The Catholic Commentator

Thousands of people venerated the relics of St. Pio of Pietrelcina OFMcap at Sacred Heart of Jesus Church in Baton Rouge on April 6. And each face uniquely expressed the person’s response as he or she knelt before the relics of the man considered to be Italy’s most beloved saint: an electrified, “Wow! I never thought I would be able to do this;” “Tell me more about this” (curious children); “Thanks for prayers answered;” “Please pray for me/my loved one;” and faces racked with pain and wet with tears as they poured out sorrows that words could not convey. 


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Stan Lemelle helps his granddaughter, Gabrielle Lemelle, touch a relic of the cotton gauze that contained St. Pio’s blood that was brought to her by Sacred Heart parishioner Andrew Coleman.Photos by Debbie Shelley | The Catholic Commentator 


The relics of St. Pio came to Sacred Heart during a second tour of the United States that was scheduled after an overwhelming response to the first tour in 2017, which was in honor of the 130th anniversary of St. Pio’s birth inPieltracina,Italy and the 15h anniversary of his canonization. This <tour marks the 50th year since St. Pio’s death. 

 The relics included St. Pio’s glove; the crusts of his wounds; cotton-gauze with his blood stains; a lock of his hair; his mantle and his handkerchief soaked with blood just hours after he died. 

 “It was awe inspiring,” said Sacred Heart parishioner Phyllis Territo. “It sent a chill throughout my body to be in the presence of so many people. The

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Erica Looney holds her godchild, Sophie Landry, so she can get a good look at the relics of St. Pio on April 6 at Sacred Heart of Jesus Church in Baton Rouge. 


fervency of the people at Mass was most inspiring.” 

Before a noon Mass, Maestro Luciano Lamonarca, president of the St. Pio Foundation in New York City, said he was overwhelmed by the sheer number of people who came to Sacred Heart and the other tour stops in the United States to venerate the relics of the friar who suffered so much even as he healed others. 

“You feel so blessed when there are people who come from around the state, and other states, just to touch the relics,” said Lamonarca. 

 Many are intrigued with the mystic, who is said to have had the gift of reading souls, the ability to bi-locate, communicate with angels and work favors and healings before they were requested of him. He is most likely well known for bearing the stimagta, or wounds corresponding to the crucifixion of Christ. The glove relic covered the constant wounds on St. Pio’s hands. 

Lamonarca said he has his own miracle related to the saint’s remains. 

After his wife, Valentina, had a miscarriage, Lamonarca and his wife visited and met a man who kept a handkerchief soaked with St. Pio’s blood. 

He noted that after the man pulled out the item, “it was as if somebody has brought 1,000 roses in the room.” It was so intense that he and his wife cried. 

Not long after that, he and his wife conceived a child. 

An opera singer, Lamonarca ended his talk with a moving performance of “Panis Angelicus.” 

Jessica Citron, originally from Lafayette, said she has a special connection with St. Pio, through her engagement, and Lamonarca’s talk gave her some “food for thought” concerning her future family. 

In March, 2017, just before Citron’s fiancé,Brandon,<proposed to her, they were walking to the adoration chapel at Our Lady of Mercy Church inBaton Rouge when a woman asked if they were married. The woman said, “I have something for you” and gave them what she said was a relic of St. Pio, whom people would come to if they had a question of whether they should get married or marry a particular person. 

“We turned around and she was gone,” Citron said. 

After the holy hour was finished, they stepped outside the adoration chapel and Brandon dropped on one knee, brought out the engagement ring and asked her to marry him. They will marry April 27 atSacred HeartChurch in Broussard. 

The bride-to-be said she is pondering if Lamonarco’s talk was a further message to her that their first child will be a baby boy after they marry. 

The saint appeared to be making connections with many families. 

The veneration was part of a family vacation for Traci and Troy Ducote of Lake Charles and their children Annie, 10, Todd, 9, Addie, 5, and Alan, 2 ½. A friend fromBaton Rougetold her that St. Pio’s relics would be displayed at Sacred Heart. They had been camping in Robert and a friend had told her about the veneration, so they worked it into their vacation plans. Traci Ducote’s sister from Lakes Charles also planned to meet them. 

Ducote said her grandmother, Pearl Ortego, and mother, Cheryl Gremillion, havea big devotion to St. Pio. Her grandmother, who passed away five years ago, prayed the Padre Pio prayer every day. 

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People expressed reverence when venerating the relics of St. Pio.


“I’ve loved him all my life,” said Traci Ducote.

When Ducote was an infant, the doctor told her mother that Ducote had incurable facial nerve damage. Her grandmother and mother prayed for St. Pio’s intercession and she was healed. Her mother continues her devotion to St. Pio. 

Because faith has played such an important part in her life, Ducote wants her children to have the same rich experiences. 

“I want my children to be educated about the Catholic faith and the saints,” said Ducote. 

These sentiments were echoed by Joni Landry, of Pierre Part, who was there with her children John Paul, 9, and Sarah, 7, and Sophie, 4, who enjoyed the attention of her doting godmother, Erica Looney, also of Pierre Part. 

“He (St. Pio) is our family patron saint, who is with us and for us. There seems to be a connection. There’s so many stories and the miracles.” 

Which is what Stan Lemelle was looking for his granddaughter, Gabrielle, 5, who has cerebral palsy.

He recently discovered St. Pio and heard about the veneration. He lovingly cradled his granddaughter and helped her as she reached out to touch the relic of the cotton gauze with St. Pio’s blood stains on it that was brought to her.

“The gifts that he (St. Pio) brought clearly make him a great intercessor for us,” said Lemelle.