Friends Of Padre Pio – Gene Ricci And Bishop Orestes Marengo, Share Their Testimonies. 

Friends Of Padre Pio – Gene Ricci And Bishop Orestes Marengo, Share Their Testimonies. 

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Padre Pio and his Friends:

Two TestimoniesGene Ricci and Bishop Orestes, Marengo.

When Gene Ricci read the book, ‘The Priest who Bore the Wounds of Christ’, by Oscar DeLiso, he was deeply inspired. After reading the book, he had a great desire to meet Padre Pio in person. He decided to take his family to Padre Pio’s monastery in San Giovanni Rotondo. The year was 1961.

Gene had two sons and two daughters, ranging in age from five years to eleven years old. At the time, he did not have the financial means to make the trip so he borrowed the money. When he looked back on the experience, he said that it turned out to be the best investment he ever made in his life.

When Gene and his family stopped in Rome on the way to San Giovanni Rotondo, he assumed that most of the Roman citizens had heard of Padre Pio. Much to his surprise, not one person that he spoke to while in Rome had ever heard of the saintly priest. It was the same in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where he made his home. No one that Gene was acquainted with had ever heard Padre Pio’s name. That was hard for him to understand. If someone had the five wounds of Christ, it seemed to Gene that the whole world should know about it.

The first day of their visit to San Giovanni Rotondo, Gene and his family waited in the early morning hours for the church of Our Lady of Grace to open. A few moments before the doors were unlocked a booming voice came over a loudspeaker and said emphatically, “This is the Lord’s house. Everyone is to behave in a dignified and proper manner!” It struck Gene as a rather unusual announcement but soon he would understand the reason.

When the doors finally opened, there was a mad rush on the part of those who were waiting to get inside the church as quickly as possible. Gene had to physically brace himself to protect his wife and his four children. He was afraid they might be trampled.

Gene and his family found good seats near the front of the church but soon they were forced out of them by the local people. “These pews belong to us!” Gene was told. There was an obvious resentment toward anyone who had come from a distance to attend Padre Pio’s Mass. Gene and his family were shoved and pushed right out of their seats and forced to sit in a pew farther back.

Padre Pio’s Mass lasted almost two hours. The Consecration was especially long. At the afternoon Benediction service that day, Gene noticed a beautiful perfume that seemed to pervade the whole church. Gene and his family attended Mass and Benediction every day during their visit to San Giovanni Rotondo.

Every morning after Mass, Padre Pio went to the sacristy to make his thanksgiving. One day, Gene decided to follow him. He felt extremely lucky for he was able to kneel down right beside Padre Pio for the entire time that he made his thanksgiving. Gene could not resist the impulse to reach out and touch Padre Pio’s habit. He held on to his habit for the duration of the time that they were praying.

One day after the Mass, one of the Capuchins escorted Gene and his two sons into a small room. The Capuchin told them to have a seat and wait because Padre Pio would soon come in to give them a blessing. Gene’s wife and daughters were not allowed to go with them since the area was open to men only. Padre Pio soon came in. His demeanor was serious and very reserved. He spoke not a single word but gave Gene and his two sons a blessing. Looking back on the experience, Gene said, “I cannot see how anyone, having met Padre Pio even once, would not find it in their heart to believe in God.”

Gene soon became friends with Mr. Bevilacqua, the owner of the hotel that he and his family stayed at while in San Giovanni Rotondo. Mr. Bevilacqua went to the monastery every day and was able to see Padre Pio during the lunch hour.

After Gene returned to Pennsylvania, he arranged to send a donation to Padre Pio each month through Mr. Bevilacqua. On one occasion, when Gene sent his donation, he included a note saying that his wife was ill and that the doctors could not determine what was wrong with her.

Gene was worried and asked Mr. Bevilacqua to relay the message to Padre Pio. A short time later, Gene received a reply in the mail. Mr. Bevilacqua said that Padre Pio began to laugh when he was told about Mrs. Ricci’s illness. “Mrs. Ricci isn’t sick,” Padre Pio exclaimed. “She is expecting a baby!” The whole family was surprised to find out that Padre Pio’s words were correct.

When Gene returned to his home in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, even though he could not really afford to do so, he bought fifty books by Oscar DeLiso, ‘The Priest who Bore the Wounds of Christ’. He mailed them to his friends and relatives with a card attached to each one and a simple message, “Please read this book.”

Gene began attending a Padre Pio prayer group in his area and enjoyed it very much. One of the members, Joe Peluso, was from a neighboring town. On one occasion, after the prayer meeting, Joe approached Gene and confided to him that he had terminal cancer and did not have much time left to live.

Joe told Gene that he had a number of Padre Pio’s relics and he wanted to give some of them to him. Gene was very surprised, since Joe was almost a stranger to him. He had seen him at the prayer meetings on occasion but did not really know him. Joe gave Gene a piece of the handkerchief that Padre Pio had used to dry his tears, a piece of his glove, and a medal blessed by both Padre Pio and Pope Pius XII. Joe explained that he had been in the U.S. Army when he was a young man and was stationed near San Giovanni Rotondo.

On one occasion, Padre Pio told Joe that his supply of religious medals had diminished and asked him to see if he could find some for him. When Joe succeeded in obtaining a good quantity of medals, Padre Pio was very happy. He blessed them and gave two of the blessed medals to Joe. After a moment, he asked for the two medals back. He prayed over them for a second time before returning them to Joe. He explained to Joe that he wanted to give them a special blessing.

Gene was elated to receive the precious relics. He was curious about the special blessing that had been given to the medals and wondered why Padre Pio blessed them, not once, but twice. Joe told Gene that he had wondered about it too, but said that Padre Pio gave no explanation.

The spiritual blessings that Gene received by visiting Padre Pio, have lasted through the many years since. “My life would not be what it is today if I had not made the trip to San Giovanni Rotondo,” Gene said. His faith was strengthened by the encounter and it has remained strong. As Gene stated, visiting Padre Pio was the best investment he ever made in his life.

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In 1955, Bishop Orestes Marengo, S.D.B. served as head of the Catholic diocese of Dibrugarh in northeastern India. When he first arrived in Dibrugarh, the residents of the town were still coping with the devastating effects of a terrible earthquake that had occurred some time before. The earthquake had caused dangerous landslides as well as flooding. A dyke was built to protect the area but it was eventually demolished by flood waters. As a result, some of the finest houses in Dibrugarh had been destroyed.

At the time, the Sisters who belonged to the religious congregation, Daughters of Mary Auxiliatrix, were building their first school in Dibrugarh. Bishop Marengo agreed to fund the project even though his financial resources were very limited.

One day, the Sisters spoke to Bishop Marengo about their concerns regarding the precarious future of Dibrugarh. Due to the problems that resulted from the earthquake, the authorities were speaking of the possibility of an evacuation of all the residents of the city in favor of a permanent relocation to a safer region.

If the city was going to be relocated, the Sisters felt that the construction on the school should stop at once. An enormous sum of money had already been spent in the building of the school. To continue to build would simply be throwing good money away.

Because everything was so uncertain, the Sisters urged Bishop Marengo to write a letter to Padre Pio and seek his advice in the matter. They explained that some of their Sisters in Thailand once sought out Padre Pio in a difficult situation. Through him, they received the help and guidance they needed and in turn, they were led to a successful resolution of their problem.

Bishop Marengo decided to act upon the Sisters’ advice. He wrote a letter to Padre Pio, giving him a detailed account of the entire situation in Dibrugarh. He explained that the authorities thought it might be best to build a new city forty-five kilometers to the north.

Padre Pio’s reply came a little more than two months later. It was a short note written in English by his secretary, Father Dominic Meyer. Padre Pio’s message was this: “Your Excellency, tell the good Sisters to go on working zealously for the Lord and not to be afraid. The government will build a second defense against the river, and the city will be saved.” Soon after the bishop received Padre Pio’s letter, engineers from Bombay arrived and were able to make steady progress in securing the city.

It was a joyous day when the Little Flower Catholic School in Dibrugarh was finally completed. It functioned in an excellent way from the first day that it opened its doors to the public. It was truly a blessing to the people of the community. The bishop treasured the letter that Padre Pio sent to him and decided to keep it on permanent display in the school for the benefit of all.

Bishop Marengo made a trip to San Giovanni Rotondo in 1960. He was able to greet Padre Pio in the sacristy both before and after Mass. Not only did he have the privilege of attending Padre Pio’s Mass, he was also invited to visit Padre Pio in his cell so that they could speak together privately. He was able to thank Padre Pio personally for his prophetic words, words which gave him courage during that fearful time when the future of the young Catholic diocese of Dibrugarh was so uncertain.

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“What precisely is our purpose? If we do not know the answer, we are wearing ourselves out for nothing. A traveler without a route suffers all the exhaustion of his journey and gets nowhere. The aim of our journey is the kingdom of God, the kingdom of Heaven. And our purpose must be purity of heart, for without this, no one will gain the kingdom. Let us fix our mind on purity of heart, this will plot our path and enable us to run straight ahead, confident of where we are heading. And if our thoughts sometimes stray, let us return to this purity at once. This one aim will set us on a straight path, so that all our effort will contribute to our single goal.”

– John Cassian.

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