Jun 13, 2014

Organizers announce place for local visit of St. Anthony relic



Story and photos by Peggy Weber

SPRINGFIELD – The visit of a first-class relic of St. Anthony of Padua to the Diocese of Springfield was announced at an 11 a.m. press conference today, June 13, the feast of St. Anthony, at St. Anthony Maronite Church, 375 Island Pond Rd., here.

The relic will be on display Sept. 6-14 at the church.

“This is an exceptional event because rarely do these relics come for such an extended period of time,” said Mark Dupont, diocesan spokesperson.

Father George Zina (pictured above), pastor of St. Anthony’s, said the relic visit was for all people. “I would like to invite everyone who is listening to me and watching me to attend this great and spiritual event. St. Anthony is the friend to everyone, every human being, Christian and non-Christian, Catholic and non-Catholic,” he said.

He said the visit of the relic, which he requested in person in Padua, Italy, would be a grace and a blessing to the area.

He noted that the parish was originally founded in 1905 and named Sts. Peter and Paul. Msgr. Paul Abi Saab, the founding pastor, became ill and the parishioners prayed the novena to St. Anthony for the pastor’s recovery. The pastor gained back his good health and the parish thrived through him and his nephew, Msgr. Michael Saab, who served in the parish for 53 years. The parishioners then renamed the parish in honor of St. Anthony.

Father Zina said he also believes St. Anthony protected the church when the 2011 tornado in Springfield veered around the parish church and Cedars Hall banquet facility.

“And you know that St. Anthony is the patron of lost things and the whole world is lost today,” said Father Zina, adding that he hopes this relic visit brings peace and healing and tranquility.

Deacon Enzo DiGiacomo (pictured at right) has been helping to plan the visit of the St. Anthony relic for about a year. He explained that there would be special theme days as part of the visit. The organizers have planned a youth day, Maronite heritage celebration and others for Catholic schools, Latinos, Italians, Vietnamese, Polish and more.

A full schedule is online and in detailed in a brochure.

“The excitement is not only because the relic is coming, but because we are able to offer to the public and to the parishioners of this parish, and all the parishes in the Springfield Diocese and then expanding out to New England, an opportunity to see, venerate and pray,” he said.

Deacon DiGiacomo said there would be three Masses celebrated each day and an opportunity for confession and novenas. He said there would be food available and a chance to purchase religious goods.

“It’s not just where people come and look and venerate St. Anthony. It’s to get a new essence of our understanding of people. The love for people – and that is so important today,” said Deacon DiGiacomo.

Deacon DiGiacomo said he sees the visit as extraordinary. “The graces and healing that are going to be extended are above and beyond what we can imagine,” he said.

In 2013, the relic was on tour in honor of the 750th anniversary of the discovery of the bones of St. Anthony by St. Bonaventure. It went to New York City and other regions.

For more information on the local visit of the relic, go to www.saintanthonysrelic.com or call 413-732-0589.