For Deacon Darell and Father John Nepil, the journey was different, but not any less providential.

While he grew up Catholic, Father John wasn’t interested in setting foot on any Church activity during his teenage years. His saving grace was perhaps what many parents have to do to get their teenagers to Church: bribe them.

“His mom and I basically bribed him to go to the Steubenville of the Rockies Conference,” Deacon Darell said with a laugh. “He didn’t want to go, but we’d heard so many good things about it, that we said, ‘We’re going to make this happen, whatever it takes.’”

So the Nepils came up with a creative idea.

“He owed me some money for a uniform that he had needed for a job in the summer. So, I said, ‘Listen, if you go to the Steubenville of the Rockies Conference, I’ll forgive your debt. And he did, he and his brother went. And John especially came back a different boy. He literally was converted with a lightning bolt at that retreat.”

To this day, Father John marks his conversion to Christ from the summer before his senior year in high school when he attended that conference. 

As it happens with stories worth telling, the details of how much money he owed his father have varied over the years, and it’s a matter of debate among them, but Father John remembers it was close to $500.

“That’s subject to each one,” Father John said laughingly. “But what matters is that they offered to forgive my debt if I went to this retreat – it was money well spent.”

Besides this important event, Father John said that his dad influenced him in many ways by the simple fact of who he was as a father.

“My dad’s faith and moral character were a rock for me during some difficult teenage years,” he said. “He’s a great example of a man who was always faithful and lived a really outstanding moral life, but then as he deepened in love with Christ, he decided to give of himself in a more profound service.”

Father John Nepil (left) and Deacon Darrell Nepil (right) both had rather roundabout ways to their respective vocations, but they both say serving God’s people together as brothers in Holy Orders is a great joy. (Photo provided)

Besides his desire to serve and follow God, the seed that would eventually lead Deacon Darell to the diaconate was planted by a coworker, who would also take holy orders: Deacon Joe Donohoe.

“One day he said to me, ‘You should be a deacon.’ And, of course, I laughed at him and said, ‘I don’t have time for that. My life is too busy.’ But it only took him to suggest it for the idea to keep coming back to my head, and God kept nudging me. Eventually I decided I really wanted to do that,” Deacon Darell said.

The ability to share at the altar during the Mass has deepened the natural relationship of father and son and given Deacon Darell and Father John new opportunities to grow closer to God. 

One of the most meaningful times came when Deacon Darell had a massive stroke in 2018. While he was in the hospital, Father John was able to visit and celebrate Mass at his bed and pray the rosary with him every day, as he had come back from Rome and was working on his dissertation.

“It was probably the most privileged and intimate time I’ve ever had with my father,” Father John said. “It was an amazing gift that really changed our relationship.”

“I feel like that’s a huge reason why I healed and why I am here today,” Deacon Darell added.

“It’s a real gift to have my dad as a deacon and a brother. It’s a tremendous honor. It’s one of the great joys of my life.” Father John concluded. “That’s really what has bonded our relationship together: the sheer desire to serve Jesus, especially in holy orders.”