Autumn Brings a Varied, Vibrant Ministry to Boston’s St. Anthony Shrine

HNP Communications Around the Province

BOSTON – St. Anthony Shrine here recently commemorated the life of St. Pio Pietrelcina, a 20th century Capuchin Franciscan, whose feast day is celebrated on Sept. 23.  St. Pio, generally known as Padre Pio, who spent most of his life ministering at the friary of San Giovanni Rotondo in the Italian region of Apulia, was widely venerated even before his death in 1968. He is especially popular with people of Italian heritage.

Nick and Janet Pino, Shrine members, are devotees of the saint, and sponsor a Mass in his name each year at churches throughout the Boston region. This year, David Convertino, OFM, invited them to hold the Mass at the Shrine. The Mass was concelebrated by David and Brian Smail, OFM.

“The Mass is developed to help foster a devotion to Padre Pio,” said Brian. The Pinos attribute recovery from serious health problems, in part, to intercession by St. Pio, according to Brian. This year’s Mass at the Shrine was particularly successful, he added, drawing about 700 people from around New England and as far away as New York City. As sponsors, the Pinos planned the Mass, arranged for the music, invited Eucharistic ministers, and treated everyone to a catered lunch at the Shrine afterwards. They advertised the Mass widely in diocesan newspapers.

Brian, who gave the sermon, said researching St. Pio was a learning experience. “I didn’t know much about his life. I read up on him and learned how he lived as a Franciscan Capuchin.”

In his sermon, Brian said he discussed St. Pio’s relevance for today. “Like any saint, what does it mean to us today? How can Padre Pio talk to us today?” Brian said he found a connection in St. Pio’s great devotion to the Eucharist. “What he celebrated at the altar, he did in his life,” he said. “He invited everyone to the altar.”

Shrine Screens People for Skin Cancer
More than 75 people received free skin cancer screenings at the Shrine’s Wellness Center on Sept. 27, thanks to a collaborative program developed with The Dana Farber Cancer Institute. Dana Farber’s Blum Family Resource Center van parked outside the Shrine, offering free skin cancer screenings from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Shrine staff and friars were among those who took advantage of this opportunity. “This is a wonderful service of the Shrine,” said staffer Maureen O’Connor.  I try to be checked every year, but this is much more convenient because I’m at the Shrine anyhow. Many people seemed to find it much less intimidating than going to a clinic.”

“I made sure I got to the van today,” said Raphael Bonnano, OFM.  “Because my doctor is concerned, I have had an area checked 17 times. I believed I needed to get a second opinion, and this was a very easy way.”

People also received an ultraviolet photo of their faces that showed sun damage. They also received information on ways to prevent and repair sun damage.

Sr. Pat Barrett, Wellness Center director, considered the day a huge success.  “It was a great way to end our series of cancer screenings with the Dana-Farber mobile van,” she said.  “We have offered free mammograms, PSA screenings, and now free skin cancer screenings.  It’s been a good way to service our usual patients and to introduce new people to the Shrine and the Wellness Center.  We’re planning even larger events next year.”

Richard Flaherty to Appear in the Pink Panther 2 Movie
Friars made their on-camera debuts as “extras” in a scene in the new Pink Panther 2 movie, recently filmed on Otis Street, Boston, outside the back entrance to the Shrine.

Richard Flaherty, OFM, was cast a s a monk, appearing in a scene filmed at the Boston Public Library that depicted the pope’s chamber. Richard and others were filmed as if standing in the hallway outside the Papal chamber when news of the Pope’s death is announced.  Richard enjoyed the experience and spoke with cast members who knew Franciscans.  He said he heard many wonderful compliments about the friars. “It was a long day, but a good day. Once they knew I was a friar, we had many wonderful discussions throughout the day.”